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Mother shares sign every parent should know after daughter, 5, loses her eye to cancer

The Independent logo The Independent 11/24/2022 Ben Barry

A woman who was overjoyed to get the all-clear from cancer was devastated when her daughter lost her eye to the disease just months later - and has now shared the tell-tale signs everyone should watch for.

Bonnie Robson, five, was diagnosed with retinoblastoma - a form of eye cancer that typically affects children under the age of six - on January 10, 2022.

Her diagnosis came after her mother, Lisa Shaw, 38, and father, Daryl Robson, 42, a salesman, noticed an unusual “white glow” in their daughter’s right pupil on Boxing Day in December 2021.

The worried parents took Bonnie to the opticians, and she was referred to Doncaster Royal Infirmary where they were told she had grade E retinoblastoma.

Bonnie’s cancer diagnosis came just five months after her mother’s battle with breast cancer, which saw her undergo chemotherapy, a mastectomy and radiotherapy.

Bonnie underwent an operation to remove her right eye on January 20 2022. After her operation, she underwent four rounds of chemotherapy and is now cancer-free.

The little girl is “happy and healthy” and looking forward to a family holiday to Lapland this December.

Lisa, a quality assurance manager, from Doncaster, South Yorkshire, said: “Bonnie is just the best thing that ever happened to us. I thought I knew what love was until I met Bonnie.

“I look at what she has gone through and see how she is and I could not be prouder.

“When she is older, I want her to know that all the times I had to hold her tight were done out of pure love and we will protect her forever.

“I hope she knows how much we love and adore her.”

 (Lisa Shaw / SWNS) © Provided by The Independent (Lisa Shaw / SWNS)

“It is soul destroying you think when it happens to you it is bad enough but when it happens to your child it is mortifying.

“Part of my having treatment, probably was a benefit because I went through chemo very well, but I knew how to get through it a lot better than someone who has never experienced it before.

“Words can’t describe how proud we are of her, she took it in her stride, kids are so resilient, it hasn’t been nice for her, but we couldn’t be any prouder of her.”

After noticing a “rapid change” to Bonnie’s pupil, Lisa and Daryl took her to hospital. Bonnie’s eye colour became dull and there was a “little puddle of milky build-up”, according to her mother.

The family travelled to Birmingham Children’s Hospital, West Midlands, on January 12 2022.

Bonnie’s cancer was grade E, a unanimous decision had been made by doctors to remove her eye on January 20 2022.

 (Lisa Shaw / SWNS) © Provided by The Independent (Lisa Shaw / SWNS)

Lisa said: “We had just had a lovely Christmas Day with our family, and it was Boxing Day.

“It was around teatime so it was dark outside, and the lights were dim in the house, so the Christmas lights were twinkling while Bonnie danced about the room.

“As she was dancing and spinning around, I noticed an odd reflection in her eye which looked like a cat’s eye that you would see in the road.

“I didn’t think much of it, but I turned the main light on and asked her to come closer.

“When she came close, I noticed a cloudy film on her eye.”

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.

Lisa said: “As it was Christmas, I thought I would go straight to the opticians on December 28 2021.

“When I saw the cloudiness in her eye I was not overly concerned.

“Bonnie is allergic to animal fur so she has always itched her eyes, so I thought she had hurt her eye itching it.

“Regardless of this, I thought it was best I get this checked out.”

 (Lisa Shaw / SWNS) © Provided by The Independent (Lisa Shaw / SWNS)

She continued: “Bonnie was excited to show off her letter skills at the opticians. The optometrist covered her right eye and she read some letters.

“He then covered her left eye. From there, I knew something was very wrong.

“Bonnie seemed to panic and she couldn’t focus.

“Her eye was moving up and down, side to side and it was like she couldn’t see anything with her right eye.

“The worry in the optician’s face said it all. He explained we needed an emergency appointment.

“He explained he had not seen it before but he knows it was very rare. I knew I had to quickly pull myself together and try not to worry Bonnie.”

 (Lisa Shaw / SWNS) © Provided by The Independent (Lisa Shaw / SWNS)

Lisa said that during the appointment at Doncaster Royal Infirmary she and Daryl were “very nervous”.

She said: “We try not to use ‘Doctor Google’ but part of me couldn’t help but research the white glow.

“All the signs pointed to retinoblastoma.

“I didn’t want to believe it and I didn’t let anyone know what I was reading because part of me was hoping for a different outcome.

“We were asked to come back on the 30th and then on New Year’s Eve.

“When we were told we need to get an emergency appointment with Sheffield, we knew it was becoming serious.”

 (Lisa Shaw / SWNS) © Provided by The Independent (Lisa Shaw / SWNS)

After the appointment in Sheffield, the family travelled to Birmingham Children’s Hospital on 12th January 2022, and Bonnie was “excited” to go to a big city and stay in a hotel.

It was at Birmingham Children’s Hospital where it was decided by doctors that Bonnie would have to have her eye removed because it was a grade E tumour.

Lisa said: “Because the cancer was grade E, a unanimous decision had been made by the doctors for her eye to be removed.

“I couldn’t believe that my baby was going to lose her eye. Her eyes are beautiful, I just kept thinking ‘how will she manage without her eye?’”

“I asked what a prosthetic eye would feel like in Bonnie’s eye - they explained it would just feel like a normal eye and in fact, it would feel better than what she was experiencing at that time.

“Asking questions calmed us down and we came to the conclusion that getting this nasty tumour out of her eye was the most important thing.”

To help Bonnie prepare for the operation, Lisa bought a doctor set for her.

Lisa would explain to Bonnie how they were going to the doctors and then they would play - re-enacting what would happen at the hospital - so she understood.

Lisa said: “The day of the enucleation is by far the worst day of our lives. We were in Birmingham for five nights.

“Due to Covid regulations, I stayed in the hospital through the night and Daryl stayed at the hotel.

“I don’t know what is worse, being with Bonnie at the appointments or being Daryl and waiting to wonder what is going on.

“On the day they took off the eye patch we were so happy to go home.”

After Bonnie’s eye had some time to heal, she started chemotherapy as a precaution.

Lisa had experienced chemotherapy herself just a matter of months before after battling breast cancer.

Lisa explained: “I was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2020. I was told it would probably be nothing to worry about.

“When I went back from my results, I knew something was wrong. When they broke the news to me, I can only describe it as someone knocking the wind out of me.

“After seven rounds of chemotherapy, I was told I would need a mastectomy. I had the operation and recovered well.

“I then had eight lots of radiotherapy. Although it is not nice, I have been very lucky and went through it positively.

“If my daughter was happy, I was happy and as long as I was there to watch her grow up is all that mattered to me.

“I went through it so strongly because of her.

“When my hair fell out, I promised Bonnie it was something to do with mummy’s strong medicine and it is not something that would happen to her.

“I never thought in a few months’ time my daughter would be facing the same experience at the age of five.”

“Bonnie rang the bell as a sign of finishing her treatment on April 23 2022 and I rang the bell on April 20 2021.

“I would have never imagined we would be doing this in such a short space of time, but I am proud of us for getting through this so positively.”

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