Jeevan Prakash, 9
Lakhimpur Kheri, UP
Jeevan Prakash was just over two years old when his parents first suspected he had a problem with his vision. Although the child was too young to report any discomfort, they noticed he had a problem seeing things while playing. They took him to a doctor in Lakhimpur Kheri, but did not make much headway.
The child was taken to Chennai. By then, he had lost vision in one eye. The diagnosis: bilateral retinoblastoma. While one eye was removed, the tumour, about 6x7mm, just would not respond to treatment. “The child underwent chemotherapy 11 times in increasing doses,” recalls his grandfather. “Can you imagine what he went through? Other methods, including cryotherapy or freezing the tumour with liquid nitrogen, also did not help. Then, just as the doctor was getting ready to remove the second eye fearing the cancer might spread to other parts of the body, the family took the child to the L.V. Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad.
Jeevan was put on brachytherapy—a method of radiation therapy in which radioactive materials are in contact with the cancerous tissue—for 52 hours. In fact, he was one of the first patients to receive this treatment and is a classic case of how recent advances in medicine and technology have caught retinoblastoma by its horns. This was followed by cryotherapy. The surgery that followed was, according to doctors, “100% successful”. Today, apart from an annual check-up, Jeevan leads a normal life of a child.
Wiser after this experience, the parents knew they needed to have their other children screened. So, Pratibha, now eight, and Sai Prakash, a little over a year old, have been checked for retinoblastoma.
HIMANSHU MAHESWARI, 1
Himanshu was just a few months old when his parents noticed that that their little boy’s eyes had an unnatural white glint. A doctor at Jalore in Rajasthan referred them to Ahmedabad, where the shocked parents were told that Himanshu’s eyes would have to be removed to stop the cancer from spreading and to save his life. Then, someone suggested they take a second opinion. Doctors at the L.V. Prasad Eye Institute believed that the child’s eyes could be saved and the cancer could also be contained. But the child would have to travel to Hyderabad every 21 days for a two-day treatment cycle.
KARTIK RAO, 2
Kartik was diagnosed with retinoblastoma in January 2006, when he was 10 months old. A few weeks before that, his father noticed a glint in the right eye. “It was visible only from particular angles,” remembers V. Sudhakar Rao, who works with a reputed media network. “While I noticed the glint frequently, my parents and wife feared I was imagining things.” But a few days later, with the glint still visible, they decided to consult a doctor: Should it be Kartik’s paediatrician or an ophthalmologist? Kartik was checked by an ophthalmologist who declared his eyes to be fine. But the Raos were still worried. The ophthalmologist recommended a second check after dilating the pupils. After a 45-minute check-up, he found circular formations on the retina. The child had to be rushed to the L.V. Prasad Eye Institute. At the end of a series of tests, Dr Honavar broke the chilling news: Kartik had cancer of the retina in both eyes. There were four big tumours in the right retina and two in the left on the fringes of the optic nerve. A delay of a fortnight would probably have cost Kartik his right eye. Since the tumours were caught in time, he needed only the six mandatory cycles of chemotherapy. During a follow-up check-up, seven new tumours were observed in the left eye, but since these were tiny, they were lasered and cryoed.