18-month-old Lisakhanya Mngadi of Inanda lost her left eye to stage 4 retinoblastoma.
Durban - An 18-month-old Durban toddler lost her eye to cancer this week, prompting her mother to alert other parents to the disease’s early signs.

Lisakhanya Mngadi of Inanda, lost her left eye to stage 4 retinoblastoma. Her mother, Nonkululeko Mngadi, said she wanted to tell other parents about the disease so their children could avoid the same fate. If cancer of the retina is detected early enough, it can be treated.

Mngadi said she noticed something unusual the first time Lisa opened her eyes. “There was something light and shiny in her eye. When I took pictures of her, something reflected brighter on the flash, like a red eye. It didn’t bother me at the time because she was happy, breast-feeding and playful.”

When Lisa was about a year old, Mngadi realised her pupil was fading and the whole eye becoming white. She did not show signs of pain until May 27. “I came back from work that evening and she was crying non-stop. I thought she hurt herself during the day when I was at work,” she said.

Mngadi said she took Lisa to a paediatrician the next day, but with no temperature and nothing else wrong, cold and flu medication, antibiotics and eye drops were prescribed.

Lisa grew worse and was admitted to hospital because she could not open her eyes and was getting weaker. “Her whole eye was completely white, then I knew something was seriously wrong.”

Retinoblastoma was diagnosed, but there was no way to save the eye.

“I was scared to hear my child had cancer.” Because the cancer was already at stage 4, the eye had to be removed to prevent it spreading to her brain and spine. Lisa’s eye was removed last Wednesday.

“It is sad that she was born with this cancer. All we have to worry about is to make sure she gets the best care and get ready to support her when she grows and starts asking questions. We don’t know what difficulties she will face when she starts school and in her teenage years, but we will be there to support her in every way we can.”

Dr Dharmesh Parbhoo told Independent on Saturday that retinoblastoma was the most common eye tumour to affect children and was often diagnosed too late.

“Early signs are very important - a white reflex, a squint and poor vision. If in doubt, have it checked as soon as possible. If we detect early and small tumours, they can be treated with laser, heat or cryotherapy and prevent loss of sight and loss of life.”

Retinoblastoma can affect developing foetuses, newborns, babies, toddlers, and children up to 5 years old.

The Independent on Saturday