Watch the video above: Identical triplets receive chemo in fight against rare eye cancer. Crystal Goomansingh reports.
Thomas, Mason and Luke – a brave trio of identical triplets – have had their eyes examined, treated with lasers and chemotherapy and in one case removed altogether.
The identical triplets have a rare eye cancer. Last week the trio from Cardston, Alta. turned three months old, and went under general anesthetic so doctors at Sick Kids Hospital could assess the tiny tumours forming in their eyes.
Thomas had to have his right eye removed: The tumour was growing and causing the retina to detach. It could have even spread to his brain.
Mason’s left eye has a large tumour blocking his central vision – he won’t be able to recover that vision but his parents are hopeful they won’t have to remove it.
Luke has had several tumours, smaller in size, that doctors are now treating.
Between their six eyes, five have tumours. They’ll need treatment and follow up care for the rest of their lives.
And their parents Richard and Leslie have become very, very good at looking on the bright side.
“We keep trying to focus on the positive…they each have one really good eye. Even though so many things have been going wrong, we truly do feel like we’re being blessed through this and so many miracles have happened,” Leslie told Global News.
Last fall was the first of the miracles: The Low family learned they had conceived triplets naturally. They family recently moved to Alberta.
But a few months after the triplets were born, Richard – who is a medical resident on his way to becoming a doctor – noticed a strange change in Mason.
“I noticed Mason had an odd pupil like a tear drop, I thought it was a little odd,” Richard said.
With the help of a retina specialist, Mason was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a rare eye cancer that is common in young children.
After the doctor looked at the remaining triplets, he told their parents that all three are suffering from the condition.
Now, they’re in the careful hands of Dr. Brenda Gallie, an expert ophthalmologist at Sick Kids. The family will be in Toronto for another week so that Gallie can monitor the babies’ eyes to see how treatment has progressed and if new tumours form.
Gallie said that with the triplets, there are two types of tumours she’s dealing with: With one tumour, she can stall growth by killing off cells – but if they survive, the tumour can recur and at any age. Other tiny, new tumours start uniquely in the eye, they stop forming by age three or four when the retina matures.
“We never stop looking for them, but they’re very rare,” Gallie told Global News.
Anything not killed by therapy can recur. For that reason, unless the eye is removed, patients aren’t conventionally “cured” of the cancer.
Typically, certain gene mutations put children at risk of developing this eye cancer, but neither of the triplets’ parents have a history of retinoblastoma in their families. If the boys have children, their offspring have a 50 per cent chance of having the eye cancer.
But Richard and Leslie are keeping their spirits up, especially with the support of people from around the country and the world. They say they’ve received letters and emails, messages of hope from fellow retinoblastoma patients and fundraising efforts that have helped them cover medical expenses.
“It’s amazing how generous and kind people are,” Richard said.
Thomas, Mason and Luke also help: “Babies are therapeutic so when we’ve had our hard days, you just pick one of them up and think ‘I’d go through this again if I had to,’” Leslie said.
“It’s just so special to be their parents. Even though it’s hard we wouldn’t trade it.”
(Retinoblastoma can be detected early on. Take a picture of your child with a flash and look for red eye. White in the pupil could be light bouncing off a tumour. The Canadian Retinoblastoma Society offers more information.)
- with files from Kim Tams and Melissa Ramsay
© Shaw Media, 2014