A mum was left feeling “sick to her stomach” after her toddler was diagnosed with rare cancer – after she noticed strange symptoms such as squinting, a glow and his eye changing colour.
Amy Waddle, 32, was left heartbroken when her son Teddy was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a rare type of eye cancer that typically affects children under the age of three.
The mum and her partner, Brian, 44, began to notice their two-year-old was squinting when he was daydreaming or tired but had no idea of the nightmare that would follow.
After a series of appointments, diagnostic surgery and tests, the family were given the heartbreaking diagnosis – Teddy would need to get his right eye removed.
Amy, who is from Crawley, first noticed a change in June this year and the cancer spread so rapidly that her son’s eye was enucleated just months later, in September
“Between the first sign and our first appointment with an optician, Teddy’s eye changed colour,” the mum told Jam Press.
“His eyes were bright blue but his right had gone darker – becoming more like my eye colour.
“The optician wasn’t initially too concerned but between appointments, we noticed Teddy’s eye was also glowing in certain lights.
“I Googled it and my heart sank. It said the only possible cause for this was retinoblastoma.
“The optician booked Teddy in for another appointment at another hospital after she saw him.
Because Teddy couldn’t sit still, that optician suggested an exam under anaesthesia, which we agreed to.
“He had the exam three days later.
“Afterwards, the doctor came through and asked us if we could go into another room for some privacy.
“At that point, I just knew.”
The retina specialist told Teddy’s parents that although his left eye was perfectly healthy, his right eye had a large, cancerous tumour.
His vision was almost certainly gone and because of its size, the toddler would have to have his eye removed within weeks.
Amy said: “There was probably more said but I didn’t take any of that in. I burst into tears.
“I felt numb, confused, sick to my stomach and ultimately heartbroken.
“The night before the surgery, Teddy started complaining that his eye was hurting for the first time.
“It had gone really bloodshot, too.
“Thankfully, the Royal London had kindly put us in their sick children’s trust accommodation, which was a three-minute walk to the hospital.
“Still, by the time we got there, Teddy had fallen asleep.
“He was in so much pain the day of his operation because the pressure on his eye had increased from the tumour.
“I couldn’t bear the thought of him being in pain any longer.
“When Teddy went down, we were heartbroken but also so happy to know the tumour would be gone.”
Amy then had to face seeing her beloved son without his eye for the first time.
She said: “As soon as the bandage came off, I cried.
“Teddy doesn’t really know what’s happened but when he first looked in the mirror, he pointed to his eye and asked where it had gone.
“Knowing his eye is gone has been the hardest obstacle to overcome, but I know Teddy will go on to live a happy, healthy life and do everything a person with two eyes can do.”
Two weeks after his operation on 27 September, doctors officially declared Teddy cancer-free.
The family will now have to wait to find out whether his cancer was genetic and whether it might affect his brother, Parker, who is just six months old and will have to be tested.
In the meantime, Teddy will be regularly monitored and he will be fitted with an artificial eye next month.
The family are now focused on healing from the trauma of what they’ve been through and raising awareness for retinoblastoma by documenting their journey on Instagram (@i_spy_with_my_special_eye).
Amy added: “I want people to know the signs of retinoblastoma.
“If you notice any changes to your child’s eye, seek medical help and do not stop until you know for sure.”