How this photo saved a Norwich tot's life

Dan GrimmerThis photograph of three-year-old Ewan Boarder potentially saved his life by leading to a diagnosis of a rare eye cancer.Dan Grimmer

This photograph of three-year-old Ewan Boarder potentially saved his life by leading to a diagnosis of a rare eye cancer.

Despite not displaying any symptoms, the youngster from Colman Road, Norwich was suffering from retinoblastoma - a tumour of the retina - which led to the loss of his eye.

The youngster's grandmother noticed the unusual white shadow on his eye in the photograph, which she suspected could be signs of eye cancer.

His mother Samantha, 32, wants to raise awareness of the condition and warn other parents the signs to look out for.

Mrs Boarder said: 'We had noticed his right eye looked a slightly different colour from the other one, but he did not seem unwell and we went to a GP, who did not seem overly concerned.

'My mum saw the photo of Ewan and remembered reading about a child with a similar condition. As soon as she mentioned this, we went back to the doctor.

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'We went to a GP, but they referred us to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, who then sent him straight to see an eye specialist at the Royal London Hospital, who diagnosed a tumour.'

By this time Ewan had become completely blind in his right eye and had started complaining it was sore, but as he had just turned two it was difficult for him to communicate this to his worried parents.

Specialists in London said the tumour was aggressive and had to remove his eye just under a year ago. Scans revealed although the cancer had not spread to other parts of his body, it had reached the outer blood vessels of his eye and he had to have chemotherapy.

He now has a prosthetic eye and his family - which includes dad Jason and four-year-old sister Elise - said he has coped admirably with the changes and last week he celebrated his 3rd birthday with friends.

Mrs Boarder said: 'He has been absolutely brilliant. It is amazing how well he has coped. He gets his eye checked every 12 weeks and luckily it is not the hereditary form of the condition so he will not pass it onto his children and no one else in the family has it.

'I wanted to bring this to the attention of other parents because I didn't know anything about this condition before. If you catch is early, it is treatable.

'We are so lucky that my mum spotted this in the picture and knew a bit about it. We knew something was wrong but did not know it was retinoblastoma.

'Not only do parents know little about this, doctors also seem to not be aware of it. We had been to see a GP a couple of times and they didn't know what was wrong.

'It was the photo that made a real difference and I have a lot to thank my mum for.'

Ewan's devoted grandma, Beverley Warner, 61, lives in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex. She had just been on holiday to the Isle of Wight with the family and was looking at snaps on her computer when she first suspected something may be wrong.

She said: 'I had a read a story last year about retinoblastoma and saw a picture of a child with it. I was flicking through the pictures and thought Ewan's eye looked similar.

'I didn't want to say anything at first and worry my daughter for no reason, but I was sure something was wrong. When I visited we took a picture of Ewan and straight away it was obvious.

'When I saw it I felt sick and my stomach was turning. To then watch my grandson go through that was heartbreaking. But I am so glad I pointed this out and we want to do all we can to raise awareness now.

'Ewan has been a little hero. We hope because of his age he won't remember much about what happened and when you look at him now you would never know he had been so poorly.

'A photo is such a simple thing but in this case it could have saved a life.'

About 40 cases of retinoblastoma are diagnosed in the UK each year. Most of these occur in children under the age of five, although it can affect children of any age.

Retinoblastoma is a tumour that occurs in the retina. This is the light-sensitive lining of the eye. It can occur in two forms - a heritable form where there are often tumours in both eyes (bilateral) or sometimes only in one eye and a non-heritable form where there is a tumour in only one eye (unilateral).

Retinoblastoma symptoms include an odd-looking, white pupil or red and inflamed eye, worsened vision or a squint. It is sometimes hard to see the

Early detection can allow for more localised treatment and avoid the need for surgery.

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