Retinoblastoma is a childhood eye cancer that affects approximately 350 children in the U.S. each year. If detected early, it can be treated successfully with chemotherapy, which can save the child's life and, often, the eye.
I learned this and a lot more about the disease from Heather Shiflett, whose daughter Ava lost an eye to the disease. Heather has started a nonprofit charity called Ava's Gift to June to help families with the overwhelming cost of childhood cancer.
The charity helps pay for medical and travel expenses related to children's cancer treatment. Four local families have been helped so far this year.
Shiflett said parents and grandparents usually are the ones to detect retinoblastoma, while taking photographs. Instead of the normal red eye - in response to flash photography - the pupil will turn white. Many cameras today have automatic red-eye reduction, and the white pupil only shows up when a flash is used.
If this cancer is not treated in time, it will travel down the optic nerve into the brain and the other eye, and the child usually will die from the metastasis to the brain.
Retinoblastoma is a very aggressive cancer, so early detection is crucial. There is a 95 percent cure rate if detected early.
This month, more than 35 businesses in Waxhaw have agreed to enter the "Fill our Pig Contest" in honor of Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month.
The kids in our area who have cancer painted the piggy banks Aug. 27 at Rebecca's Pottery in Indian Trail. The businesses place a piggy bank on their checkout counters with a sign reading: "Help Fill our Pig to Fight Childhood Cancer."
At the end of the month, the location with the most money will win half the money in its pig, to split among employees.
Look for them when you shop. The contest runs until Sept. 30.
Shiflett also said the other big event this month is Wysacky's Wacky Day, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sept. 24 at Wysacky's Trading Post on N.C. 200. There will be kids' bounce houses and games, vendors, horseshoe and corn hole tournaments, live music, a silent auction and a raffle. For more information, contact Shiflett at 704-780-2530 or 704-843-9981.