A family’s snap decision to take a last minute holiday has ended up saving their daughter’s sight.
When Sophie Findlay and partner Darren Marshall booked up to visit Tenerife, last year, they had no idea just how much of an impact it would have on their lives.
During the break, last January, hotel photographer, Alessia, took a picture of their daughter Presley - then aged seven-months-old - and suspected she had retinoblastoma - a rare eye cancer.
She had spotted that the youngster had one white eye in a photograph she had taken.
The couple, from Sherburn Grange, Jarrow, flew home the next day and took Presley straight to Sunderland Eye Infirmary once they landed.
The youngster was diagnosed with retinoblastoma.
If it hadn’t have been picked up, she may have lost her eye. This lady has saved her eye and saved her sight.Sophie Findlay
Sophie, 33, who is also mum to Parker, three, said: “Darren had been working away over Christmas which is why we had decided to book a last minute holiday in January.
“When we were at the hotel we had asked the photographer to get some pictures of the kids. It was on the second last day when we went to collect the photos and she pulled us aside.
“She told me to have a look at her eye. I just thought it was something like camera red eye and asked if she could just do something to make it right. But she told us, that it should never be white and to take her to the doctor and get her checked out.”
Once told, the couple went onto the internet and downloaded an app and checked photos of their daughter which showed she had a white eye in photos they had taken previously.
Sophie added: “As soon as we got off the plane we took her to the hospital and we were told it was really serious.
“There was a white ball in her right eye.”
She added: “It was terrible being told she had it. Then we had to wait to find out how serious it was. It was categorised as Grade B. E being the lowest, so we caught it really early.”
Following the diagnosis, Presley, who is being treated at both Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary and a hospital in Birmingham, was fitted with a port and underwent chemotherapy.
She has also undergone a number of laser surgery sessions. At one point she lost the sight in her right eye, however, that has since returned.
Since, the diagnosis and subsequent treatment, the couple tried to locate the photographer to say thank you - even visiting the hotel where they had first met her.
Earlier this month. they returned to Tenerife and bumped into Alessia at a different hotel and were able to thank her.
She said:“We owe this lady everything. The ball was sitting on top of optical nerve. Presley had not shown any signs of being unwell and she wouldn’t have had her eyes tested until she was four.
“If it hadn’t have been picked up, she may have lost her eye. This lady has saved her eye and saved her sight.”
Presley is currently to do well and respond to treatment and while she will continue to have check-ups regularly, her visits to Birmingham’s Children Hospital have been extended to once every six-weeks instead of four.
The rare cancer
Retinoblastoma is a rare type which can affect young children, in particular those under the age of five.
It can affected one or both eyes and causes the affected eye to have an unusual white reflection in the pupil.
This can be picked up in photos. A healthy eye reflects red to a flash.
Other sysmptoms can include a change in the colour of the iris, a red or inflamed eye and poor vision.
If picked up early, it can be treated successfully.
Retinoblastoma is a cancer of the retina - a light sensitive lining at the back of the eye. In 40% of cases, retinoblastoma is caused by a faulty gene which can be inheritated or may occur during the child’s development in the womb.
Around 50 to 60 children are diagnosed with retinoblastoma in the UK each year and is usually identified before it is able to spread beyond the eye where it becomes more difficult to treat.
Treatments can include laser, freezing the tumour and chemotheraphy. In some cases, the eye needs to be removed.