WHEN twins Eve and Ella Oakley were born, they were both ‘perfectly healthy’.
Their parents Maryann Oakley, 43, and her husband, Nathan, 35 welcomed them to the world on December 19, 2017.
But little did the family know that just days later, their world would be turned upside down.
At just ten days old, little Eve wasn’t eating and had been wailing in pain.
The family, who live in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, US rushed her to hospital, where medics informed them that she had a twisted bowel.
After surgery, Eve went into septic shock and after examining her eyes, doctors found a tumour and diagnosed her with retinoblastoma in January 2018.
Just three days later, Eve’s twin Ella was diagnosed with the same illness, after Maryann took her in to be checked over by experts.
Since then the sisters have battled cancer together, facing ups and downs on the way.
After treatment, the twins had initially been declared stable, but in March 2022 Maryann was given the devastating news that Eve’s cancer had returned.
Maryann is now a fulltime carer for the twins and said the illness has ‘become their lives’.
She said: “We don’t know any different. Cancer is our normal.
“Ella is so upset every time Eve leaves for treatment.
“Everything is still so uncertain, but we try and make every day as special as we can for them.”
Recalling when Eve first became unwell, the mum said the wailing and pain came on ‘all of a sudden’.
At first, medics thought the infant had meningitis, but later discovered she had a twisted bowel when she was rushed for emergency surgery on her stomach.
It was horrible seeing them both go through chemotherapy
The little girl was then fitted with a stoma bag after they had to remove a large part of her intestine.
After the procedure, Ella went into septic shock and her parents were told her organs were failing.
But the family’s fortunes continued to deteriorate and doctors examining Ella’s eyes diagnosed her with retinoblastoma.
She was started on chemotherapy immediately and Eve followed just days later when medics realised her tumour was growing.
Maryann said: “I didn’t know if Eve would make it still, she was so ill and then she was having to go through chemotherapy too,” Maryann said.
Eye cancer signs and symptoms
There are a number of different types of cancer that affect the eyes, including:
- Eye melanoma
- Squamous cell carcinoma
- Retinoblastoma – a childhood cancer
Eye cancer does not always cause obvious symptoms and may only be picked up during a routine eye test.
However, common symptoms of eye cancer can include:
- Shadows, flashes of light, or wiggly lines in your vision
- Blurred vision
- A dark patch in your eye that’s getting bigger
- Partial or total loss of vision
- Bulging of 1 eye
- A lump on your eyelid or in your eye that’s increasing in size
- Pain in or around your eye, although this is rare
“We were having to drive Ella in every day for her treatment and Eve stayed in as she was so ill.
“It was horrible seeing them both go through chemotherapy.”
But both twins pulled through and in May 2018 Ella was declared stable, with Eve following the next month.
Despite this the family were warned they were not in the clear.
In August 2018, Ella relapsed and was given radiation light beam therapy.
The family again were told it could still come back and were informed they were also at risk of developing brain cancer.
Maryann said: “If they do it’s very hard to treat so it would be a grim prognosis.
“They have to go for checks every year.
“Eve lost a lot of hearing because of her septic shock so now she wears hearing aids and has extremely high blood pressure.”
Sadly in March 2022, the family were told that Eve’s cancer had returned.
Maryann said: “We were crushed.
“She’s undergoing cryotherapy which freezes the cancer cells. It’s really painful for her when she comes round.
“Ella worries about Eve when she leaves for treatment. It’s tough on them both.”
The family are now praying Eve will pull through and will find out this month if Ella is still stable.
“We have to put on a brave face,” she said.
“We try to make every moment special for them because the next day isn’t certain for them.
“Cancer is all we have known. All we can do is stay as positive as we can for Eve and Ella.”
Cancer types, signs and symptoms
Everything you need to know about different types of Cancer