A mum has shared her agonising ordeal after spotting a "cloudiness" in her daughter's eye as the toddler ate dinner.
Earlier this year, Danielle Prior, 30, was feeding 18-month-old Evie a meal, when she noticed something unusual – a strange "white ring" in the child's eye.
After a quick Google search, the British mum rang her GP and within an hour, Evie received an appointment for a red reflect test to discover whether the eye was healthy and was later referred to an ophthalmologist.
At just 11-months-old, the child underwent exploratory surgery, during which doctors discovered she had a rare form of cancer.
"[When I got the news], it broke me, I didn't want to talk to anyone, I just wanted to block everything out," a devastated Danielle told NeedToKnow.co.uk.
"I wasn't really eating or sleeping and I was suffering from anxiety. Before Evie was diagnosed we kept thinking 'maybe we're wrong', that it could be benign or just cataracts. When I was given new news, I went into a deep black hole until I could find out about treatments."
'A ticking time bomb'
Since being diagnosed with a Grade D retinoblastoma, which consumed three-quarters of her eye, Evie has undergone six rounds of intra-arterial chemotherapy administered directly into the back of the eye.
Tragically, the toddler briefly became stable before relapsing soon after.
Her distraught parents were given two choices: continue with treatment in the hope that it would eventually work or remove the eye.
Hoping to save her daughter's vision, Danielle opted for the former and was also relieved as doctors confirmed the retinoblastoma was not genetic – meaning chances of the same cancer spreading to Evie's other eye were slim to none.
"[As a parent], you feel like you're always on edge in case something comes back," she said. "We're in a limbo stage now and we see it as a ticking time bomb, but it's just so hard when you don't want to make the wrong decision.
"This treatment has got a good success rate in other countries and it's also salvaged vision sometimes, so we're just trying to help her. We know what it's like growing up [with a visible difference] – people can be horrible, especially if you lose a body part that is visually so obvious, so we want to try."
Toddler enters remission
The toddler is now in remission but has regular checks at Royal London Hospital every six weeks.
"We're going to have to get her checked until she's an adult; the doctors told me at a certain point it won't be a problem anymore, basically when the eyes stop growing it should remain stable," Danielle said.
"But for now she's still got the tumour in her eye because they can't do an operation safely where they can actually remove the tumour without the chance of it spreading to the brain."
Sadly, the mum said her little girl now suffers from anxiety due to the frequent medical visits.
"She's scared and nervous, this [going to appointments and dealing with treatment] has really affected her," she explained. "She just doesn't like strangers and is even a bit iffy around other children as well, it's horrible to see. We're just hoping to get her confidence back up."
Danielle said her and her partner have purchased "doctor-themed" toys like a Peppa Pig stethoscope and pretend to play doctors and nurses at home "to try to get her used to the fact that they're not there to hurt her".
Mum reaches out to others
The mum has created an Instagram account (@evie_cancerjourney) to warn fellow parents and create a community to help others going through the same ordeal.
She also praises the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust for its "fantastic" assistance.
"That's the only place I can get comfort because they can relate to what you're going through. No one else really understands it.
"There's also family support Facebook groups that I've joined as well, it can be comforting to see other stories that seem positive and helps you you see the light at the end of the tunnel.
"We're trying to take each day as it comes and remain positive."
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