Emily gave birth to her son, Baylen, 13 weeks prematurely.
Due to his early arrival, Baylen spent the first five months of his life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC). There Baylen was thoroughly examined and closely watched. Finally, in February of 2016, Baylen was able to come home. He was a healthy and happy little boy.
Just six months later, a week before his first birthday, Emily started to notice that Baylen’s left eye was not tracking along with the right. Concerned that he was developing a lazy eye (amblyopia) , Emily scheduled an appointment with his pediatrician. After her examination, Baylen’s pediatrician also had concerns that he had a developing visual issue. She referred them to Dr. Nils Mungan, an ophthalmologist at Blair Batson Children’s Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi.
Emily was not prepared for what Dr. Mungan would discover.
Just 5 minutes into his examination of Baylen, Dr. Mungan turned to Emily and said “Your son has Retinoblastoma, a cancer of the eye.” Emily was stunned. She had gone into the exam thinking that maybe Baylen would be fitted with glasses or possibly a patch — she was not expecting to hear the word “cancer”!
Emily and Baylen were sent to another ophthalmologist in the same hospital for a second opinion. This doctor confirmed the Retinoblastoma diagnosis. Emily was told that Baylen’s cancer had taken over his entire left eye. The only option left was the removal of the eye and surrounding tissue. Six days later, Baylen had his eye enucleated.
Looking back, Emily said there was an early sign that something was wrong.
She had noticed “the Glow” in Baylen’s flash photos. At the time, she did not know that “the Glow” was a silent message of his developing cancer. She simply thought she had a bad camera on her phone. Emily says she can see “the Glow” in photos almost as far back as when he was released from the NICU, six months before the diagnosis. She knows that his tumor was fast growing and aggressive. Emily wishes she had known about “the Glow” but is very grateful that she was able to get him the care he needed before the cancer spread to his right eye or beyond.
Baylen is now doing extraordinarily well. He is an active, happy, healthy three-year-old boy.
He loves Mickey Mouse, SpongeBob and anything to do with Paw Patrol. He rides his John Deere side by side and spends as much time as he can with his Paw Paw. Baylen has an examination under anesthesia every three months to make sure there is no recurrence of his cancer.
Emily hopes that by sharing their story, other families will learn of “the Glow” and of the 20 different conditions it could indicate. She knows all too well how important early diagnosis is and hopes families will recognize this early sign and get their children the care they need as quickly as possible. We are very grateful to both Emily and Baylen for sharing their journey with us and know by doing so they will help many others who have not yet discovered their own “Glow”.