One mom was devastated to find out that both her twin daughters had eye cancer when they were just a few weeks old — and devastated when one of them suffered a relapse this year.
Maryann Oakley, 43, thought her twins, Eve and Ella, now four, were perfectly healthy when they arrived at Hershey Hospital, Pennsylvania, US, on December 19, 2017.
But when they were 10 days old, Maryann and her lighting and sound engineer husband, Nathan, 35, noticed that little Eve wasn’t eating and was crying in pain.
When she rushed her to the hospital, emergency surgery revealed the baby had a twisted bowel, which sent her body into septic shock.
After examining her eyes, doctors found a tumor and diagnosed them with retinoblastoma in January 2018.
Three days later, Eve’s twin sister Ella contracted the same cancer after Maryann had her examined.
The twins battled the cancer together, and Ella finished chemotherapy in May 2018, followed by Eve in June 2018.
They were both declared stable, but in March 2022, Maryann received the devastating news that Eve’s cancer had returned.
Maryann, who cares for the twins full time, said: “It’s been so hard and it’s become our life now.
“We don’t know any different.
“Cancer is normal for us.
“Every time Eve leaves for treatment, Ella is so upset.
“Everything is still so uncertain, but we try to make every day as special as possible for them.”
Maryann and Nathan took baby Eve back to the hospital after she stopped eating and became lethargic when she was 10 days old.
“She was suddenly whimpering in pain,” Maryann said.
Doctors initially thought Eve had meningitis, but discovered she had a twisted bowel when she needed emergency surgery on her stomach — and she was given an ostomy pouch when they needed to remove much of her bowel.
After the procedure, the toddler went into septic shock and her parents were told her organs were failing.
“We had no idea if she’d make it,” Maryann said.
But things got worse when doctors examined Eve’s eyes and saw a tumor and diagnosed her with retinoblastoma.
“We knew right away that we had to let Ella check out too,” Maryann said.
“We took her to the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital and she was diagnosed three days later.
“I was absolutely devastated.”
Ella started chemotherapy right away, and Eve followed a few days later when the doctors realized her tumor was growing and they couldn’t wait for her to recover from septic shock to treat it.
“I didn’t know if Eve would make it, she was so sick and then she had to go through chemotherapy as well,” Maryann said.
“We had to drive Ella in every day for her treatment and Eve stayed in because she was so sick.
“It was terrible to see them both undergo chemotherapy.”
Miraculously, both twins came through, and Ella was declared stable in May 2018 and Eve in June 2018, but their parents were warned they were not free.
Ella relapsed in August 2018 but has been stable since September 2018, after being treated with light beam radiation therapy.
“We were told it could still come back and they are also at risk of developing brain cancer,” Maryann said.
“If they do, it’s very difficult to treat, so it would be a bleak prognosis.
“They have to be checked every year.
“Eve lost a lot of hearing from her septic shock, so now she wears hearing aids and has extremely high blood pressure.”
Maryann received the devastating news in March 2022 that Eve’s cancer had returned.
“We were crushed,” she said.
‘She is undergoing cryotherapy that freezes the cancer cells.
“It’s really painful for her when she comes to.
“Ella worries about Eve when she goes to treatment.
“It’s hard for both of them.”
Maryann and Nathan anxiously pray that Eve will make it and find out in September 2022 if Ella is still stable.
“We must have a brave face,” she said.
“We try to make every moment special for them, because the next day is not certain for them.
“Cancer is all we know.
“All we can do is stay as positive as possible for Eve and Ella.”