By Ben Barry
A tot was diagnosed with eye cancer – after it was originally mistaken for eczema.
Mom Katherine O’Neill, 42, noticed her daughter Amelia had been rubbing her left eye since being born.
She passed her sight check and Katherine was advised the redness could be eczema and to put breast milk on it.
But when Amelia was six months old, her grandma noticed the little girl’s eye looked unusual during dinner.
Katherine called the GP the next morning and had an appointment the same day when she was told Amelia could have a cataract or retinoblastoma – a rare eye cancer.
A week later, the family was seen at Manchester Children’s Hospital where Amelia was diagnosed with a Grade E tumor in her left eye.
Amelia then had six rounds of chemotherapy and had her eye removed in a three-hour operation.
Katherine, a full-time mom, from Winsford, UK, said: “I was first advised by the health visitor to put breast milk on it.
“There was a noticeable redness on the eyelid, but the eye appeared normal.
“She had passed her newborn sight check, and I was advised the redness could be eczema.
“When Amelia was diagnosed. I was devastated,” said Katherine.
“I didn’t call my family as I couldn’t break down yet as I had a half an hour’s walk home with the babies.
“On the walk, two ladies stopped me to make a fuss of the babies and I remember just not being there – It felt so surreal, and I couldn’t believe what I had been told.
“Amelia is doing fantastically now. You really wouldn’t notice that she only has sight in one eye.”
After being born in September 2020, Katherine noticed that Amelia was frequently rubbing her eye.
“As Amelia was a bit premature, a twin and their birthweight had dropped, I’d had quite a lot of contact with the health visitors and had kept mentioning it,” said Katherine.
“I was told to mention it at the 12-week check.
“As I wasn’t sure that the 12-week check was with a GP, I had called the GP the day before as the rubbing was getting worse.
“They requested I send some pictures and thought that the redness could be a birthmark.
“I didn’t think that this was the case, but I was told that we’d be seeing the GP the next day.
“It was a different GP to the one who had suggested it might be a birthmark, but she concurred and said she wasn’t concerned.”
In March 2021 when Amelia was six months old, Amelia’s grandma noticed something wasn’t right with Amelia’s eye during dinner.
Katherine said: “Amelia was in her highchair when my mom said, ‘What’s wrong with Amelia’s eye?’
“I hadn’t noticed anything about the actual eye before, but under the spotlights in the kitchen, you could see that it was protruding and looked kind of dead.
“We called the GP the next morning, and they fitted us in that day.
“The GP examined the eye and shined a light into it. She quickly told me that it could either be a cataract, or a very rare cancer called retinoblastoma, but she thought it was the latter.
“She gave me a leaflet and said she was referring us under the two-week cancer rule.
“I couldn’t bear the thought of waiting 2 weeks to be seen, so I contacted my local independent optician.
“He advised that I go and see him and if he was concerned, he’d refer us straight into my local hospital, and we could expedite things that way which is what happened.”
Amelia had six rounds of chemotherapy between March and August 2021.
“I slept in the bed next to her, she was hooked up with wires, and it was awful to watch,” she said.
“The next morning, she looked very pale and as soon as she woke up, she vomited. It made her very sleepy and sick.”
The tumor shrunk, but the cancer started to grow again which meant Amelia needed four chemo injections into her eye.
“I took the decision there and then to have Amelia’s eye removed,” she said.
“She had been through enough and by then.
“We realized that her eye didn’t look like her eye anymore and as she couldn’t see out of it, at least if she had a prosthetic eye, the cancer would be removed.”
Amelia’s left eye was removed on December 8, 2021.
She has a prosthetic eye and is doing “fantastic.”
Katherine said: “She is a superstar. She has such a wonderful, feisty and kind personality.
“She is always keen to try new things and make new friends.
“She loves Peppa Pig, baking with grandma, scooting to the park and helping in the kitchen.”
Richard Ashton, chief executive of CHECT said: “Retinoblastoma is rare, with around one baby or young child being diagnosed in the UK each week.
“Symptoms can be quite subtle, and children often seem well in themselves which can make it hard to diagnose.
“In just under half of all cases, a child must have an eye removed as part of their treatment.”
The Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT) says that typical signs of retinoblastoma include a white glow which may only appear in certain lights or a squint, as well as a change in the appearance of the eye or a swollen eye, although often only one sign or symptom is present. Another symptom can be a sore or red eye, without an infection.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
Edited by Priscilla Jepchumba and Newsdesk Manager