Award for Olivia after childhood cancer claims eye

A girl of nine who battled a rare form of cancer has been handed an award by a charity which aims to recognise the courage, resilience and patience shown by children afflicted with similar conditions.

Olivia Harrison

Olivia Harrison, from Armthorpe near Doncaster, was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, which affects the retina of mostly pre-school children, in September 2009 when she was only three-and-a-half months old.

Tests revealed she had cancer in both of her eyes. Although retinoblastoma is treatable, the extent of the tumours meant doctors had to remove her right eye in order to save her life. They also managed to save her left eye.

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Olivia now has an artificial right eye and, despite being in remission since February 2010, needs check-ups every six months to make sure the cancer has not returned.

Despite her ordeal, she continues to live an active life, and has notched up badges in swimming and a blue belt at Taekwondo.

The Childhood Eye Cancer Trust has now named her one of its “champions”.

Her mother, Jane Harrison, said: “I first realised something wasn’t right when we were in the bathroom together one evening. I caught sight of a white light in one of her eyes. You could see it under the halogen bulbs in the bathroom but not under the normal lights in the rest of our house.

“I took her to an out-of-hours doctor that night who thought it might be a cataract or detached retina. The next day we saw our own doctor and that led to us being referred to the local eye clinic at Doncaster Royal Infirmary. It was then that we were told she had no vision in her right eye.”

She said the operation happened within a few weeks, followed by chemotherapy on her daughter’s left eye.

Ms Harrison added: “Olivia is such a resilient girl. She still has the odd wobble emotionally and her balance isn’t great because her sight lacks depth perception, but otherwise she’s fine. She embraces life with a real can-do attitude. I’m just so proud of her.”

Patrick Tonks, the charity’s chief executive, said: “Every child affected by retinoblastoma faces huge disruption, upset and distressing treatment not to mention follow-on check-ups.

“We are delighted to recognise the courage, resilience and resourcefulness shown by Olivia. She really is a thoroughly deserving champion.”