Wirral parents work to raise awareness of condition which claimed their son's eye

THE mum and dad of a four-year-old boy who had his eye removed after contracting a rare form of cancer today vowed to raise awareness of the condition.

Little Joey Pleavin, from Moreton, Wirral, was today recovering after the two-and-a-half hour operation on Wednesday.

His mum Lisa, 38, spotted something wrong two months ago when his eye started to look different.

A GP appointment initially failed to diagnose the problem. But Lisa persisted and took Joey to the optician on January 16. And the youngster was sent to Alder Hey urgently.

Within 10 days Joey’s eye had been removed at Birmingham Children’s Hospital – the only site outside London that can perform the operation.

Experts diagnosed retinoblastoma – a form of childhood cancer that causes a tumour to grow in the retina.

Joey’s dad John O’Brien, 53, from Walton, said: “This is the hardest time of my life. We are devastated. Joey is only four and is such a lovely lad.

“He never complains or says when something is wrong.

“We just hope he wasn’t in pain without telling us.

“When they first gave the diagnosis I thought he was going to die – so losing his eye seemed like something I could deal with. But now it has happened we are so upset. We just hope he will be OK now and that it hasn’t spread.

“We do not want to be martyrs but we want to make sure other parents are aware of this type of cancer so that maybe they can prevent the same thing happening to their child.

“Often there are visible signs that we didn’t know about.

“Lisa could spot there was something wrong with his eye but we had no idea what it was or what to do.”

Some 40 cases of retinoblastoma are diagnosed in the UK each year.

Most occur in children under the age of five, although it can affect children of any age.

Joey, a pupil at Overchurch Infants, in Upton, is off school while he recovers.

Doctors are performing tests on Joey’s eye to see if the cancer has spread, and he will soon have an artificial eye fitted.

Mr O’Brien added: “He is getting better every day. But when he meets someone for the first time he won’t look at them straight. I think he is a bit self-conscious. We just hope he recovers and can get on with all the things children of his age do.”

The first sign of the condition can often be a white pupil that does not reflect the light.

This may be detected when a picture of your child is taken using flash photography, as the affected eye may look white in the picture.

Some children may have a squint or, if the tumour is large, a painful red eye.