Mother of identical twins spotted daughter’s rare cancer from ‘glowing’ eye

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Twin Indiana was diagnosed with a rare eye cancer (Alison Lawler/ PA)

The mother of an identical twin diagnosed with a rare and aggressive eye cancer has urged other parents to look out for symptoms of the disease.

Indiana was just a few months old when Alison Lawler spotted a strange glow in one of her eyes.

After a series of tests doctors discovered she had retinoblastoma, a condition which mainly affects babies and children under the age of six.

“Her eye looked like a cat’s eye or a marble – but only in a certain light,” Ms Lawler, from Croydon, south London, said.

“I feel terrible now, but before she was diagnosed, my husband and I were joking that Indiana looked a bit cross-eyed, which we did check with the health visitor and were reassured all was fine.”

The white glow in Indiana's eye is caught on camera (Alison Lawler/ PA)
The white glow in Indiana’s eye is caught on camera (Alison Lawler/ PA)

The squint, where eyes point in different directions, and white glow were both signs of cancer.

Indiana’s condition was confirmed by doctors at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London in January last year, when she was four months old.

Only 40 to 50 cases of retinoblastoma are diagnosed every year in the UK, the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust said.

Ms Lawler said: “On top of the stress of being a new mother and learning to cope with twins, to hear the news that one of them has cancer, is absolutely terrifying.

“You never think it will happen to you – it’s always someone else’s child you hear about – never yours.”

Indiana's twin sister Aurelia is free of cancer (Alison Lawler/ PA)
Indiana’s twin sister Aurelia is free of cancer (Alison Lawler/ PA)

Indiana, now 17 months old, has responded well to chemotherapy and her tumour has shrunk.

“We’re now spending periods of time covering her good eye with an eye patch to try and improve the vision in her other eye,” Ms Lawler said.

“However she’s now sneakily discovered how to remove it. Indiana is certainly the rowdier of the two.”

Indiana’s twin sister Aurelia is free of cancer, and the condition is non-hereditary, but she is being monitored for symptoms as a precaution.

Almost all children survive the cancer but early diagnosis is essential to save their sight, the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust said.

Around half of children diagnosed will have to have an eye removed to stop the cancer spreading.

Patrick Tonks, chief executive of the charity, said: “Retinoblastoma is rare, with around 50 cases diagnosed in the UK each year, so many doctors will never come across it in their career.

“In addition to this, the symptoms can be quite subtle and children often seem well in themselves which makes it hard to diagnose.

“Unfortunately this can lead to alarming delays and we know that early diagnosis can potentially offer more treatment options and a better outcome for the child.”

Ms Lawler added: “I urge all parents to look out for the signs of retinoblastoma which can include a squint or a white glow in the eye, and keep pushing their doctor if they feel something is not right.”

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