Arielle’s Story

Posted on 2017-11-08

On May 10, 2017, Kristina Luna gave birth to a perfectly healthy little girl she named Arielle.  Arielle passed all the wellness exams in the hospital and was sent home a few days later.  When Arielle was about a week old she started opening her eyes more and looking around at the world.  It was around this first week after her birth that Kristina first noticed Arielle’s left eye was slightly larger than her right.  At first Kristina justified the difference in size due to her being a newborn and that she was growing.  She pointed the difference out to her husband and family, but they were not able to see the slight size difference she was noticing.  So Kristina tried to bury her worry. 

She was comforted at Arielle’s wellness visits, as the pediatrician never mentioned any concerns with her eyes.   However, as time went on, Kristina noticed that Arielle was constantly squinting, especially when she was near lights in the house or the sun outside.  She also noticed that Arielle squinted her left eye a little more than the right.  Over time, she noticed another symptom that was even more concerning, the pigment in Arielle’s left eye was darkening.  Again Kristina tried to justify this difference due to her being an infant and her eyes were still adjusting.  She even thought that maybe Arielle was going to have two different eye colors.  Over time, however, the difference in coloring was more than subtle.  Her left eye became completely black and the pupil reflected red.  Her eye was also often filled with fluid.  Kristina could no longer ignore the signs.  She knew there was something wrong and made an immediate appointment with her pediatrician to address her concerns. 

The pediatrician confirmed this was not normal and referred her to an ophthalmologist that very same day.  The ophthalmologists were puzzled as to what was wrong with Arielle.  They called in a pediatric ophthalmologist who came in to see Arielle on her day off.  She told them that her retina was detached and that she could possibly have cancer.  They were sent to Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.  On Thursday July 6, Kristina says “their world turned upside down”. 

They were met at Lurie’s by Dr. Joanna Weinstein and Dr. Hawke Yoon. Arielle’s eyes were dilated and it was confirmed that she had bi-lateral retinoblastoma.   They were told that she had a grade E tumor on her left eye and a grade A tumor in her right.  The doctors gave them several options for treatment.  After careful consideration, they decided enucleation of Arielle’s left eye, followed by chemotherapy was the best option her.  After enucleation, Arielle was like a brand new baby! 

She could focus and see what was going on and seemed so much happier.  Arielle has now completed four of the six rounds of chemotherapy scheduled for her right eye.  The grade A tumor has also been lasered and is no longer active.  Since starting chemo, another tumor did develop, but it too has been lasered.  There are no new signs of further tumor development. Kristina is anxious to complete the next few rounds of Arielle’s chemotherapy in the next few months and to fit Arielle with her prosthetic eye. Today Arielle is a very happy 5 month old little girl.