Know the glow

For Adele, it all started when she noticed “the glow” in her daughter’s eye.

“Mya was sitting up on her play mat and looking at me across the room [and I noticed] her right eye turned outwards. I also had a photo on my phone that showed a white glow in the same eye. I discussed the photo with my husband and we put it down to the lighting and the angle the photo was taken. We didn’t know it was a sign of something much more serious,” said Mya’s mother, Ms. Stanford. 

Adele had never heard of the word “Retinoblastoma” until Mya was diagnosed in February 2012 at just eight-months-old.

“I was by myself with Mya when I was initially told she had cancer by the Ophthalmologist who diagnosed her. I was in shock and very emotional. My first call was to my husband and then I called my Dad in Perth. I still feel emotional now when I think back to it, I was devastated and scared,” Ms. Stanford recalled.

“The tumour was 13mm and was sitting on her optic nerve. We are so lucky that it hadn’t grown more and spread into her brain – she might not be here with us now”.

Over 7,000 patients across the Network come through our Orthoptics departments every year. Dr Michael Jones, Department Head of Ophthalmology at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead sees approximately eight new cases of Retinoblastoma come through the clinic each year.

“Retinoblastoma is a type of eye cancer that starts in the retina, the layer at the back of the eye that detects and senses light. The Glow is medically known as leukocoria, an abnormal reflection from the retina of the eye when nerve cells in the retina develop genetic mutations. Other symptoms of Retinoblastoma can include eyes that appear to be looking in different directions, redness and swelling.” said Dr Jones.

“1 in 80 children may show the glow before the age of nine so we strongly encourage all parents, if you notice any changes to your child’s eyes that may be concerning, make an appointment with your doctor for an eye check-up. When caught early, more than 80% of all childhood blindness is preventable,” said Dr Jones.

Now nine-years-old, Mya has endured 50 rounds of general anaesthetic, 15 rounds of cryotherapy and 12 rounds of chemotherapy. Mya’s condition hasn’t stopped her from living her life, playing netball and creating art. When she’s older, Mya hopes to become a fashion designer when and to live in an apartment with her best friend, Jamee.

World Retinoblastoma Week occurs from 9-16 May and is an opportunity to raise global awareness about this cancer that affects children under the age of three.