Diagnosis: Ocular Melanoma
Kristy was not surprised when she received the note from her son, Calvin’s, school nurse stating that he had failed his vision test. After all, both she and her husband wear glasses. Now that Cal was 13, she assumed he would just need to start with his own prescription. Kristy says that she even waited a few weeks to make the optometry appointment not sensing any urgency.
That all changed during dinner one night when Cal casually told her that he really couldn’t see out of his right eye. Never had Cal mentioned this before. Kristy said, “You mean your vision is blurry in that eye?” Cal responded that it wasn’t blurry but he actually had very limited vision. He went on to say that he had not had vision for about a year. Kristy was shocked. Cal is a very active teenager. He is an amazing athlete – he plays soccer, basketball and made the Little League All-Stars team. How could he possibly not be able to see in one eye?
Not long into the optometry exam, the doctor informed Kristy that Calvin had a serious issue, something much different than needing prescription glasses. She knew at that moment their lives were about to change. The doctor told Kristy that Cal’s retina was detached. He only had vision in the lower right corner of his periphery. She did not diagnose Cal at that time but made it clear to Kristy that Cal’s condition was serious. He needed to be seen immediately by a retina specialist. They were sent to Flaum Eye Institute in Rochester, NY, two hours from their home in Upstate New York.
The very next day Cal was examined at Flaum Eye Institute. They did many tests but were still not 100% sure of his diagnosis. The family was told to have a second opinion at the Cole Eye Institute in Cleveland, OH. Cole Eye Institute is a five-hour drive from home. The appointment was set for four weeks later and a CD of Calvin’s tests were sent to Cole Eye Institute in advance of this first appointment. Unfortunately, this coincided with the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
That night, while eating a late dinner on the ride home from Rochester, Kristy remembered hearing that a Glow can sometimes occur when a child has a tumor or other visual condition. She grabbed her cell phone and took a flash photo of Cal. There it was – an obvious golden-white glow in the retina of his right eye.
Four weeks after his initial eye exam, Calvin met with an ophthalmic oncologist. Cal underwent several tests including a CT-scan and biopsy. Kristy says Calvin’s doctor, his nurse, and the entire team were compassionate, professional, and very thorough. Once his examination was complete and test results were received, the family was given the heartbreaking news that Cal had a large melanoma that was wrapped around his optic nerve. This cancer was contained in his eye and he would need to have it enucleated immediately. Within a few days Cal was in surgery and his right eye, along with the malignant melanoma, were removed. Cal was now cancer-free.
Despite all that Calvin has been through, he has faced this battle with strength and bravery. He is a true warrior. Cal has since been fitted with an artificial eye and is doing very well. He is back to his active, athletic self and looking forward to a very long, healthy life ahead.
Kristy is extremely grateful not only to the school nurse who discovered his visual issue but also to the very first optometrist who recognized the severity of his situation and set them on the path for answers. Kristy wants all parents to be aware that even though your child is not complaining of visual issues it is still very important to have them screened. It is very common for teens to not focus on these issues. Their eyes compensate for the visual loss and it may not even become obvious to them. She also wants parents to be aware of the Glow, as this may be an early indicator that your child is in need. And finally, Kristy wants to encourage parents to follow their instinct and push until they receive answers that calm the internal voice saying there is something wrong.