Alle and her boyfriend, Arturo welcomed their fourth child into the world on March 3rd, 2018. Baby Angela was completely healthy and never raised any developmental concerns for the first two years of her life. However in January of 2020 that all changed. Just shy of Angela’s second birthday, Alle saw what appeared to be a flash of light in her daughter’s right eye. It was so quick and unusual that Alle didn’t think much of it. But then Alle started to see it more often, only in certain light and at certain angles. One afternoon her sister-in-law was visiting and noticed this unusual flash as well. She searched online to try to find out what this could mean and learned that it could be indicating an eye condition for Angela. Alle was concerned but still not convinced anything was wrong.
Over the next few weeks however, this “Glow” became more common and more noticeable. Alle needed answers. She took Angela to her local optometrist but since she was under the age of three he did not do a complete examination. The optometrist did not find anything of concern and said the flash was probably just a reflection of her cornea and would most likely go away over time. Alle was not convinced.
Over the next month the Glow became more and more pronounced. Alle’s motherly instinct told her to have Angela seen again. They went back to the same optometrist. This time the assessment was much different! Angela was diagnosed with leukocoria (the Glow) and was told they needed to seek immediate medical attention to discover its cause.
The family took Angela to a pediatric eye specialist in Ventura at MiraMar, Dr Anya Trumler-Sebring. Angela’s eyes were dilated. The Specialist carefully told them that she believed Angela had Retinoblastoma, cancer of the eye. She referred them to Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles.
They were immediately seen at CHLA where Retinoblastoma was confirmed. Angela was seen by Dr. Berry and Dr. Kim. She underwent an MRI and an exam under anesthesia. They were told that Angela had stage E Retinoblastoma (stage 4). The tumor was very large and was encroaching her optic nerve. Dr. Kim and Dr. Berry explained the severity of her situation and that Angela’s eye needed to be enucleated. Immediate action was necessary as they did not want to risk the tumor moving beyond the eye. Angela’s parents were given the option to enucleate that same day however they decided to do it one week later. The day they brought Angela back for her surgery was a difficult day for all of them. Alle remembers the compassion that Dr. Kim provided her family. He told them “today is a very sad day but it is also the day that you saved your little girl’s life”! Those words gave Alle strength to move forward.
Angela handled the surgery beautifully and the family was relieved to learn that the pathology report indicated that her cancer was not genetic. However, since her tumor was so advanced, they were advised to begin four rounds of systemic chemotherapy. This chemotherapy was necessary in case any of the cancer cells had spread beyond the eye.
These four rounds were difficult. Angela was often sick and lost weight, and also lost her hair from the chemo treatments. Alle says that watching her go though these treatments was incredibly hard but through the darkest times she remembered Dr. Kim’s words.
After her chemotherapy regimen was complete, they did an MRI to confirm the chemotherapy had been successful. Angela was declared cancer free in September 2020! Following this, Angela had an MRI every three months. In the Spring of 2021 these checkups stretched to every six months.
Angela is now a very healthy and happy four year old! She is in preschool and loves playing with her 3 sisters. She even began playing soccer with AYSO! When asked, Angela says wants to be a doctor when she grows up! She was even a doctor for Halloween. Alle can’t help to think this is because of the wonderful care she received from Dr. Berry and Dr. Kim.
Alle hopes that by sharing her story other families will be aware of the Glow. She wants to encourage families to investigate any signs that something may be wrong with their child’s vision. She knows just how important early diagnosis can be and feels very lucky she pressed for answers. She is very aware that if any more time had passed, Angela’s wonderful outcome could have been much different.