Father's faith in spite of cancer tragedy leads to the development of early diagnosis techniques
Bryan Shaw didn't allow his son's eye cancer diagnosis to shake his faith. Instead of blaming God for the pain caused to his child, Shaw told NPR that he decided to use his misfortune as motivation to prevent other families from suffering.
When Noah was 4 months old, he was diagnosed with genetic retinoblastoma, a rare form of eye cancer in which tumors start developing on the child's eyeballs before birth. The infected eye was eventually removed, and while Noah is now cancer-free, his father worries that the boy's experience will cause him to be resentful in the future.
"When he gets older and he can think for himself, I don't want him to get mad at God, or stop believing that there is a God," Shaw said in an interview with NPR's Joe Palca.
Shaw has developed software that can scan a child's eyes soon after birth and hopefully find traces of the cancer before it takes over the eye, according to the NPR story. The program is designed to detect signs of retinoblastoma as soon as 12 days after a child is born, increasing the chances for successful treatment.
The Deseret News reported a story about another child, Rylee, who at 3 years old was diagnosed with a rare eye condition after her mother’s friend noticed “an unusual glow” in Rylee’s eye in a Facebook photo. The glow turned out to be Coats disease, which causes the blood vessels in the back of the eye to develop abnormally and may lead to blindness.
While the discovery of the eye problems prevented them from worsening, many times current early diagnosis measures for retinoblastoma come too late to save the eye. Dr. Manuela A. Orjuela, a senior author on a study conducted by Columbia University, found that “by the time the tumor is visible in the child's eye, vision is infrequently salvageable, and removal of the eye is usually necessary to prevent spread of the disease.”
Emily Hales is an intern on the national team, covering issues facing families in the United States. She is a communications major at Brigham Young University.
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