Know the Glow: Your Eyes Can Detect Rare Childhood Cancer

In October of 2015, mom Leslie Abbott started to notice a strange glow in her baby son Parker’s eye. Parker was only six months old at the time and Leslie was not sure what to think about the odd glow she was saying during every day activities. tells the story of how the concerned mom took her son to the doctor, and received some shocking news.

The doctors informed Leslie that Parker’s retina was completely detached in his left eye. He was blind in that eye. This detachment was caused by both the fluid buildup behind the eye and a mass that created pressure on the retina.

The only word Leslie heard was “mass.”  Being a licensed vocational nurse, Leslie knew that meant cancer.

Parker was soon diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a childhood cancer that can cause blindness and death if it is not soon treated. Because Leslie saw the glow in Parker’s eye and had it checked out immediately, she most likely saved both her son’s eyesight and his life. Though only 25% of cases affect both eyes, this was the case with Parker, and he has since lost his left eye to ensure that the cancer does not spread to his brain.

Retinoblastoma does not have to be fatal or cause blindness

Retinoblastoma is actually one of the leading causes of childhood blindness, a condition Know the Glow was founded to prevent. When retinoblastoma is diagnosed and treated early enough, both the child’s life and their eyesight can usually be saved, so Know the Glow is asking all parents to be aware of the signs of retinoblastoma, especially that telltale glow.

Here are some ways Know the Glow suggest parents take action to prevent childhood blindness: in addition to watching out for “a consistent white, opaque or yellow spot in the pupil of the eye that appears in photos taken with flash may indicate at least 20 different eye diseases and conditions, we’re asking parents to:


  • Check your photos or take new photos of your child.
    • Because The Glow may not always show up, review or look back at family photos, especially where your child is looking at the camera.
    • Make sure to take or use photos where the flash is turned on and the red eye reduction featured is turned off.
  • Look for The Glow, a white, opaque, or yellow spot in the pupil of one or both eyes. If you see The Glow once, be alert, but if you see it twice in the same eye, be active.
  • Ask an eye specialist—an optometrist or ophthalmologist—for a comprehensive eye exam, including a red reflex test. If you have photos of your child showing The Glow, bring them with you to your appointment.
  • Help us spread the word, especially to parents of young children.

Because no child should go blind from a preventable eye disease.”

Believe it or not, most cases of retinoblastoma are found and treated because a parent noticed a glow in their child’s eye either in every day life or in a photograph. Parental intuition and action makes all the difference. This disease typically occurs in very young children, so while you’re taking all those photos of your baby, look back through them with an educated eye and make sure there is nothing unusual about your child’s.

Who knew that something as simple as admiring pictures of your beautiful baby could save their eyesight and their life? Let me be clear, retinoblastoma is rare, but it doesn’t hurt to know the signs. Detected early, it can be successfully treated, and there is no reason for it to rob your child of his or her eyesight or young life.

Jenny Rapson
Jenny Rapson
Jenny is a follower of Christ, a wife and mom of three from Ohio and a freelance writer and editor.

Related Posts


Recent Stories