The Words No Parent Wants To Hear

Story and Photos Provided by Mike & Emily S.
Cover Photo Provided by Mike & Emily S. Courtesy of The Philadelphia Inquirer

tylerssoccer“’Your son has a tumor, your son has cancer.’ Words a parent or child should never have to hear. In March 2011, those words became our reality. Dr. Carol Shields, communicated the dreadful news; the transient glow in Tyler’s eye was in fact a malignant tumor. She and her team quickly introduced us to words such as unilateral retinoblastoma, intra-arterial chemotherapy andenucleation.

Our little warrior, Tyler, was diagnosed at the tender age of four months with advanced unilateral retinoblastoma. As new parents, our heads were spinning.  We walked into his pediatrician’s office for his four-month old check up, thinking we had a healthy baby. He was growing rapidly and thriving. Although, we thought we would mention the occasional glow in his right eye. The next day we were in the waiting room at Wills Eye waiting to see an ocular oncologist. We had a difficult time connecting the word oncology with our happy and presumably healthy baby. However, when we walked into Dr. Shields office, we knew we were in the right place. Not only were we waiting to see the world’s most renowned expert in retinoblastoma, her staff was wonderful, caring and supportive. They were filled with an incredible amount of hope;  assuring us that Ty was going to be okay and this would just be a blip in the radar of his wonderful life. tyler s

Based on the stage of Ty’s cancer, we had two options; try to save his eye through intra-arterial chemotherapy (IAC) or immediate enucleation, removal of the eye.  We decided to try to save his eye through IAC .  At the time, Ty was one of the youngest children ever treated with IAC—scary, yet promising.  We met with Dr. Pascal Jabbour, the vascular neurosurgeon who would thread the tiny catheter through Ty’s infant body and into the ophthalmic artery. Over the course of three successful treatments, the tumor was dead. Although, Ty was technically cancer free, he wasn’t out of the woods yet.  Due to a rare occurrence post treatment, he ended up having his eye enucleated in August 2011. While the day of his enucleation was difficult, we chose to focus on what we were gaining, not loosing– cancer would never be able to grow in that eye again. A few weeks post surgery, Ty was fitted with a beautiful prosthetic eye. If you didn’t know, you would never know.

Fast forward to today, two years post diagnosis and Ty is a happy, healthy, cancer free, little boy with a gentle soul and unbreakable spirit. We are blessed with a son who has taught us so much in his short life and we are forever grateful for Dr. Shields and her remarkable team!”


-Mike & Emily S.