Poker run to benfit ill child
A benefit poker run will be held Oct. 3 for a young boy who was diagnosed with childhood eye cancer.
Candice Ballard said her son Blake, who is now 20 months old, was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a rare childhood eye cancer in June when he was 17 months old.
Retinoblastoma is a cancer that forms from immature retinal cells in one or both eyes of children from birth to 5-years-old. If the cancer is found early, it can be curable.
Ballard said her family was heading to Philadelphia for a wedding when she noticed that Blake’s right pupil was white in a photograph.
“His eye would almost look like a cat’s eye when the light hit,” she said.
After she discovered that his pupil was white, she decided to take quite a few pictures of her findings, which all confirmed what she initially saw.
“I found out that when I looked back in pictures the tumor showed visibilities when he was 10 months old,” she said. There were periods of time when it didn’t show up at all in pictures. Not until Easter did every picture begin to show the tumor.
The family immediately took Blake to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where he was diagnosed with retinoblastoma the very next day due to the doctor finding an advanced tumor in his right eye. The doctor was able to begin treatment for Blake the very next week.
The family was then faced with two decisions, enucleation, which would remove Blake’s right eye, or Intra-arterial chemotherapy. Ballard said they decided to do the chemotherapy because it would go directly into the artery and register the chemo into his eye. Although the chemotherapy was thought to lessen the side effects, Blake experienced many, which included lowering his white blood count making him more prone to infections.
She said the tumor treatment was good with a 75 percent reduction in size after the initial chemotherapy.
The doctors told Ballard that the next round of chemotherapy would be the last. When they traveled back to Philadelphia they found out that the artery was inflamed and the chemo shut down the blood flow into his eye.
Ballard said it is very rare that the artery closes up, but the tumor has not grown because there is no blood flow.
Blake will travel again to Philadelphia on Monday to see if the tumor is growing and try administrating chemotherapy again.
“If the chemo doesn’t take, we will have to take the eye,” Ballard said.
Blake will have to continue to have tests done every couple of months until he is 5 years old to track the progress of his eye and make sure the cancer does not spread to the other eye.
“His other eye is great and showing no signs of tumors,” Ballard said.
Ballard said Blake can probably see light and dark out of his eye, but cannot see anything else. If he gets any of his vision back, it will be very limited.
“I am trying to stay optimistic,” Ballard said.
Ballard said when you go through something like learning your child has cancer it makes you a different person. She said she is more caring and now lives a fuller life every day.
Ballard is trying to spread her knowledge to others and make parents aware of certain symptoms to look for. She said using the flash on your camera is the best way to detect if their chid has retinoblastoma.
A fundraiser “Bikin’ For Blake,” which Randy Bell organized, will be held at the Fort Myers Harley Davidson Dealership on Oct. 3.
Ballard and her husband Kyle and daughter Carina are also excited about the fund raiser.
Ballard hopes it will help with the travel costs, since they travel to Philadelphia every six weeks.
Registration for the poker run will be held from 10:30 a.m. until noon at the dealership on Oct. 3. The entry fee is $15 per bike and $5 for any additional passenger.
All the money received from the poker run will go towards the Ballard family to help them pay for medical bills and traveling expenses.
Those who participate in the poker run will draw a card at Harley Davidson and then four additional cards at various stops throughout the run. The last stop will be at Victory Lane Cafe in North Fort Myers. The winner of the poker run will be the individual with the best hand.
The event will also have door prizes, a 50/50 drawing and music by Colton James Entertainment.
The winning hand will be announced at 2:30 p.m.
For those who wish to follow Blake’s progress visit www.nothinglikeachildsluv.wordpress.com.
For information about Bikin’ For Blake call Randy Bell at (239) 691-4505.