Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Anguished Decisions Times Three

"We have prayed for a miracle and a miracle really did happen. All babies have at least one REALLY good eye. Prayers truly are being answered. We feel at peace. And to tell you the truth, we feel we are able to make quite educated/unemotional decisions. This is the hardest decision we have ever made but we definitely feel we aren't making it alone."
"Thomas will have his right eye removed tomorrow (Friday) at 9 a.m."
"You live your life in fear. The 'what ifs' set in, and you are plagued with the thoughts of worst-case scenarios. 'What if tumours start to grow in the only good eye left?' 'What if he injures his only seeing eye?'"
"That is the worry I feel about his eyesight, not to mention the constant anxiety of, 'What if his cancer spreads?" Or, 'What if he develops a new type of cancer?' (As they are more likely to do)."
"...Those ugly nightmares are all too real for me ... The 'what ifs' are not a healthy tenant in one's mind. So, I only let myself dwell on them for a very brief time."
"I'm not trying to create a pity party. I just wanted to share them, so others might better understand how real and hard this can be."
Lows (family), Edmonton, Alberta -- Lowdown (blog), December 2, 2014

"[This (messages of support around the world) has] made me more compassionate and I've got to meet some incredible people. It's understanding that life is hard and you can't judge what people are going through just by seeing them."
Leslie Low, 28, mother of triplet boys

"It made me aware that things happen that we don't plan on. Life doesn't always go as planned."
Richard Low, 30, father of triplet boys
Video thumbnail for The Low family gives an update on their triplets, who are all fighting eye cancer
Still from video

Imagine giving birth to triplets, three little boys. What an incredibly demanding time it would be for the parents of those three babies, coping with the demands-plus-three of newborns. That it wouldn't have been their first experience, with an earlier birth several years previously, meant that the three babies, named Thomas, Mason and Luke, had an older brother, three-year-old Benson. The babies are now fourteen months old; altogether a handful for parents to cope with.

Imagine that the babies, all three of them, diagnosed with retinoblastoma, pediatric eye cancer. Canada sees about 22 such cases annually. And the Low family of Edmonton had the incredible bad luck of representing three out of those 22 instances of misfortune. The now-14-month-old boys are being treated at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

Their father Richard who has some medical training noticed his son Mason's pupil appeared white when he photographed the children. That white, as it transpired, was the visage of a tumour in his child's eye. All the boys, triplets, share identical DNA, and what afflicts one similarly does the others. Bi-weekly cancer treatments were initiated in Toronto with doctors freezing the tumours growing on the boys' eyes.

Edmonton Journal

 During the first of the appointments, one of Thomas's eyes was graded as the tumour having advanced to the stage where that eye was blind, termed a grade D episode. A large cancerous tumour such as that has several treatment options; the eight-pound babies could be exposed to chemotherapy, or alternately removal of the eye, a process termed enucleation. Since the chemotherapy side effects could have been dramatically injurious, their parents chose eye removal.

Little choice, in fact, beyond cosmetic with the chemotherapy, whose effect might have been to save the eye, but sight in the eye would have been beyond repair. So Thomas's right eye was removed. In the year that followed his two brothers two would lose one eye each. And then doctors discovered a mass in the lining of the eyelid of Mason's remaining eye. Eventually doctors determined the mass was benign, a reaction to a previous medical procedure.

Every six weeks the boys must be flown to Toronto for pediatric specialists to laser or freeze off the tumours that still grow around the periphery of their eyes. But the family has been informed that the older the children become the less likely that they will develop new tumours. On the other hand, because of their medical history they will be at risk for secondary cancers. When they become adults in turn their own children will inherit a 50% risk of retinoblastoma.

Edmonton Journal

The Low family had begun a blog to keep their extended families informed on the trajectory of their lives, before the triplets were born. And they decided to maintain the blog after the birth of the triplets. In that blog they detailed the children's condition, and that of the treatment being recommended for them. Meant to keep their families in Utah and Alberta informed, the blog drew the attention of others.

As journalists from across Canada and internationally interviewed the family, they also received messages of emotional support from people around the world.
“One year ago today all three boys were diagnosed with cancer ... A few hours after their diagnosis, Jen (my nanny), my mom, and I were sitting on the couch feeding the babies ... During that moment I was so thankful to have other people around me who loved those boys and who were going to help us through. It was very important for me to see others crying, with me, about their diagnosis. It helped me realize that these boys were loved and that Richard and I weren’t alone ... We have been so incredibly blessed by family, friends, and complete strangers. You have truly carried us through. So today, instead of being sad, I am thankful.” — Lows Lowdown, February 27, 2015

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