Colter Dammann’s Glow Story

Written by Matt & Keely Dammann (Colter’s parents)

Around Colter’s first birthday we started to notice the iris of his right eye was a darker shade of blue. As the summer went on, we noticed it continue to darken compared to his left eye. Initially, we weren’t concerned, thinking, “babies’ eyes change color all the time.” A few more weeks went by and while we were changing his diaper, he was looking up at the ceiling light and we noticed a glow in his pupil. This caused us to worry that something wasn’t right and we scheduled him to visit an eye doctor. On July 28, our lives were turned upside down as the doctors shared with us their concerns and referred us to a higher level of care with Dr. Jill Anderson MD. at the University of Minnesota. They scheduled an EUA to run tests. On August 9th, Colter was diagnosed with Retinoblastoma, grade E tumor, and Neovascular Glaucoma. The only treatment option was to enucleate the eye. 

On August 14, Colter’s right eye was enucleated. It was difficult to see him go through such a life-changing surgery and we had so many questions moving forward. However, it was incredible how tough and resilient he was, playing and running around just hours after his surgery! Two weeks later, Colter’s bandages came off and he continued to heal. He recovered wonderfully as the tumor in his eye was causing massive discomfort. In the following weeks, we found out that further pathology reported that unfortunately the cancer had spread to his optic nerve and on September 1, he began chemotherapy treatment. 

Colter completed six rounds of chemotherapy. Dr. Joseph Neglia MD. with M Health Fairview Masonic Childrens was his primary Oncologist. It started out with so many unknowns and with unfamiliar places and faces. Every vital check resulted in tears and it was hard to watch our baby go through the pain and challenges. With each round of chemotherapy things got a little bit easier. We learned more about the process and what to expect and Colter became more familiar with being in the hospital. After the first few rounds, Colter was no longer scared, but was excited to see the nurses, who helped him with his vital checks and who he made laugh with his contagious smile. He found joy in walking the halls, waving to each person he passed by. 

On November 21, Colter got his “special eye.” It was fascinating watching the ocularist at work, painting Colter’s new eye to match his other eye. Looking at him now, you wouldn’t be able to tell that he has monocular vision. He is able to run, play, and do everything a toddler would do! He wears glasses to protect his eyes and has done so well with learning how to keep them on.

On February 7, Colter got to ring the bell at his final lab appointment, signifying the end of treatment! He was celebrated with the amazing team of nurses and doctors who had helped us along the way. He had an MRI done around this time to check the progress and the results were promising that there was no evidence of disease! We continue to monitor with regular MRI checks every six months and pray that the cancer is gone for good. 

Through this journey Colter has exhibited astounding resilience and toughness. He worked through the challenges and continued to push forward with a smile on his face. We know this is only going to be a chapter of our lives. This will shape Colter into the person God created him to be. It will not define him, but merely be a part of his testimony. Part of our story. God is good!