By Niamh Shackleton
A lifesaving mum has detected her toddler’s eye cancer after spotting a bizarre white spot on his photograph.
Emily Smith, 23, from Bognor Regis, West Sussex, took a close-up photo of her son, Jaxson, and noticed a strange grey area behind one of his pupils.
Following the discovery, the mum of one rushed to take Jaxson, then 11 months old, to the doctors where he was then referred onto eye specialists.
Jaxson was later diagnosed with retinoblastoma – a rare form of eye cancer – something which may have not been discovered if his mum hadn’t have taken the photograph.
After undergoing surgery and chemotherapy, Jaxson, now three, has been stable for 10 months.
Emily, a mental heath care worker, said: “The flash on my camera automatically came on as Jaxon was in the dark.
“He looked so cute but when I looked back at the picture, I noticed the strange clouding behind one of his pupils.
“It was after this that I googled it and looked back at previous photos where we also noticed the white reflex.
“We booked a doctors appointment the following day, upon telling the doctor our concerns she performed a red reflex test on Jaxson, and the results confirmed that there was a glow which meant there was something behind his eye.
“She stated that in the 16 years she has been a GP she had never seen anything like it.
“That’s where our nightmare began but Jaxson was so brave and we couldn’t have been more proud of him as he underwent lifesaving surgery and chemotherapy.”
Following the GP’s concerns, Jaxson was put forward for an emergency referral at St Richards Eye clinic, Chichester.
Emily said: “Both myself, and my partner, Owen Scrivens, 23, were extremely anxious and worried about Jaxson.
“An ophthalmologist looked into Jaxson’s eye with a special scope and immediately asked a senior clinician for their advice.
“They told us that Jaxson could have cancer and that we would be again immediately referred to the Royal London Hospital to see the retinoblastoma specialist.
“The wait for the appointment was agonising, we finally got our appointment for 21 December, 2016 – the day felt very twice as long, and anxiety levels were high among ourselves and family members.”
Whilst in the operating theatre, surgeons used a special magnification scope to look into the back of his eye through the pupil to look at the retina for the tumour and to take photos and measurements.
After this, they give it a grade of severity and see if it has grown or spread close to the back of the eye meaning it can spread into the optic nerve leading into other areas of the body.
Emily added: “Waiting for Jaxson to come round was horrific – it was only an hour, but it felt like so much longer.
“Luckily, following his surgery, Jaxson was pleasantly unaware of what was going on and continued to be our happy, beautiful baby boy.
“We had Christmas knowing what was going on inside our little boys’ eye and trying to be as positive as possible knowing that this tumour was actively growing, it was an incredibly difficult time.”
But following an MRI scan, doctors confirmed that Jaxson’s cancer wasn’t spreading and he went on to receive six rounds of systemic chemotherapy at Southhampton General hospital.
In July 2017, Emily and Owen were given the good news that Jaxson’s tumour had become stable, meaning he required no more treatment, but six months later [December 201], they were given the sad news he had relapsed.
Emily said: “We were heartbroken to find out it was beginning to grow again, despite Jaxson reacting so well to his previous treatment.
“They had already done laser surgery on the tumour as best they could whilst Jaxson was asleep, then, when they found the laser treatment wasn’t working, they gave him infra-arterial chemotherapy every two weeks until Jaxson had had six sessions of laser under general anaesthetic.”
After a difficult couple of years, Emily and Owen finally received the news they wanted, last year they were told Jaxson was stable once again.
Ten months on, Jaxson is still stable and living life to the fullest.
Doting mum Emily said: “We were told by Jaxson’s school that he is on track for everything development-wise with no concerns, I think we have always been aware that he may struggle due to being premature and also an oncology patient but we could not be more proud of our gorgeous little boy.
“Even if he was behind we would still be just as proud, but to know despite it all he is still so kind and clever is extraordinary.”