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Faith carries LDS couple as each of their identical triplets battles rare eye cancer

Published: Thursday, March 13 2014 11:35 a.m. MDT

Two months after Thomas, Mason and Luke Low were born, each triplet was diagnosed with a rare eye cancer, retinoblastoma.

Emily Walton

Several months ago, the Low family found out their second pregnancy would give them not one more child, but three. The news that they would have identical triplet boys — in addition to their 2-year-old son — was surprising, but Richard and Leslie Low were excited for their unique opportunity.

"It was pretty shocking. We were just going in to find the gender, just the normal ultrasound that you do to find out if it was a boy or a girl and there you go, three boys," Richard Low said. "It was a little surprising. I think my wife was a little more shocked. When they told her we were having three, her first words were, ‘Oh, dear, I like my sleep.’"

Two months after Thomas, Mason and Luke were born, the family from Edmonton, Alberta, received more news — and this time, it was distressing.

It started only a few weeks ago, when Richard Low noticed that Mason's pupil had an odd shape. After consulting a friend, the Lows took Mason to the doctor. He was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a rare form of eye cancer.

Doctors immediately expressed concern for the other triplets and scheduled an appointment to examine the boys the next day. Twenty-four hours later, Richard and Leslie Low learned that each one of their triplet boys had retinoblastoma.

"We obviously are devastated," the couple wrote on their blog at lows-lowdown.blogspot.com. "My heart nearly shattered to pieces when I heard the news, but I am trying to put myself back together. There's no time to be brokenhearted when you have four beautiful boys to care for."

Shortly after receiving the diagnosis, Richard and Leslie Low arranged to fly to Toronto to receive the treatment necessary for their triplets. There, separate diagnoses were given to each boy.

It was determined that Luke has 10 tumors scattered in both eyes, but they were located in the peripheral areas and not causing any central visual impairment. The tumors were treated with a laser or with cryotherapy, which freezes the tumors.

Mason has one main tumor in his left eye, along with smaller cancer cells that could develop into a tumor. He was given a localized chemotherapy treatment along with the laser treatment in hopes of keeping the tumor from growing.

Thomas, the worst case of the three, had a large central tumor that was too big to treat with laser, cryotherapy or chemotherapy injection. Richard and Leslie were forced to make a quick decision whether to pursue systemic chemotherapy, which has many risks, or to have the eye removed. After much thought and prayer, they elected to have the eye removed. The procedure took place last week.

Although each case is slightly different from the others, all three of the boys ended up having only one eye that needed immediate attention.

"You know, we have prayed for a miracle, and a miracle did happen," Leslie Low wrote on the family blog. "All babies have at least one really good eye. Prayers truly are being answered."

After the diagnosis of each triplet, the Lows began to realize how rare their situation was. On their blog it states: "Chances of marrying while at BYU, 1/3. Chances of having a boy, 1/2. Chances of having four boys in a row, 1/16. Chances of spontaneous identical triplets (no in vitro), 1/1,000,000. Chances of triplets having retinoblastoma, unheard of."

With such odds, it's easy to understand why Richard and Leslie Low might question why this happened to each of their babies.

"There have been times in the last week where my wife and I have been thinking, ‘Why us?’" Richard told the Deseret News. "It’s such a rare thing, affecting usually only 20-30 in Canada every year, and here we are with three of them."

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