A mum says she had to self-diagnose her baby daughter's rare eye cancer after GPs failed to spot symptoms.
Rada Hristova, from Chatham in Kent, revealed she had to turn detective after daughter Katherina, who is almost two, was misdiagnosed as a "sensitive baby" by doctors when she was three months old.
It wasn't until her sister-in-law Dessiejpeg spotted a "white dot" in Katherina's left eye that Rada began desperately searching online for a possible diagnosis.
She said: “I felt like the worst mum in the world because I couldn’t settle my baby and no one could tell me why.”
Rada said: "She rushed into the room and was crying and shaking.
"She said she’d seen a ‘white dot’ in Katherina’s eye and had heard previously that this could be a sign of something serious.
"We both Googled it and the scary diagnosis of eye cancer came up.
“Although neither of us could see the white dot again, I then noticed that Katherina’s eye looked dull in comparison to the other one which was bright and shiny.”
Rada and her partner Lyudmil rushed to A&E, and from there doctors urgently referred her to Maidstone Hospital Eye Clinic.
The white dots turned out to be a large tumour – so large, in fact, that Katherina had already lost sight in that eye.
The tumour was caused by a specific kind of cancer called Retinoblastoma, often seen in children and babies, and forms on the retina of the eye, which is responsible for much of the eye's basic function.
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Katherina and her parents were then referred to the Royal London Hospital specialist Retinoblastoma centre.
“Even though it made sense, I still couldn’t believe that my daughter had cancer.
"When you picture a child with cancer, the child looks ill. However, aside from all the crying, Katherina otherwise looked like a healthy child.”
Katherina’s left eye was removed a few days later to stop the cancer from spreading.
Rada said: “The staff at the Royal London Hospital were absolutely amazing and they talked though everything with us, reassuring us that everything was going to be fine.”
“I was scared to see her after the operation – I was still in shock about what she would look like.
But the moment they took off the bandages and revealed the temporary artificial eye they had in place of her eye, my mum reassured me that my little girl was still ‘perfect’."
“I kissed Katherina on the forehead and told her that ‘when she wakes up, she will be more perfect’.”
The surgery was successful, and Katharina's pain ceased immediately afterwards.
“It was like something had changed my little girl. She suddenly stopped crying, started smiling and would sleep like a normal child. You could see that she was finally happy.”
Tragically, small tumours began to develop in Katherina's remaining eye, but the malignant growths were destroyed using cryotherapy to freeze them.
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