My son was diagnosed with eye cancer after I spotted something odd in his pupil when he glanced at the TV

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Kirstin Smith, 29, a primary school teacher, from Shetland, Scotland, noticed a 'cloudy spot' (pictured right) in her two-year-old son Kian's eye as he was playing in front of the TV

A mother spotted a ‘white glow’ in her little boy’s pupil while he was playing with his toys and found out he had eye cancer – just weeks before Christmas.

Kirstin Smith, 29, a primary school teacher, from Shetland, Scotland, noticed a ‘cloudy spot’ in her two-year-old son Kian’s eye as he was playing in front of the TV.

She immediately went to her neighbour, a GP, who told Kirstin to go to the optician to get it checked out.

Kirstin then took Kian to an eye clinic in the Royal Aberdeen Infirmary, Scotland – where doctors discovered a mass on his eye.

The tot was then referred to the Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital and medics there suspected it was a retinoblastoma – a rare type of eye cancer that can affect young children.

Kirstin Smith, 29, a primary school teacher, from Shetland, Scotland, noticed a ‘cloudy spot’ (pictured right) in her two-year-old son Kian’s eye as he was playing in front of the TV

The diagnosis was confirmed in December 2022 when Kian was transferred to Birmingham Women and Children’s Hospital as it is the closest hospital that can treat Kian’s cancer.

Kian started chemotherapy three days before Christmas and has since made the 681-mile trip to Birmingham from the Shetlands 16 times for treatment.

Kirstin said: ‘Kian was sat in the corner of the room playing with his toys, he glanced at the TV and I noticed the white glow in his eye. It was only for a split second of clouded grey and I did a double take and it had gone.

‘His tumour was stage D – it was a large tumour – and if we didn’t spot it when we did we might not have the same outcome. He is very resilient. 

‘He will be impaired due to the damage the tumour did to his eye but we are not at the end of our journey yet so things could change. We are not sure what the future looks like just yet.’

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After becoming concerned about the white glow in Kian’s eye, Kirstin wanted the opinion of her neighbour who is a GP.

Kirstin said: ‘I knew that I could see the cloud. I sent the pictures to my neighbour and she said if I was concerned I should go see an optician.

The mother immediately went to her neighbour, a GP, who told Kirstin to go to the optician to get it checked out. Pictured, Kian The mother immediately went to her neighbour, a GP, who told Kirstin to go to the optician to get it checked out. Pictured, Kian

The mother immediately went to her neighbour, a GP, who told Kirstin to go to the optician to get it checked out. Pictured, Kian

Kirstin then took Kian (pictured right, with his sister, left) to an eye clinic in the Royal Aberdeen Infirmary, Scotland - where doctors discovered a mass on his eye

Kirstin then took Kian (pictured right, with his sister, left) to an eye clinic in the Royal Aberdeen Infirmary, Scotland – where doctors discovered a mass on his eye

The tot (pictured in hospital) was then referred to the Royal Aberdeen Children's Hospital and medics there suspected it was a retinoblastoma - a rare type of eye cancer that can affect young children The tot (pictured in hospital) was then referred to the Royal Aberdeen Children's Hospital and medics there suspected it was a retinoblastoma - a rare type of eye cancer that can affect young children

The tot (pictured in hospital) was then referred to the Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital and medics there suspected it was a retinoblastoma – a rare type of eye cancer that can affect young children

The diagnosis was confirmed in December 2022 when Kian (pictured with his parents) was transferred to Birmingham Women and Children's Hospital as it is the closest hospital that can treat Kian's cancer

The diagnosis was confirmed in December 2022 when Kian (pictured with his parents) was transferred to Birmingham Women and Children’s Hospital as it is the closest hospital that can treat Kian’s cancer

‘We were then referred to the Royal Aberdeen Infirmary where they confirmed that Kian had a mass on his eye. They then referred to Royal Aberdeen Children Hospital who couldn’t confirm the diagnosis so they sent us to Birmingham.’

Kian started his first round of chemotherapy on December 22, 2022, and would go on to have three more.

Kirstin said: ‘Due to my initial thought being that it was something sinister, I was prepared for the news. It was my initial fear and when I took him to the opticians – I said I thought it was cancer.

‘There was a part of me that hoped it would be something less serious, we were devastated by the diagnosis but it wasn’t a shock.’

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Kian (pictured) started chemotherapy three days before Christmas and has since made the 681-mile trip to Birmingham from the Shetlands 16 times for treatment Kian (pictured) started chemotherapy three days before Christmas and has since made the 681-mile trip to Birmingham from the Shetlands 16 times for treatment

Kian (pictured) started chemotherapy three days before Christmas and has since made the 681-mile trip to Birmingham from the Shetlands 16 times for treatment

After becoming concerned about the white glow in Kian's (pictured with his sister) eye, Kirstin wanted the opinion of her neighbour who is a GP

After becoming concerned about the white glow in Kian’s (pictured with his sister) eye, Kirstin wanted the opinion of her neighbour who is a GP

After a few months of chemotherapy, the tumour shrunk and Kian (pictured with his nana) started cryotherapy - the local or general use of low temperatures in medical therapy - to shrink it further

After a few months of chemotherapy, the tumour shrunk and Kian (pictured with his nana) started cryotherapy – the local or general use of low temperatures in medical therapy – to shrink it further

After a few months of chemotherapy, the tumour shrunk and Kian started cryotherapy – the local or general use of low temperatures in medical therapy – to shrink it further.

WHAT IS RETINOBLASTOMA? 

Retinoblastoma is a rare type of eye cancer that usually affects children under the age of five.

As it is usually caught early in the UK, 98 per cent of children with the disease are successfully treated.

About 50 children develop the condition every year in Britain.

It affects up to 300 youngsters annually in the US.

Retinoblastoma is specifically a cancer of the retina, which is the light-sensitive lining at the back of the eye.

It can affect one or both eyes.

A fault gene is responsible in about 40 per cent of cases. This can be inherited from the sufferer’s parents or may occur spontaneously.

The most common symptoms are the pupil looking like a cat’s eye and the child developing a squint.

The cat eye look is most commonly seen in photos.

Small tumours can usually be treated with laser or freezing treatment.

Larger tumours may require chemotherapy or surgery.

Source: NHS Choices

Kirstin said: ‘The chemo was really affecting him, it did manage to shrink the tumour but it was a real hard slog.

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‘The good thing about this type of chemo is that it is targeted. He wasn’t unwell – it was just a difficult day and the next day it would be like it never happened. Life was relatively normal between chemo sessions.’

Kian is still undergoing treatment to keep his cancer at bay but Kirstin says everything is going in the right direction.

Kirstin said: ‘He is a standard two-year-old – you would never know he is dealing with this. He is a little character, he has just turned two. He is very chatty and learning to speak.

‘He is a bit unsure about new people but we don’t know if that is a side effect of all the hospital treatment. You think about his life experience so far compared to his sister or his peers and it feels like he is really unlucky.

‘When we are away and we are among the other retinoblastoma families we are so lucky compared to them and what they are dealing with – we are very grateful.’

The Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT) urges parents and healthcare professionals to be aware of the most common possible symptoms of eye cancer – a white glow in the eye in flash photo or in certain light, and a squint.

A change in the appearance of the eye or a swollen eye may also be an indication – although often only one sign or symptom is present.

Richard Ashton, chief executive of CHECT, said: ‘Retinoblastoma is rare, with around one baby or young child being diagnosed in the UK each week. 

‘Symptoms can be quite subtle, and children often seem well in themselves which can make it hard to diagnose. In just under half of all cases, a child must have an eye removed as part of their treatment.’

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