You may remember that Noah Aguilar helped us put together a HealthWise story for Halloween last year about kids and cancer. We'll replay his message, and explain why it was really scary for him, and why this month, it should be important to you.
Suddenly you can't see very good or everything just looks different, or you have a white spot in the center of your eye. These are clues that a child may have eye cancer, but there's more.
"First the eye, it was drifting, then it began to look as though it were inflamed and infected. Right away, the #1 concern for me was Retinoblastoma," says Dr. Sandra Brown, TTUHSC-pediatric opthalmologist.
Retinoblastoma is a rare cancer that affects 1 in every 15,000 children, usually before the age of five. Noah Aguilar was one of those children. The diagnosis in simple terms? A tumor that grows into the eye.
"She first said he has something seriously wrong and will need to undergo surgeries," says Penny Aguilar, Noah's mother.
"It was really surreal just to know that they were going to remove his eye," says Jeremiah Aguilar, father.
Especially since the Aguilars thought at first it was just an eye infection.
"The retina was totally destroyed by the Retinoblastoma and the concern is when you know that, it's been growing for a long time," says Dr. Brown.
"If the cancer cells had gotten into his brain, he would have had a 2% survival rate, so it's very important to take care of it right way, and Dr. Brown was wonderful on that," says Penny.
Dr. Brown sent Noah to Children's Hospital in Dallas where surgeons are more frequently called to remove the eye. The surgery was a success, but Noah came back to Lubbock to get his fake eye crafted by the specialists at Texas Tech.
"You match the color of the iris, the size of the iris, and the size of the pupil," says Dr. Brown.
After removing the cancer and replacing the eye, Noah began chemotherapy in May to kill any cancer cells that might have crawled out the optic nerve.
By September, Noah was recovering at home. By October, he joined some other trick or treaters to say cancer isn't scary if you watch for warning signs, and now, Noah goes back to Texas Tech for a vision check every three months.
"I just hold my breath. I'm just waiting to hear the outcome to hear that he's okay," says Penny.
Today, Noah has 20/25 vision, and he's cancer free, and since March is save your vision month, the lesson he learned is worth repeating. If cancer is caught early, there can be many happy endings like this one.
Dr. Brown told me there's one more clue parents should watch for that would signal serious eye trouble. When you get a picture developed, if there's red eye in just one eye, but the other has a white reflection, you should see your doctor immediately.