Mom's Photo of Son Leads to Cancer Diagnosis

Julie Fitzgerald knew she saw something odd in his eye
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted May 11, 2015 6:40 PM CDT
Mom's Photo of Son Leads to Cancer Diagnosis
One of the telling photos of Avery Fitzgerald.   (YouTube)

(Newser) – A mom's photo of her 2-year-old boy helped her spot a rare cancer symptom and possibly prevent the disease from spreading to his blood and brain, WREX 13 and Fox 8 report. Illinois resident Julie Fitzgerald noticed earlier this year that her son Avery's left eye looked a little odd. She read online about a person whose eyes appeared white instead of red in photos, a possible cancer indicator. Her husband Patrick blew it off, but Julie, still worried, took a smartphone shot of Avery: "I did not want to take the picture because I had this dreaded feeling in the pit of my stomach," she says. "I took the picture, and boom: His whole pupil was just white—and that’s when I knew."

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A specialist looked at Avery and said his eye was covered 75% in tumors; in fact, he'd likely been blind there his whole life, although the tumors started growing just 6 weeks earlier. The doctor diagnosed him with retinoblastoma, an unusual eye cancer that often starts in early childhood; 250 to 350 US children get it every year, according to the National Institutes of Health. Doctors removed Avery's unhealthy eye and will replace it with a prosthetic one, and plan to keep testing the boy for signs of other cancers. "If we did not get this eye out, the cancer would spread to his blood and to his brain," Julie tells ABC News. "Our lives went from normal to cancer to a cancer survivor in three weeks. It turned out to be our worst nightmare but it saved our son's life." (Read about a man who couldn't breathe getting a rare transplant.)

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