Our Canadian intern, Adrian Parlow, shared this story and photo with us. Thank you, Adrian!
Aboobacker is a caring father of two from Kerala, a state at the southernmost tip of India. He was diagnosed with cancer in both eyes when he was 18 months old. One day, he was playing outside with the neighbors when a child threw a rock at him. The rock bounced off of Aboobacker’s forehead but, horrified, his mother rushed to his side to examine him. Looking into his eyes, she noticed a small speck, which she assumed had been caused by the stone.
As it turns out, that speck was the first noticeable sign of retinoblastoma, a life-threatening eye cancer. It was too late for doctors to save Aboobacker’s left eye, which had to be removed, but they were able to save partial sight in his right eye. Thanks to this, he’s able to do basic office work to support his family today.
When Aboobacker married and had children, his personal tragedy deepened. His first child, a boy, was born with the same bilateral retinoblastoma. Like his father, the baby was diagnosed too late to save both eyes, and his right eye had to be removed when he was just four months old. He, too, retained partial vision in his other eye, and he’s now able to attend school.
When their daughter Siya was born two years ago, Aboobacker and his wife were prepared for the worst. Almost half of retinoblastoma cases are thought to result from an inherited genetic mutation, and the effects can begin to take place even before the child is born. When Siya was just eight days old, they brought her to a local eye doctor for examination. They despaired when their baby girl was diagnosed with the same condition as her brother and father.
Fortunately, their doctor was able to recommend a facility in Hyderabad that was known for having the best treatment available. That facility was the Operation Eyesight Universal Institute for Eye Cancer, located within the renowned LV Prasad Eye Institute. They immediately brought Siya there for chemotherapy.
Good news! Because her condition was discovered so early, the ocular ophthalmologists were able to save both of Siya’s eyes. She retains perfect vision in one eye and partial vision in the other, and she can look forward to an entirely normal life. Aboobacker will continue to make the 36-hour train journey to the Institute to bring Siya for checkups every three months. He and his family are grateful that so far all is well!
Sadly, there are many more children like Siya who require treatment. Every day, four children in India are born with eye cancer. Visit our blog next week to learn more about the new Operation Eyesight Universal Institute for Eye Cancer, what we’re doing to combat retinoblastoma, and how you can help. And be sure to mark your calendar for World Cancer Day, February 4, 2016.