The family of a baby undergoing chemotherapy for a rare eye cancer, are urging people from across the UK to support Birmingham Children’s Hospital’s Cancer Centre Appeal.
When a photograph taken of nine week old Romero Norville on a camera phone in June this year showed up a white reflex in his eyes, his worried parents Curtis and Leonie, requested an urgent appointment with the children’s doctor at their GPs. From there Romero was quickly referred to Birmingham Children’s Hospital.
On admission to the Eye Department, he underwent an eye examination, which confirmed that he had bilateral retinoblastoma - a large tumor in his left eye and five smaller tumors in his right eye.
Dad Curtis, from Perry Barr in Birmingham, said: “At the time, although we were worried, we thought that the worst case scenario would be that he had a cataract. To hear that our son had cancer in both eyes was heartbreaking.”
Mum Leonie said: “At first when we heard the news, I would cry every day – away from Romero so he couldn’t pick up on our unhappiness. Now we take it one day at a time and remain positive trusting in God. Romero is a very happy little boy. The treatment doesn’t bother him too much, though he doesn’t sleep well at night when he has had chemotherapy. He has eye checks every four weeks, a twice weekly community nurse visit to change his dressings and we have to be aware of changes in his temperature, which could indicate an infection.”
Since diagnosis, Romero – now almost six months old – receives chemotherapy every four weeks and has had several laser treatments. After the first dose of chemotherapy, the tumor in his left eye shrunk by a third and is getting smaller. The five smaller tumours have now gone after laser treatment. Romero will need more chemotherapy treatments and will have a cataract removed from his left eye but overall, has responded extremely well to treatment and has good vision.
Leonie added: “Having the cancer unit on our doorstep has been fantastic but it would be great to have a bigger and better space within the unit, not just for the patients and their families, but for the staff too. This is why we are supporting the Children’s Cancer Centre Appeal at the hospital.”
Some patients can face stays of up to a year in hospital, or like Romero, will have to visit the hospital regularly throughout their childhood.
Vikki Savery, Public Fundraising Manager at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, said: Coming in for regular chemotherapy makes our patients feel very poorly and upset so it’s really important that we provide them with the best environment possible while they’re here.
“Our existing ward and outpatient areas desperately need upgrading but we can’t do it without the support of local people. There are so many ways for people to get involved and help us reach our £4 million target.
Dr Helen Jenkinson, Consultant Paediatric Oncologist at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, said: “The challenge of treating bilateral retinoblastoma is to try and salvage as much vision as possible. We would expect with Romero that he will make a full recovery, we would expect to cure him and I hope that he will have relatively normal vision when he is older.
“He has continued to grow and thrive throughout his treatment and he looks fantastic now. We are delighted with his progress.”
To get involved in fundraising for the £4m Children’s Cancer Centre Appeal you can help by:
- Making a donation online
- Joining our Great Birmingham Run team
- Hosting your own event or personal challenge
- Joining our schools fundraising programme
Go to www.bch.org.uk for more details.