While four-month-old Kaden was seated in his bouncy seat, his mother, Kristie Miller, noticed a white glow in his eye which prompted her to research it. “Like many do, I looked it up online. I saw several things it could be: Was he blind? Was it a lazy eye? Once I saw cancer, I quit reading,” she shares.
As a preschool teacher, Kristie is all about catching things early, so she took Kaden to his pediatrician to have his eye checked. Kaden’s pediatrician also thought that the glow in his eye could be a lazy eye or it could be cataracts, which would require him to have surgery. The family was referred to a pediatric ophthalmologist.
“At that time, I did something I never do. I called my mom and asked her to attend the appointment with me. When we got there, they did an ultrasound on his eye and the doctor let us know that it was retinoblastoma, and that we were being sent to St. Jude. My world just stopped.”
By the end of the week, the family was at St. Jude, leaving little time to process the news. The doctors performed an EUA, exam under anesthesia, to confirm Kaden’s diagnosis. They discovered that the tumor was small, but the retina had already detached.
“We were given two options: chemo and save his eye or enucleation, which would remove his eye,” Kristie explains. “We wanted to do chemo because we couldn’t imagine taking our child’s eye. However, once they gave my husband the packet on chemo, he couldn’t even finish reading it. We learned that we wouldn’t be able to touch him while he was doing chemo because we could not come in contact with his bodily fluids.”
The Millers knew that not being able to come into contact with their son would be too hard because that connection was so important in a child’s development. They also knew it would be difficult to explain to his siblings that they could not hold their baby brother.
“It was a very difficult decision to make. We talked with our pastor because we couldn’t decide on what to do because we couldn’t just take his eye. However, our pastor told us, ‘You did not take his eye, cancer did.’ That really helped us. When we received the call that our baby was cancer free, we knew we made the right decision,” she shares.
Now one year old, Kaden is doing great. He is up to every 10 weeks now on his visits to St. Jude where the doctors check his eye socket and check his other eye for any tumors. They also discovered that Kaden’s diagnosis is not genetic which is the best case scenario. This positive revelation means it is less likely that he will pass this on to his children and less likely for it to develop in his other eye.
Kaden has a prosthetic eye and is seeing a visual therapist, but he’s always smiling and trying to keep up with his siblings. Kristie shares, “I would have my bad days, but how can I even complain when he has been through so much already in his little life? He has definitely been my strength through this.”
Only 300 children are diagnosed each year with retinoblastoma, and usually it is not caught until they are of toddler age. Because of this, Kristie encourages parents to “know the glow.” The glow is the biggest symptom of retinoblastoma. “If you know the glow, get it checked. In photos, we sometimes get red eyes in the photo after the photo has been taken. For those with retinoblastoma, their eyes are white.”
Kristie also tells parents to keep the faith and stay positive because babies are resilient. She shares, “He’s going to live a normal life. He’ll be able to drive. It’s amazing how far he has come. This definitely hasn’t stopped him yet.” ■