Stories about: Our Patients’ Stories

Madison’s journey with retinoblastoma: ‘Everything will be OK’

Girl with retinoblastoma after surgery to remove eye
Madison in 2018

It was New Year’s Eve, 2011, and Madison Garrett was a seemingly healthy 2 ½-year-old when she suffered a grand mal seizure at home. That night, at their local emergency room, Barbara and Tim Garrett were told that their daughter had instead a mild seizure as a result of a fever. They knew something wasn’t right, because their oldest daughter had experienced seizures.

On top of the seizure, Barbara was beginning to suspect something was wrong with Madison’s eye. Two days later they took her to their local pediatrician, but before they even left his office, Madison had another seizure. A second trip to the ER revealed that Madison had retinoblastoma, a rare childhood cancer of the eye.

Barbara fainted when she heard the diagnosis.

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Dodging a bullet: Lukas’ diagnosis uncovers his family’s predisposition to cancer

Boy with polyposis smiles with family
Lukas and his family

From a young age, Lukas Quinn’s life has centered around sports — playing them, following them and rooting for his favorite teams, the New York Giants and Syracuse University athletics. “He’s a real sports nut,” his mother Juli says with a laugh.

For the first seven years of his life, Lukas was a bundle of energy, active and playing sports without any health issues. So when Juli received a phone call from Lukas’s summer camp, explaining that he was locked in a bathroom with severe gastrointestinal issues, she was worried. “Lukas would not come out of the bathroom until I got there,” says Juli. “It was scary to see him in such distress.”

Little did the Quinns know that Lukas would soon be diagnosed with a medical condition that made him predisposed to develop cancer. And after a series of genetic tests, they would learn that his father and sister had the same condition.

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No holding back: Surgery to help treat cerebral palsy changed Eric’s life

adaptive skiing

For the Larsens, hitting the slopes is a family affair. Come winter, everyone travels north to Lincoln, New Hampshire, to ski or snowboard. Mom Carla — once a novice — now teaches adaptive skiing. Older son Nick even met his future wife on Loon Mountain.

But perhaps the sport’s greatest influence has been on son Eric. For years, he helped coach both kids and adults with physical and mental disabilities, teaching them adaptive skiing through the New England Disabled Sports program. His motivation went well beyond simple athleticism, however. He was giving others what skiing had given him as a teenager with cerebral palsy: a sense of belonging, freedom and achievement.

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A 3-year-old’s love for his mother: ‘We do all the fun stuff together’

Boy with amblyopia and sister and mother
Photo credit: Jill DiChiara Photography 

Our son, Jack, was diagnosed with amblyopia at 18-months-old. Now he’s 3 and a very busy big brother to Lyla. We are so thankful his condition was detected early, helping Dr. Bharti Gangwani, an ophthalmologist at Boston Children’s Hospital, improve his vision quickly. Jack’s world is so much clearer now.

This Mother’s Day, I asked Jack a few questions about my wife, Erin — his “mumma.”

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