After the Knoxville, Tennessee mom noticed what initially appeared to be a "small glow" in her daughter's eye, she knew she had to seek targeted care. That's where social media came in.

By Maressa Brown
October 13, 2020
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A mom from Knoxville, Tennessee has proven just how important it is to follow your instincts as a parent. After Jasmine Martin decided to take her 17-month-old daughter Sariyah to the doctor for a concerning, "small glow" in her eye, she's now being treated for a rare cancer.

After the "glow" in Sariyah's eye began to look "like a moon," according to Good Morning America, Martin took her little girl to the pediatrician who said it was nothing to worry about.

"I just had a feeling she needed to be seen," Martin wrote on her Instagram account. "Her doctor got her in and said it was nothing serious. She said they’d just done an eye exam at her well check, but they did another one. She said her red reflexes were good and Googled stuff on cloudy eyes. I still wasn’t reassured, call it a mother’s intuition I suppose. But she referred her to an ophthalmologist. However, she let me know it would take weeks if not longer."

Thankfully, a friend of Martin's works in a hospital, saw the photo on Facebook, and showed it to an eye doctor. The physician asked to see Sariyah, and Martin made an appointment for a Monday.

"All weekend it felt like I was just holding my breath," she recalled.

At the appointment, the doctor notified Martin that her little girl had "a tumor in her eye." "It was like I was sitting outside of my body in that moment," wrote Martin. "The rest was a blur and friends from work walked over and played with Riyah while I talked with the doctor."

The family's next move was to go to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital to speak with a specialist. Martin noted on Instagram that she was feeling "scared, confused, angry heartbroken and everything else." She added, "I’m upset her pediatrician said it was all fine, but now I know they just don't see it that often."

Sariyah was since diagnosed with bilateral retinoblastoma, a rare form of cancer affecting about 250-300 children each year. It "typically develops in children before 5 years of age. This cancer develops in the retina—the part of the eye that helps a person see color and light. Retinoblastoma may affect one or both eyes. In about two-thirds of all cases only one eye is affected," according to St. Jude's website.

The Tennessee toddler is now receiving the care she needs to fight the disease but has experienced both progress and regression. "Everything was going good, the tumor in the right eye is shrinking and we were so excited," wrote Martin in her latest Instagram update. "Which is why yesterday was a gut punch for us. They have found a spot in the left eye. At this time, they don’t know if it’s a tumor or something else. As doctors they have to prepare us for everything including the worst case scenario, which is that it could put her at risk of vision loss in that eye."

Martin continued, "We are so early in this but…days are mentally draining, because you just never know what they are going to find. It’s hard and it’s scary. If I allow myself to really think about it, if something happens to the good eye, then there’s still so many risks with the right eye. It’s a never-ending battle of what ifs right now."

Still, she said that talking to their doctor has her feeling "a little more relieved. Martin wrote, "They are so proactive and whatever it is, it was caught early. They are doing a full workup which will give us answers moving forward."

Martin shared that Sariyah is "handling it like a boss, with a smile on her face & God’s grace."

During a pandemic in which most parents are facing unprecedented challenges, it can be all too easy to put off seemingly benign health questions. But Martin's experience serves as a warning to other parents to to keep up with their regular pediatrician appointments, to get required vaccines, to have screenings done if they noticed anything concerning, and to always follow parental intuition.

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