Harley lost an eye to save her young life

Harley Shevill with her parents Coral and Graeme
Harley Shevill with her parents Coral and Graeme

A Motherwell couple is supporting a campaign which urges parents to get their child checked out if they have a squint, after their daughter was dianosed with an agressive cancer.

Harley Shevill was just 10-months-old when she was diagnosed with retinoblastoma (Rb) in both her eyes last March.

Just weeks later she had her right eye removed to save her life, and since her diagnosis has also bravely endured 16 general anaesthetics, six rounds of chemotherapy, five surgeries, four rounds of laser treatment, four platelet transfusions and three blood transfusions.

The only sign that anything was wrong with Harley before she was diagnosed was a white glow her eyes, seen in dim lighting and in photos when a flash had been used, and a squint.

Her mum Coral Baxter said: “When Harley was about six months old we noticed a white reflection in her eyes in certain lighting, but we never really thought anything of it.

“Then she developed a turn in her eye so we took her to get checked out but were told there was nothing to worry about.

“I googled her symptoms and some information about retinoblastoma came up but I thought it couldn’t be anything that serious as she was so healthy and well.”

A few weeks later, when Harley’s squint hadn’t gone, Coral made another appointment at the GP but cancelled it because she thought she was being paranoid.

Then her mum was watching the news on television about a little boy from Scotland, who had been diagnosed with Rb, and she called Coral and told her to watch it.

Coral said: “As soon as I saw it, I made another appointment. This time the GP said he would refer us and it would take six weeks.

“But we pushed for her to be seen sooner and managed to get an appointment that day. They told us it could be cancer and referred us the Royal London Hospital.

“A week later we were in London being given the news we had dreaded – Harley had Rb – and we knew that day that she was going to lose an eye.

“When she was diagnosed I was totally heartbroken, I didn’t know how we were going to get through it. But in the end it was Harley who got us through it. She was absolutely amazing.”

Harley, who celebrated her second birthday last month, has to have check ups under anaesthetic every six weeks but she’s doing well and is now making up for the time she lost during treatment.

She has just started walking, and loves singing and dancing to musicals.

Coral said: “I have made Harley a scrapbook and a list of all the treatments she has been through so I can show her when she is older what she has survived and how brave she is.”

Harley’s dad Graeme Shevill added: “Having cancer has never held Harley back, she’s been the exact same girl throughout it all.

“She was brilliant on the day of the surgery to remove her eye and during all of the treatment she has had since.

“She has made the wholeexperience much easier than it should have been for us and she is a true inspiration.”

The Childhood Eye Cancer Trust is urging parents to get their child checked out if they have a squint.

Chief executive Patrick Tonks said: “Around one child a week, about 50 a year, is diagnosed with retinoblastoma in the UK so it’s very rare and there is no reason for parents to be alarmed.

“In most cases a squint is completely harmless, however we urge parents to have their child seen by a healthcare professional, such as a GP or optometrist, just to rule out anything serious.”