Finding out your child has cancer is heartbreaking. Now, imagine going through this not only with one of your children but with all three of them.
This is exactly what Aaron and Angie Rush are going through with their three beautiful boys – Tristen, 5 Caison, 3 and Carter, 7 months. All three brothers have been diagnosed with a very rare form of eye cancer known as retinoblastoma.
Shock triple cancer diagnosis for brothers
The Rush family have been in and out of hospital since April 2014 when their youngest, Tristen was first diagnosed at four weeks. Doctors caught middle son, Caison’s cancer at birth in October 2016.
Carter was born cancer-free but at six months old, doctors discovered two tumours on his eyes. He got the official diagnosis last month.
The boys have undergone chemotherapy, laser treatments, MRIs, evaluations under anesthesia and countless visits to Children’s Hospital of Atlanta. While Tristen and Caison are in the clear for now, Carter’s treatment is only just beginning.
What is retinoblastoma?
Retinoblastoma is an eye cancer that begins in the retina and commonly affects young children. It can occur in one or both eyes and it is the most common form of eye cancer in children. Retinoblastoma symptoms include eye redness, a white or yellow cast on the pupil (detected through a light) or crossed eyes.
Retinoblastoma is also hereditary. Angie battled through the same form of cancer as a child and was aware that she could pass it on to her children.
Even so, the triple diagnosis came as a shock and surprise to the family and doctors.
“It was surprising, but we knew that the chances were 50/50,” Angie recently told Good Morning America.
Dr Thomas Olson, Director of the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Centre of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, added that while the Rush family’s cancer was hereditary, their situation was unusual.
“It is very rare for all three of the children to be diagnosed,” he told Good Morning America. “It’s a risk when you have familial bilateral retinoblastoma.”
The good news for the Rush family is that retinoblastoma has a high survival rate, with more than 90 per cent of children diagnosed making a full recovery when the cancer is caught early and doesn’t spread beyond the eye.
The road to recovery
The Rush family remains positive and, although the medical expenses have forced them to give up their family home, they have received an outpouring of financial support through their GoFundMe page. So far they have raised $US71,000 for Carter and his brothers.
The boys are also doing really well, despite the treatment and ongoing hospital visits. “They haven’t had any new tumours in a very long time,” Angie explains. If anything, the triple diagnosis has brought the boys even closer together.
“It’s made them stronger,” Angie said. “It’s something that they can talk to other people about and encourage other kids with cancer just to give them strength and be a blessing to others.”
This isn’t the first time cancer has struck more than one family member. In 2018 a family received the heartbreaking news that their kids both have brain cancer, diagnosed just two weeks apart.
In 2018 we also mourned the loss of little Alfie, who died of brain cancer just months after his mum also lost her battle with brain cancer.