Erica knows all too well that her story could have ended much differently had her grandmother not voiced her concerns when Erica was just two years old.
In 1996, while the family was living in New York, Erica’s grandmother noticed that her eye turned inward at times. She voiced her concerns to Erica’s parents who had also noticed this misalignment but not thought much about it. They immediately took Erica to her pediatrician who explained to her parents that Erica most likely had a lazy eye that she would eventually outgrow. However, Erica’s wandering eye did not self-resolve, it actually grew more pronounced. Once her parents observed Erica walk into a door frame, they knew there was more going on with her vision.
Her parents took Erica to see an optometrist who dilated her eyes and was then able to see a mass. They were referred to Dr. David Abramson, an ophthalmologist who specializes in oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Dr. Abramson determined that Erica had a tumor developing in her left eye. Dr. Abramson explained the two treatment options. The first being chemotherapy which presented many risks and was not a guarantee of success. The second being enucleation, the removal of her eye. Erica’s parents decided to enucleate and less than a week later, Erica’s eye was surgically removed. Erica did not need any further treatment and has been in remission ever since!
Soon after her surgery, Erica’s family moved to Florida where she connected with Dr. Timothy Murray at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. Dr. Murray is very conservative and determined to keep a vigilant check on Erica. Dr. Murray knows there is a risk of micro
tumors developing and asks to see Erica every six months. At these visits, Erica has an ultrasound to check the tissue around the eye for any
signs of tumor development.
Growing up, Erica says she always felt different than her peers. Children often stared at her,
and she was very self-conscious of her appearance. She felt comfort in the waiting room for her check up appointments, as she was surrounded by other
people who shared similar experiences. She decided that since this was an environment that she felt most comfortable she should begin exploring career
opportunities in eye care.
At first Erica considered Biomedical Engineering, but soon realized she wanted to be working directly with patients, not in a lab. This is when she reached out to her doctor and friend, Dr. Murray. Dr. Murray was glad to have Erica intern with him for an entire summer. She had the opportunity to see the day-to-day work of Dr. Murray and the optometrist that works in his practice, Dr. Gold. Erica
realized through this experience that while surgery was not of interest to her, optometry definitely was.
Soon after the internship ended, Erica enrolled in optometry school at Nova Southeastern University in Ft
Lauderdale, Florida where she graduated in May of 2021. She also completed her residency at a Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Columbia, South Carolina, where she gained experience with ocular pathology as well as specialty contact lenses and low vision services. She is now a licensed and practicing optometrist living and working in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Looking back at photos of herself prior to diagnosis, she can see that the Glow was present in her left eye at the time of her diagnosis. Lack of knowledge and awareness regarding the Glow prevented the people around her from detecting her condition sooner. Still, she feels very lucky that her RB was discovered just in time as her ocular tumor was very advanced and could have easily spread. She feels very grateful for her grandmother’s keen observance and for her encouragement to have Erica examined. She knows all too well that without this intervention, the course of her life could have been much different.
Erica is also grateful for organizations like KnowTheGlow that are devoted to spreading awareness of leukocoria, the Glow, and the conditions that it can indicate. She is determined to help with this mission in the hopes of helping save other children from blindness, and even death. We are thrilled that Erica has decided to join KTG as an ambassador. We know that her incredible life experience as well as her profound understanding of the various conditions that can develop in the eye will help save many other children in the future!