Vinnie Chandler-Shaw was just eight months old when he was diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer. The cancer, retinoblastoma, was in both eyes and would lead to him losing one to save his life.
Vinnie’s mum, Claire Chandler, of Putney, knew something was wrong when she noticed her baby’s eye kept wandering. However, she thought it might have been the start of a squint, a sight defect or a lazy eye.
Claire said: “I was the first person to notice something was wrong and as a mother I just knew it wasn’t right.”
They visited the GP and within two weeks Vinnie was diagnosed. Still less than one year old, Vinnie began a six-month course of chemotherapy, which was successful at treating the tumours in his right eye. The same could not be said for the left.
Vinnie underwent cryotherapy treatment on his left eye, a freezing treatment to reduce the risk of retinal detachment, as the tumour was aggressive. After this failed, to save his life the only option was removal. Although doctors believed the cancer was gone, tests revealed it was not and the youngster had to endure another four months of intensive inpatient chemotherapy.
After this, Vinnie was given the all-clear, but has regular check-ups every three to four to ensure his right eye is stable. Now four years old, he wears an artificial eye and is helping promote awareness around retinoblastoma.
Vinnie joined his peers and their families this Retinoblastoma Awareness Week (May 8-14) to encourage under 16s to have regular vision tests.
The Vision Express Westfield store in White City was chosen for the national retailer’s UK-wide tour, after the area has an above average percentage of children at a higher risk of vision impairment due to economically deprived backgrounds. Poverty in the area is higher than the national average (29 per cent), with 41 per cent of children under 16 living without basic necessities.
Around 50 to 60 cases of Rb are diagnosed each year and while 98 per cent of those diagnosed survive, many will end with lasting vision impairment or may face losing an eye.
Vision Express was the first optician in the UK to roll out a protocol to ensure a quick and effective referral if the cancer is suspected.
Camille Mclean, Vision Express Westfield store manager, said: “Our thanks go to Vinnie, and his family for joining us during Retinoblastoma Awareness Week.
“Lots of the families who popped by and took advantage of our free eye test offer, had never heard of retinoblastoma and so were really interested in hearing Vinnie’s story and learning how to spot the signs of the condition.”
At the event, Vinnie was joined by his twin sister Georgia, big sister Delilah, 11, and mum Claire.