In August 2017, Lorenzia was playing hide-and-seek with her toddler son, Karique. To her surprise, she said, “He walked right past me, and he started to cry. So I called out to him. And he turned around and walked back and started to cry again. Even though it was an open area and there was light, he passed me. He didn’t see me.”
Surprise quickly turned to terror. The eye doctor said a word Lorenzia had never heard before: retinoblastoma, a type of eye cancer.
Karique had regular checkups, was active and looked like the picture of health. Yet he had cancerous tumors inside both his eyes, threatening his vision and even his life. Karique was sent to a specialist who contacted St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
“The next day he got a response saying we can come, and they’re ready for him as soon as possible,” said Lorenzia.
So they left Karique’s dad, Kareem, and the grandparents back in Antigua and traveled to Memphis, Tenn., where St. Jude is located.
Karique’s dad, Kareem, was able to join his family at St. Jude a few weeks into his son’s treatment, and when he did, he was faced with a difficult revelation.
The Cancer Predisposition Program at St. Jude has doctors, nurses and genetic counselors who work with families to find out if a child’s cancer might be inherited, and they work closely with other St. Jude doctors and researchers to find new and better ways to help families who have a higher chance than normal of getting cancer.
“I found out up here what I had,” said Kareem, who has one eye. Kareem also had retinoblastoma as a young child, but it wasn’t something anyone ever talked to him about. Radiation treatments had stunted the bone growth near the affected eye, but he grew up thinking he’d had an accident.
“I went through life like this,” said Kareem. “I thought my son was going to have to go through all the same things I went through. My mother never talked to me. I’m going to talk to him about it.”
St. Jude is changing the way the world understands, treats and defeats childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases, but Karique’s disease was advanced.
St. Jude doctors gave his family hope that his life would be saved — but they were not sure they could save his eyes.
They initiated chemotherapy, both systemic and injected directly into little Karique’s eyes, and soon his tumors had shrunk by 75%.
His cancer is responding to treatment, and Karique’s family again has hope.
Join St. Jude in September to help patients, like Karique, during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Let’s end childhood cancer. Together.