“We may bend but we weren’t built to break!”- Caiden’s Family’s Motto

Parents can sometimes feel like they are having an out of body experience when first hearing the words, “Your child has cancer”. This was the case for Cynthia, Caiden’s mother. This precious little boy was two years old when his mother dropped him and his twin brother off at daycare when she noticed a glow in his eye. She instantly felt that something was wrong. The same day she made an appointment with a pediatric ophthalmologist for examination and testing. On May 2, 2017, her sweet boy was diagnosed with Bilateral Retinoblastoma, a type of retina eye cancer in both eyes. “It was the worst day of our lives.” Cynthia explained. Caiden started chemotherapy on May 11, 2017 and completed 10 rounds of systemic chemo. The family and doctors explored intra-arterial chemotherapy, or ICA, which is a method of delivering concentrated doses of medicine directly to the affected area of the eye. While a child is sedated, a catheter is inserted into an artery in the hip and fed through the body’s network of arteries to the opening of the ophthalmic artery, behind the eye, where the chemotherapy dose is given. Unfortunately, Caiden’s blood vessels collapsed so he was unable to receive this specialized treatment, which meant they needed to remove his left eye. On March 1, 2018, Caiden’s left eye was enucleated, surgically removed. Following his enucleation, an artificial eye, was implanted as a cosmetic substitute for the real eye.

Cynthia thought after his eye was removed that Caiden’s spirit would be broken, but he surprises her everyday! Cynthia said, “He has good and bad days, but Caiden has smiled through a lot of moments on his journey.” Caiden really does care for his family and throughout his cancer battle, he would ask Cynthia if she was okay, instead of worrying about himself. He hopes to be a doctor one day and on his personal time, he wants to be a superhero. Caiden loves to sing, dance and entertain! One thing Cynthia is grateful for is how her family has become closer since Caiden’s diagnosis as expressed, “My other children have been touched by what their little brother is going through and it has brought our family closer.”

Due to Caiden’s rare cancer diagnosis, there are no specialized oncologists or treatment plans here in Central Florida. Caiden and his family had to travel to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami for his specialized treatments and appointments. Thankfully, his current appointments are spread out and the family is able to be in Orlando in between them. Caiden, now four years old, is sedated for his appointments so the doctors are able to take a closer look in and around his eyes. His remaining tumors in his right eye are inactive as of November 30, 2018 and his family is hopeful that they stay this way. Caiden was able to start VPK this year with his twin brother, which was a huge accomplishment for his family! This family’s motto is, “We may bend but we weren’t built to break!” This keeps them fighting!

Retinoblastoma occurs when nerve cells in the retina develop genetic mutations. These mutations cause the cells to continue growing and multiplying, whereas the healthy cells would normally die. This accumulating mass of cells form a tumor. Retinoblastoma cells can invade further into the eye and nearby structures if not diagnosed and treated properly. Bilateral Retinoblastoma effects about 40% of children that have retinoblastoma. This diagnosis means that there are tumors found in both eyes. The cancer does not spread from one eye to the other. When both eyes are affected and or have multiple tumors form, each tumor arises from a unique retinal cell. The 5-year survival rate for children with retinoblastoma is 95%. However, that rate depends on several factors, including whether the cancer has spread from the eye to other parts of the body. Long term, this can cause glaucoma, which can lead to pain and loss of vision in the affected eye. Most retinoblastomas are found and treated before they have spread outside the eyeball. But if they are not, retinoblastoma cells can spread to other parts of the body, which can be detrimental.

The team at Runway to Hope is very excited to see Caiden shine on the runway this year! He made his first debut in 2018 and was all smiles! This little boy doesn’t let cancer hold him back from anything and that is very inspiration to our team! For more information on how you can get involved with Caiden, the Spring Soiree, and other families battling pediatric cancer, please visit Hope you will be able to join us to cheer on Caiden!

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