Meeting Katie and Rich Fairhurst from the UK and viewing the Instagram page charting the month-to-month milestone growth of their darling son, Flynn, you would never guess the whirlwind they have recently experienced. Despite the four-month roller coaster, Katie and Rich have been able to manage it all and are already diving into raising awareness and funds for Cancer Research in the UK! Join team Leicester by supporting their Shine Night Walk on October 21st, and if you can’t be there in person, be sure to donate toward this great cause by following this link!
Megan Webber was astonished as she listened to Katie describe Flynn’s journey to recovery. She was also delighted to learn that he is receiving excellent care from a loving family, dedicated caregivers, and a strong support network of nurses and NGOs! It all started when Flynn was about three months old, and Katie and her husband, Rich, noticed his left eye seemed a bit lazy. The pediatrician initially thought it was just a developmental delay, but after another month passed and the left eye wasn’t catching up, Katie sought a second opinion. The second doctor came to the same conclusion, but sensing Katie sought a more definitive answer, he referred her to the ophthalmology clinic at Leicester Royal Infirmary for a presumed lazy eye.
When Katie brought Flynn in for the eye test, she noticed a distinct difference in the optician’s demeanor. Upon examination, the doctor called in a colleague, and their whispers sounded concerning. Not ready to share their suspicions, they suggested referring Flynn to another doctor for a more thorough exam. Frightened, Katie asked if there was anything to worry about but was told it was likely nothing, just a request for a more thorough check. Before they could pay the parking though, Katie’s phone rang with a request to return to the vision center for Flynn’s eye to be dilated and examined by a pediatric ophthalmologist.
After the examination, the doctors again let Katie take Flynn home but mentioned they would likely want him to be seen by a specialist in Birmingham Hospital, approximately 45 minutes from her home. Still, nothing was mentioned about retinoblastoma, and Katie remained unaware of the possibility.
The next day, Birmingham Hospital rang to set the appointment. The woman scheduling the appointment asked Katie and Rich if they knew why they were being referred, to which they honestly replied, “No?” “We are a children’s cancer specialist hospital,” replied the scheduler. Rich and Katie’s hearts sank, but they listened intently as the woman shared that there may be a growth behind the eye or any number of things, but an Exam Under Anesthesia (EUA) needed to be scheduled to get a closer look. Katie stayed away from learning too much about the possibility of cancer as she held out hope it was something else causing the eye to wander and prepared for the exam set for the following week.
Once the EUA was completed, the doctors related to Katie and Rich the sobering news that Flynn has Bilateral Retinoblastoma. His left eye had one large tumor in the center and a few in the outer rim, leaving him with light perception only in that eye. His right eye had five small tumors that had thankfully, as of yet, done no damage to his vision since they had been caught early. It was explained that while they believed they could save Flynn’s eye, he would require an expected six rounds of systemic chemotherapy. Before Katie could even fully process the news, Flynn awoke wanting to nurse, and so she took the time to break away from the tense moment.
Flynn was referred to Leicester Royal Infirmary to have his Hickman line inserted and chemotherapy begun. Katie and her husband learned quickly how to support Flynn, and he was amazing throughout. The Diana Team of Nurses came to assist with home nursing each week to watch over Flynn between rounds of chemotherapy, and Sarah from the CHECT team was close by to offer support and help answer questions.
Dr. Emma Ross and her team at Leicester have been nothing short of amazing. Flynn sailed through rounds 1 and 2 of chemo but ran into complications with rounds 3 and 4. Both rounds left Flynn dehydrated and feverish, which led to being admitted for two weeks, delaying further treatment until his blood counts would recover to allow for more laser and EUAs. Through it all, Katie and her husband have been surrounded by friends and family and have been buoyed by the ready smile from little Flynn.
Fortunately, the initial rounds of chemo have been so successful that no further chemotherapy is currently required. Flynn’s a fighter, and his cheeks are starting to redden again as he rebuilds his strength after the ordeal. Wanting to somehow thank the community for their support of Flynn, Katie and Rich reached out to the Cancer Research team in the UK. The Fairhursts hope that the funds raised in Flynn’s name will go toward Pediatric Cancer research and equipment in the UK, and they hope that his struggle will soon result in more children being treated and cared for thanks to the efforts of this tremendous research organization.
We are honored to share their story and so grateful to Team Flynn! We know his smile and his story will resonate with many, and we hope it will lead more parents to keep asking questions if they notice anything worrisome in their child’s eye and follow in the footsteps of the Fairhurst family to find answers! Flynn will continue to require laser and EUA’s monthly at Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospital, and blood draws, dressing changes and line flushes weekly at home with the Diana Nurses.
To help cheer Flynn on and to support this wonderful family please visit their page at https://fundraise.cancerresearchuk.org/team/flynns-fight. We are happy that they are surrounded by not only family and friends but also have the tremendous support of Sarah Turley and the whole team from the amazing Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT)! We know the future is bright for this amazing boy!