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Father looks at one photo of his son and then discovers the awful truth he couldn't see before

Posted March 24

You take pictures of your child all the time. But can those snapshots show something you can't see that could be harming your child?

When Jaxson's parents, Owen Scrivens and Emily Smith, took a picture of their one-year-old son, the flash of the picture revealed an unusual white reflection in their son's right eye.

Concerned, Jaxson's parents did some research online and discovered that the white reflection is one symptom of retinoblastoma, an eye cancer affecting young children.

"I looked through some old photos and you actually can see the point where it changes in late November," Owen said.

The awful truth

Owen and Emily took Jaxson to the eye doctor the following Monday. After several doctor’s visits and exams, they found out that their child had what they feared: eye cancer.

The tumor is a size D on a scale of A to E. It will never completely disappear. For the rest of his life, Jaxson will need to be monitored to make sure the tumor doesn’t damage his vision, Owen said. He will never be able to see tunnel vision in that eye, but he can see peripheral.

The worst case scenario is that Jaxson loses his eye, doctors said. Chemotherapy is the only way to save it.

The good news

Jaxson is only about a quarter of the way through chemotherapy, but the family has already received good news.

“The tumor has shrunk significantly and we aren't even halfway through chemotherapy yet!” Emily shared recently on Facebook. The bottom picture is the tumor’s size when Jaxson was diagnosed, and the top photo shows what it looks like now. It shrunk down to one-third of its original size.

Their harsh reality

Emily admitted that this journey has been a frustrating experience. In March 2017, they found out that his lungs and kidneys weren’t functioning as well as they should.

On top of that, they travel five hours round trip for appointments and treatments. They have audiology appointments, blood tests and see doctors at three different hospitals. With all the traveling, medical expenses and major time commitment, Owen and Emily said it is hard to live a normal life. They started a Go Fund Me page to help cover the treatment costs.

Chemo also takes a lot out of Jaxson. He lost his hair and feels sick, tired and weak. Even through all the struggles, he seems to be a happy baby.

“After the chemo he’s very sick for a couple of days,” Owen said. “He’s just not his usual self and doesn’t want to do anything, but after a few days he gets back to his usual happy self. It’s going insanely well and we’re so proud of him.”

The couple warns other parents to know the glow. This white reflection can be detected by taking a flash photograph of your child and looking for a glow in one or both eyes. You can also ask your pediatrician to do a red-reflex screening.

Shaelynn Miller is a journalist who has a passion for photography, video production and writing.

Contact her at smiller@deseretdigital.com.

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