ROCKFORD, Ill. — An Illinois mother’s cell phone picture of her son turned out to be life-saving.
Avery Fitzgerald seems to be a pretty typical 2-year-old, following after his older brother and jumping on the couch when his mother isn’t watching.
However, his mom, Julie Fitzgerald, noticed something was different about her youngest son.
“Probably a couple (of) months (ago) I would notice when I was looking at Avery in a light, I would see something in the back of his eye,” Julie Fitzgerald said.
She started to wonder what it could be and went online to read an article about a woman who saw a white eye in photos of relatives instead of the normal red eye. The article said it could be cancer.
Julie Fitzgerald told the story to her husband Patrick who told her it was nothing. However, she couldn’t shake the feeling something was wrong.
“I took a picture and I did not want to take the picture because I had this dreaded feeling in the pit of my stomach,” Julie Fitzgerald said. “I took the picture and boom, his whole pupil was just white and that’s when I knew.”
That’s when she took Avery to a specialist who took one look and said there were multiple tumors in his eye.
That was three weeks ago. Julie took Avery to a specialist who gave them the news.
It was a rare form of cancer called retinoblastoma.
Seventy-five percent of Avery’s eye was covered in tumors and it had to be removed. The doctors told them that if they waited much longer it could have spread to his brain and blood.
The Fitzgerald family found out Avery had likely been blind in his left eye his whole life, but tumors started growing just six weeks earlier.
His dad said he has very simple advice for other father’s out there:
“Trust your gut. Trust a momma’s gut… and don’t wait, don’t wait to see if it improves.”
Avery will eventually get a prosthetic eye.
He is now being tested to see if he has a genetic marker that could mean he is at risk for more cancer.
Right now his family believes all the cancer has been removed.