Donovan’s Story

Posted on 2016-10-10

Around his fourth birthday, Donovan’s mother, Sheree, began to notice a “glow” in her son’s eye in photographs. Not knowing much about “the glow” and seeing Donovan as a healthy child, Sheree did not give it much thought. During an annual check-up in May 2010, Donovan’s pediatrician discovered that Donovan was not seeing well in his right eye. The pediatrician could see something in his eye but could not determine what it was, so he set an appointment with a specialist for three weeks later. Not willing to wait the three weeks, Sheree and her husband, Adam, immediately drove Donovan to see to see a specialist in Santa Rosa, California. The specialist diagnosed Donovan with Retinoblastoma and referred the family to the UCSF Hospital. An exam under anesthesia confirmed the Retinoblastoma diagnosis. Donovan had a tumor in the right corner of his eye and numerous vitreous cells. Since the tumor was in the upper corner of the eye, the “glow” would only show in photos taken at angle. The good news was that the tumor was slow-growing. However, after four rounds of chemotherapy, Donovan’s tumor barely shrunk. Discouraged, they looked for other solutions. The family took Donovan to Dr. Anderson at Sloan Kettering in New York, who was frustrated with the treatment course for Donovan. Dr. Anderson would have suggested they start with radiation and cryotherapy to attack the tumors in the smaller vitreous cells before chemo. Since they had already begun chemotherapy, this was no longer an option. Dr. Anderson instead suggested intra-arterial chemotherapy (IAC), which was administered through the groin directly to the optic nerve by Dr. Kim at Stanford. After three unsuccessful treatments of IAC, Dr. Kim suggested enucleation. Frustrated and overwhelmed, Sheree and Adam went back to Dr. Anderson for a second opinion. Dr. Anderson advised them that enucleation was the best option. In February 2011, Dr. Kim at Stanford performed the enucleation using the newest type of prosthetic. Since this surgery, Donovan has been doing great. He is an active, energetic boy. He is now 10-years-old and loves golf, martial arts and swimming. Donovan goes to the cancer survivor clinic every five years and sees his ocularist every year. Sheree has devoted much of her time to helping other families who have children with RB and spreading as much awareness of “the Glow” as possible.