Armadale mum’s quick thinking spots baby’s rare eye cancer

The Mulligan family join Vision Express's James Kirk as ambassadors for Childhood Eye Cancer Trust. Picture: Submitted
The Mulligan family join Vision Express's James Kirk as ambassadors for Childhood Eye Cancer Trust. Picture: Submitted
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When Lauren Mulligan noticed a “cats-eye” reflection in the pupil of her newborn baby’s eye she instantly knew something was very wrong.

After reading a leaflet about eye cancer, the mum-of-two, from Armadale, knew her three-month-old baby Lewis could be seriously ill.

Thanks to the mum’s quick thinking, the family were soon referred to hospital where Lewis was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a rare form of eye cancer.

“My heart sank when I saw the reflection as I had been given a leaflet about retinoblastoma after having our first little boy, Reiss,” Lauren explained. “The morning of our hospital appointment, we watched while our tiny baby was put under anaesthetic to confirm the diagnosis.”

Diagnosed with cancer in both his eyes, the tumour in Lewis’ right eye was so severe, there was no other choice but to remove it. The tumour in his left eye was less severe and was treated on two separate visits to Birmingham Children’s Hospital. He later underwent further chemotherapy at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh as some of the cancerous cells from the right eye had spread to the layer of the eye where the blood supply is.

During the operation to remove his right eye, Lewis also had genetic testing, which revealed he has a chromosomal abnormality – chromosome 13q deletion syndrome – which was the cause of his retinoblastoma. This can sometimes mean other genes may have been lost or damaged, potentially causing some physical or developmental delays or disabilities.

“I had no idea what this syndrome was or what it meant for Lewis but once we were told what it caused, it made sense as he showed a lot of the signs,” Lauren continued. “Lewis’ development is severely affected. He is still learning to sit unaided and he was around nine months old when he began to hold his head up independently.

“Because of this, we know Lewis will never be discharged from the hospital and he will be seen there throughout his entire life. There will be more professionals introduced as he grows up and although we don’t know the extent of the 13q, we do know that Lewis will face challenges.”

Now 13 months old, Lewis has eight-monthly check-ups as the risk of reoccurring tumours is very high but his parents remain hopeful that he is on the road to recovery. “Lewis is a very special little boy – he’s so young but he has gone through more than most of us have in our lifetime. Having been in the children’s cancer ward we do consider ourselves incredibly lucky that we were able to take Lewis home and watch him flourish. We have a very positive attitude and celebrate every small thing Lewis accomplishes. His big brother, Reiss, adores him and he is a huge inspiration to a lot of people,” added Lauren.

As ambassadors for the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust, a charity partner of Vision Express, the Mulligan family were invited to the relaunch of the newly refurbished optical store in Fort Kinnaird. Manager James Kirk said: “Retinoblastoma is a condition we are very passionate about raising awareness of at Vision Express. It was a pleasure to have Lewis and his family with us to help us unveil our new-look store.”