Retinoblastoma symptoms: Mum shares sign every parent should know after daughter, 5, loses eye to cancer

A woman who was overjoyed to be cancer-free was devastated when her daughter lost her eye to the disease just a few months later – and now she’s shared the telltale signs everyone should look out for.

Five-year-old Bonnie Robson was diagnosed with retinoblastoma – a form of eye cancer that typically affects children under the age of six – on January 10, 2022.

Her diagnosis came after her mother, Lisa Shaw, 38, and her father, Daryl Robson, 42, a salesman, noticed an unusual “white glow” in their daughter’s right pupil on Boxing Day in December 2021.

Concerned parents took Bonnie to the eye doctor, and she was referred to Doncaster Royal Infirmary, where they said she had grade E retinoblastoma.

Bonnie’s cancer diagnosis came just five months after her mother’s battle with breast cancer, which saw her undergo chemotherapy, mastectomy and radiation therapy.

Bonnie had an operation to remove her right eye on January 20, 2022. After the operation, she underwent four rounds of chemotherapy and is now cancer free.

The little girl is “happy and healthy” and is looking forward to a family holiday in Lapland in December.

Lisa, Quality Assurance Manager, from Doncaster, South Yorkshire, said: “Bonnie is simply the best thing that has ever happened to us. I thought I knew what love was until I met Bonnie.

“I look back at what she’s been through and I see where she is and I couldn’t be more proud.

“When she is older, I want her to know that every time I had to hold her tight it was out of pure love and we will protect her forever.

“I hope she knows how much we love and adore her.”

(Lisa Shaw/SWNS)

“It’s soul-destroying, you think when it happens to you it’s bad enough, but when it happens to your child it’s mortifying.

“Part of my treatment was probably a benefit because I got through the chemo really well, but I knew how to get through it much better than someone who has never been through it before.

“Words cannot describe how proud we are of her, she took it in stride, the kids are so resilient, it hasn’t been good for her but we couldn’t be more proud of her.”

After noticing a “rapid change” in Bonnie’s ward, Lisa and Daryl took her to the hospital. Bonnie’s eye color was dull and there was a “small puddle of milky buildup”, according to her mother.

The family traveled to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham, West Midlands on 12 January 2022.

Bonnie’s cancer was grade E, a unanimous decision was made by doctors to remove her eye on January 20, 2022.

(Lisa Shaw/SWNS)

Lisa said: “We had just spent a beautiful Christmas day with our family, and it was Boxing Day.

“It was around teatime, so it was dark outside, and the lights were dim in the house, so the Christmas lights were flickering as Bonnie danced around the room.

“As she danced and twirled I noticed a strange glint in her eye that looked like a cat’s eye you would see on the road.

“I didn’t think much of it, but I turned on the main light and asked her to come over.

“As she approached, I noticed a cloudy film in her eye.”

Typical signs of retinoblastoma include a white glow that may only appear in certain lights or a squint – as well as a change in the appearance of the eye or a puffy eye, although often only one sign or symptom is present.

Lisa said: “Since it was Christmas, I thought I’d go straight to the optician on December 28, 2021.

“When I saw the cloudiness in his eyes, I wasn’t too worried.

“Bonnie is allergic to animal dander so she always scratched her eye so I thought she hurt her eye by scratching it.

“Regardless, I thought I’d better check this out.”

(Lisa Shaw/SWNS)

She continued: “Bonnie was excited to show off her lettering skills on the optics. The optometrist covered her right eye and she read some letters.

“He then covered her left eye. From there, I knew something was very wrong.

“Bonnie looked panicked and couldn’t concentrate.

“Her eye was moving up and down, side to side and it was like she couldn’t see anything with her right eye.

“The concern on the ophthalmologist’s face said it all. He explained that we needed an emergency appointment.

“He explained that he had never seen it before, but he knows it was very rare. I knew I had to pull myself together quickly and try not to worry Bonnie.

(Lisa Shaw/SWNS)

Lisa said that during the consultation at Doncaster Royal Infirmary she and Daryl were “very nervous”.

She said: “We tried not to use ‘Doctor Google’ but part of me couldn’t help but googling the white glow.

“All signs pointed to retinoblastoma.

“I didn’t want to believe it and I didn’t tell anyone what I was reading because part of me expected a different result.

“We were invited to come back on the 30th and then on New Year’s Eve.

“When we were told we needed to make an emergency appointment with Sheffield, we knew it was getting serious.”

(Lisa Shaw/SWNS)

After the appointment in Sheffield, the family traveled to Children’s Hospital Birmingham on 12th January 2022, and Bonnie was “excited” to go to a big city and stay in a hotel.

It was at Children’s Hospital Birmingham where it was decided by the doctors that Bonnie would have to have her eye removed because it was a grade E tumour.

Lisa said: “As the cancer was grade E, a unanimous decision was taken by the doctors to have her eye removed.

“I couldn’t believe my baby was going to lose his eye. Her eyes are beautiful, I just thought ‘how is she going to look without the eye?’”

“I asked how a prosthetic eye would feel in Bonnie’s eye – they explained that it would be just like a normal eye and, in fact, would be better than what she was experiencing at the time.

“Asking questions calmed us down and we came to the conclusion that getting that nasty growth out of her eye was the most important thing.”

To help Bonnie prepare for the operation, Lisa bought her a medical kit.

Lisa would explain to Bonnie how they would go to the doctors and then they would play – re-enacting what would happen at the hospital – so she understood.

Lisa said: “Enucleation day is by far the worst day of our lives. We were in Birmingham for five nights.

“Due to Covid regulations I stayed in the hospital overnight and Daryl stayed in the hotel.

“I don’t know what’s worse, being with Bonnie at appointments or being Daryl and waiting to find out what’s going on.

“The day they took off the eyepatch, we were so happy to go home.”

After Bonnie’s eye had some time to heal, she started chemotherapy as a precaution.

Lisa had experienced chemotherapy just a few months earlier after battling breast cancer.

Lisa explained: “I was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2020. I was told there was probably nothing to worry about.

“When I came back from my results, I knew something was wrong. When they broke the news to me, I can only describe him as someone who took my breath away.

“After seven rounds of chemo, I was told I would need a mastectomy. I had the operation and recovered well.

“I then had eight batches of radiotherapy. Although it’s not cool, I was very lucky and got through it in a positive way.

“If my daughter was happy, I was happy and as long as I was there to see her grow up that was all that mattered to me.

“I went through it so strongly because of her.

“When my hair fell out, I promised Bonnie it had something to do with Mom’s strong medicine and it’s not something that was going to happen to her.

“I never thought that in a few months my daughter would face the same experience as a five-year-old.”

“Bonnie rang the bell to finish her treatment on April 23, 2022 and I rang the bell on April 20, 2021.

“I never would have guessed that we would be doing this on such short notice, but I am proud of us for getting through this so positively.”

Retinoblastoma symptoms: Mum shares sign every parent should know after daughter, 5, loses eye to cancer

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