Because of a camera flash, a mother in Arizona found that her baby boy has a rare type of eye cancer, prompting her to seek medical help and save her son's life.
Andrea Temarantz, the 36-year-old mother of 4-month-old Ryder, said she started to notice that camera flashes produced a "white glow" on her son's left eye.
Temarantz said she first dismissed the glow as the result of her camera phone having poor quality, but even after she used a new Nikon D3300 DSLR that her cousin gave her for Christmas, she said the white glow was still there.
"So I took Ryder to his doctor," said Temarantz.
On Jan. 5, baby Ryder had his checkup. Twenty-four hours later, he was diagnosed with retinoblastoma in his left eye.
Temarantz said the white glow seen in pictures was a result of a mass of tumor in the back of her son's eye reflecting light from the flash of the camera.
When Ryder was born, he was diagnosed with Down syndrome.
Temarantz's sister, Jane Dufoe, said the news was scary for everyone in their family, but she said Ryder's parents educated themselves about the disorder.
Ever since Ryder came into their lives, Dufoe said not one health issue connected to Down syndrome had materialized. The discovery of the little boy's rare cancer left them all in shock, she said.
Diagnosed With Rare Eye Cancer
Their doctor in Arizona gave them two options: remove Ryder's left eye or get a port inserted into the baby boy and start chemotherapy.
However, the family did not want the second option for Ryder, especially because the baby boy had Down syndrome, which could increase his risks of developing leukemia.
According to Dufoe, six rounds of chemo would sharply increase Ryder's chances of developing secondary cancer. At that point, removing the left eye seemed the best way to go.
The family then talked to the oncologist, who said retinoblastoma could still attack the other eye. This was a game-changer for Ryder's parents.
A doctor from the Phoenix Children's Hospital recommended a hospital in New York that does unique chemotherapy for the kind of tumor that Ryder has.
Both parents took Ryder to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, which contains the largest team of doctors whose sole focus is to treat patients with retinoblastoma.
Dr. David H. Abramson, Ophthalmic Oncology Service chief at the hospital, said the tumor in the baby boy's left eye has not spread to other critical organs of his body, including his brain.
Abramson said 50 percent of children with retinoblastoma had died last year.
"It's one of those cancers that can be fatal if not detected early, so it's great that his mom noticed it early and got it checked out," he said.
A 99 Percent Chance Of Recovery
Abramson said the 4-month-old Ryder will be undergoing three to six rounds of a ophthalmic artery chemosurgery.
The process includes a 6-foot-long catheter as thin as angel hair pasta that is threaded into the blood vessel of the groin. It passes through the belly, chest and neck, and then placed through the one, tiny blood vessel of the eye to deliver high-dosage and high-concentration of chemotherapy directly to the tumor.
This procedure is preferred for young patients over regular chemotherapy, because of the latter's severe side effects, Abramson said.
Through ophthalmic artery chemosurgery, Ryder has a 99 percent chance of recovering from retinoblastoma, and his left eye will still have some vision, Abramson said.
Temarantz said that despite everything, her son is still alert and active like nothing is happening to him. She said she's deeply grateful for Abramson and his team for the miracle they have given Ryder.
Meanwhile, Dufoe had set up a website where Ryder's journey to recovery will be recorded. Visit the website to follow along the baby boy's life and contribute to his treatment.