Mother’s cellphone picture of 2-year-old son leads to detection of rare cancer

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(CNN) — A Rockford mother’s cellphone picture of her son turned out to be life-saving.

Avery Fitzgerald is a pretty typical two-year-old, following after his older brother and jumping on the couch when his mother isn’t watching. But, his mom noticed something was different about her youngest son.

“Probably a couple months I would notice, when I was looking at Avery in a light, I would see something in the back of his eye,” saidJulie Fitzgerald, Avery’s mother.

Julie started to wonder what it could be and went online and read an article about a woman who saw a white eye in photos of relatives instead of the normal red eye, and it turned out to be cancer. Julie told the story to her husband, Patrick. He says he told her it was nothing. But Julie couldn’t shake the feeling something was wrong.

“I took a picture, and I did not want to take the picture, because I had this dreaded feeling in the pit of my stomach and I took the picture and boom. His whole pupil was just white and that’s when I knew,” said Julie.

Julie then took Avery to a specialist who gave them the news.

“He took one look and said there are multiple, multiple tumors,” said Julie.

It was cancer — 75 percent of Avery’s eye was covered in tumors and it had to be removed. The doctors told them had they waited much longer, it could have spread to his brain and blood.

The Fitzgerald family found out Avery had likely been blind in his left eye his whole life, but tumors started growing just six weeks earlier. His dad says he has very simple advice for other father’s out there.

“Listen to your wife, that would be the first thing.”

“Trust your gut. Trust a momma’s gut.”

“And don’t wait, don’t wait to see if it improves.”

Avery will eventually get a prosthetic eye. He is now being tested to see if he has a genetic marker that could mean he is at risk for more cancer. Right now, his family believes all the cancer has been removed.