In October 2015, Leslie started to notice a strange glow in her son Parker’s eye during every day activities. Parker was only 6 months old at the time and Leslie did not know what to think of the Glow that she was noticing. However, a short time later, Parker started to develop what seemed to be a “lazy” eye in the same eye that exhibited the Glow. Leslie was now very concerned something may be wrong and took him to be examined.
The day was January 11, 2016. This is the day their lives changed forever.
The doctors informed Leslie that Parker’s retina was completely detached in his left eye. He was blind in that eye. This detachment was caused by both the fluid buildup behind the eye and a mass that created pressure on the retina.
The only word Leslie heard was “mass.” Being a licensed vocational nurse, Leslie knew that meant cancer.
The very next day Leslie took Parker back to the hospital to have an exam under anesthesia. This is done to grade the tumor and mark the stage of progression of the disease. To her shock, Leslie learned that Parker not only had a mass in his left eye, but also had tumors existing in his right eye. The tumor in his left eye was graded an “E” and his right eye was a grade “B.” Parker was officially diagnosed with Bilateral Retinoblastoma. He started chemotherapy the very next day.
Pediatric Bilateral Retinoblastoma is a malignant, aggressive cancer that affects both eyes of the child. Retinoblastoma (RB) is rare. It accounts for only 4 percent of all childhood cancer cases and is diagnosed 250 to 300 times in the United States each year. Usually RB only affects one eye. Bilateral RB only occurs in one out of every four of these cases.
In the last year since his diagnosis, Parker has been a very strong and brave little fighter. He has received systemic chemotherapy along with Intra Arterial Chemotherapy. With this type of chemo, a catheter is inserted in his leg and the runs directly to his eyes. This way the chemotherapy is directly targeting the area of concern.
At first, the IAC was only being given to his left eye, as the tumors in the right eye were not growing. However, these tumors had begun to grow as well. Parker then received treatment in both of his eyes. After traveling four hours each way every week to every other week for several months to receive IAC, Parker’s tumors had stopped responding.
Parker returned to getting systemic chemotherapy. Every four weeks Parker would get exams under anesthesia to determine whether the tumors had grown or spread.
After finishing chemotherapy, while getting cryotherapy treatments in hope to freeze the tumors, Parker’s tumors in his left eye stopped responding altogether and started to grow and increase in amount, despite all efforts.
On February 3, 2017, more than a year after being diagnosed with Bilateral Retinoblastoma, Parker had his left eye removed to help keep the cancer from spreading to his brain.
Parker is still receiving treatment on his right eye to contain the cancer, save his vision and save his eye.
Through all of this, Parker has been a fighter. He has learned to walk and has kept up in other developmental milestones with his peers. He has tough days after chemotherapy, which is to be expected, but is overall a very happy little boy. There are still many uncertainties for Parker. Right now they are focused on taking it a day at a time. Leslie has a deep faith and says, “We believe that with God and our friends and family we will get through.”
Leslie is determined to raise awareness of RB and informing other families about the Glow as an early indicator of visual issues. If you would like to keep up to date with Leslie and Parker’s story, visit Leslie’s blog or join Parker’s Facebook group at #teamparker. And if you would like to help this beautiful family out with a donation, please visit www.gofundme.com/parkerabbott.