A toddler has been fitted with a “special eye” after being diagnosed with a rare cancer when a photo revealed a shining halo on her eyeball.
Little Khaya Panchal, three, was diagnosed with rare cancer retinoblastoma after her parents spotted a glint shining from her right eye.
They quickly took a photograph, and the flash revealed a shining halo, which further tests found to be a potentially fatal tumour.
Now the youngster has been fitted with a prosthetic that has been specifically made to match her original eye – and calls it her “special eye.”
Dad Ritesh, 33, said: “The sun was on Khaya’s face as she was falling asleep and I saw this strange glint in her eye.
“One of her eyes was normal but the other had a glass marble effect and it looked like a big ring in her eye.
“At first, I was telling Khaya to rub her eye as I thought she had something stuck in it and I tried doing the same, but it wouldn’t go and Khaya then fell asleep.”
After making the devastating discovery, specialists told Ritesh and wife Nisha, who also have a four-month-old daughter Maya, that the only way to save Khaya’s life was to remove her eye.
Nisha, 32, said: ”I think the doctor must have realised straight away what she was seeing.
“My legs turned to jelly, but I never imagined it would be cancer.
“The room I was taken into was full of doctors and I was told that Khaya had a tumour growing in her eye which was cancerous, but they did not know how bad it was.
“I burst into tears and I remember feeling totally numb and holding Khaya really tight.
“I just couldn’t take in what they were saying and could not handle this happening to my child.”
Medics sent Khaya for an emergency referral at Birmingham Children’s Hospital where specialists could see how far the cancer had advanced.
Doctors told the couple that Khaya had retinoblastoma, a cancer which affects the retina of children predominantly under six years old.
IT manager Ritesh said: “They told us Khaya had a growing tumour in her right eye and they only way they could save her life was to remove her eye.
“It had already spread into the nerves and had been caught just in time.”
“It was something she was born with and her eyesight gradually went.
“I felt like I was in the middle of a nightmare. There was a huge lump in my throat that I just couldn’t swallow.”
Nisha, a hairdresser, added: “We didn’t really have a choice. You either lose your child or they lose their eye.”
As the cancer had been caught in time, the youngster didn’t need chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
Ritesh said: “Khaya came out of the hospital that evening with a patch on and was running around as usual and her normal happy self.
“As her parents, we were more distraught than she was.”
The couple, from Preston, Lancs., are immensely proud of the way Khaya has coped admirably with her ordeal, and she has now been named as a Childhood Eye Cancer Trust Champion for her courage.
Ritesh said: “Right from day one of her treatment, Khaya has been so brave.
“She’s a tough cookie and you would be hard-pushed to tell there’s been anything wrong with her.”
“She has adapted very well to her artificial eye. In fact, she calls it her ‘special’ eye.”
Nisha added: “We were lucky, as the tumour in Khaya’s eye was caught just in time before it spread.
“We want other parents to be aware of the signs of retinoblastoma and get anything strange checked out.
“You could save your child’s life.”