A LITTLE boy’s cancer was caught after he developed an eerie white glow in his right eye.
Eithan Blair was a picture of gurgling good health, but the white reflection in his eye was a sign of a deadly secret.
He was harbouring a potentially deadly tumour which threatened to blind or kill him.
It was only spotted when mum Emma Johnston and painter and decorator dad Graeme Blair, 26, noticed the shimmer as Eithan looked up at them as he played on the lounge floor.
That chance occurrence sparked a terrifying journey that was to see brave Eithan battle not one but TWO life-threatening conditions.
Not only would he be diagnosed with cancer, but doctors would also uncover a previously unkown serious heart defect.
It was only after the initial cancer diagnosis that Emma, 22, looked back at treasured family snaps and realised the worrying white area in Eithan’s eye had been right in front of them all along.
“We were staring cancer in the face and didn’t even see it,” she said. “I thought it was a reflection of the camera flash.”
Retail assistant Emma, of Dunoon, was referred by a GP to a hospital eye specialist who discovered a tumour in the bottom of his right eye.
Eithan was only eight months old when the shock diagnosis was delivered.
“I felt my mind racing and was overcome with worry,” she said. “One minute we had a lovely healthy boy and the next, we were told he had a suspicious tumour.
“He was so young. I started to fear the worst. We could only pray we had got it in time.”
They were told the tell-tale white reflection meant the mass was most likely to be malignant.
As such, early treatment was vital to give little Eithan the best chance of survival.
“I wept at what lay ahead of him at such a young age,” said mum. “But chemotherapy was his only hope and we would all make it through this together.”
At Birmingham Children’s Hospital – the UK referral centre for children with eye tumours – Eithan’s retinoblastoma was confirmed.
But the family were set to be hit by yet another bombshell when doctors discovered he had a second complication, a potentially deadly heart condition.
His tiny heart was racing at 230 beats per minute – more than twice the normal rate for that age.
“Doctors told us they had to delay the cancer treatment because the chemo could kill him,” Emma said. “We wanted the cancer gone as soon as possible. The thought of it spreading was unbearable. It was a horrible dilemma.
“Eithan became so ill he was bed-bound in intensive care for seven days. When we asked what his chances were the staff could only tell they were uncertain.
“I could hardly bear to speak when I heard this.
“How much more could our wee boy take?”
For four weeks Eithan fought the heart problem before medication gained control of his heart rate.
“It seemed like an eternity,” Emma said. “I would look at him, know the cancer was in his eye, and weep that doctors were powerless to do anything. Not until they cured his heart problem.
“We were overjoyed when the doctors pronounced him fit enough for chemo.”
Three rounds of anti-cancer drugs hit their target, destroying the cancerous cells.
The laser treatment did the rest.
“We didn’t mind about him losing his hair,” Emma added. “We were just glad the treatment worked.”
Doctors warned that the plucky infant might not make key developmental milestones.
But he delighted them all by walking at 10 months, and is now a thriving two-year-old.
“Those were his steps back to a normal life,” said Emma. “The first happy moment for us all since the diagnosis.
“His saving grace was having the tumour spotted.
“I know other babies’ eye cancer is missed. We just want other families to have any white eye reflections examined.”
According to UK charity the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust, a white glow in the eye can be a symptom of retinoblastoma – a rare type of eye cancer that affects babies and young children under the age of six.
The charity says: “Seeing a white glow in your child’s eye can be extremely worrying, but please remember that retinoblastoma is very rare – around 50 cases are diagnosed in the UK every year – and there are several other causes of white eye.
“But to rule out anything serious, we always recommend that if you do spot anything unusual you have your child checked out by a health professional as soon as possible.”
Last night Emma said she was amazed at how well Eithan had coped. “He’s taken it all in his stride,” she added. “He’s amazing.”