Josie Rock is just like any other parent snapping image after image of her baby to make sure she doesn’t miss a moment. But when the Georgia mom looked back on one image she had taken of her 4-month-old baby boy, she was alarmed. When she took the image with her phone the flash accidentally went off and instead of baby Asher’s eye being red one was glowing white.
“I was just taking pictures of him and the lighting happened to change in our room, the flash caught the reflection, and his eye was glowing white,” Josie said. Being a labor and delivery nurse Josie knew there was something wrong. “I knew right then and there that Asher had cancer. It was chilling, to say the least. He was just a baby,” she added.
The 41-year-old mom remembered learning about “the glow” caused by retinoblastoma, a disease in which malignant cancer cells form in the tissues of the retina. She took more photos using a professional photographer and showed them to a few of her colleagues who didn’t seem concerned. Determined to get a second opinion she then took her baby to his pediatrician.
“I remember the color drained from her (the doctor’s) face after she did the proper examination,” she said. “She turned the lights off and looked at his eyes and said, ‘Something’s not right.’” Asher was diagnosed with grade D retinoblastoma and had to undergo treatment for the tumors that were in his eye.
“Sometimes these things can be subtle,” said Dr. Thomas Olson, pediatric oncologist and hematologist at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Dr. Olson, who has worked on Asher’s case for years, said: “He finished chemo in 2015. The problem with retinoblastoma is it can pop up in other places. Over time, he had a few new ones pop up and they were lasered.” So far, the now-7-year-old has had 54 exams and although blind in that eye, his mom’s actions kept the cancer from spreading. Josie wants Asher’s story to reach every parent so they can spot the warning signs and take immediate action.
“The way I see it, if it saves just one other child from having to go through what my son has, then I have done my job as a cancer parent,” she posted. “I will never stop advocating for these children. “Once you are placed in shoes, such as mine, and the millions of other parents of children suffering (and many losing their battles), then you’ll really understand our passion.”