30 DAYS/30 STORIES® 2023
My daughter, Abigail McKee was diagnosed with bilateral retinoblastoma (cancer of both retinas) on February 2, 2012. This was three weeks before her first birthday, and at the time, I had never heard of this type of cancer. I discovered that she had the worst type of retinoblastoma in both of her eyes, and her right eye was completely filled with a large tumor. I also learned that Abby’s children have a 50% chance of getting the same type of cancer. To say that I was completely devastated was an understatement. I couldn’t believe that I had looked into my daughter’s eyes every single day, and somehow missed that she had tumors growing since birth.
The plan was for Abby to write her own story this year, but the truth is, she doesn’t remember much because she was just a little baby. Even though she was much too young to directly remember or explain these things, she still has PTSD about certain things she has gone through. Her brain recalls certain events and associates them with the trauma that she endured. I have kept these painful memories within me daily, even though it breaks my heart to think about them. The treatments and procedures that she has been through were horrific, but they were both life and vision-saving for my daughter. It was difficult to watch such a tiny person go through so many procedures repeatedly, even though I knew it was what was best for her. Abby has been sedated over 50 times, has had multiple MRIs, systemic chemotherapy, experimental treatments, chemotherapy injected directly into her eyes, and a radiation plaque sewed onto her eyeball. She was stable for a little while, but it was difficult for the doctor to see into her right eye because she had a detached retina.
On her little brother’s first birthday, I received a devastating phone call that Abby’s cancer was growing again, and that her eye needed to be removed immediately. This was 1 year and 9 months after Abby’s first diagnosis. As upsetting as this was, we decided to go forward with removing her eye because once retinoblastoma escapes the optic nerve, it becomes a life-threatening situation. Abby’s eye was removed four days later, and she was truly cancer-free for the first time in her life. About two months after that, she was fitted with her prosthetic eye, and has lived this way ever since.
Ten years later, Abby is doing amazing! She is sweet, kind, funny, sassy, smart, beautiful….I could list a million words to describe her what a wonderful person she has become. There are many moments that still trigger the terrible memories of what Abby has gone through. It has changed me as a person, and I am forever grateful for the amazing doctors that saved her life and her vision. Without them, I would not have my incredible daughter with me today. She is truly my superhero!
Written by Abby’s mom, Kristen
Please consider helping children with cancer and others in our community by scheduling a blood donation at Miller-Keystone Blood Center: https://donor.giveapint.org/donor/schedules/zip