The subtle sign something was wrong with my tot appeared while she was playing


A MUM us urging parents to check their children’s eyes after her daughter was diagnosed with eye cancer.

Isla Palul was only 14-months-old when her mum Rebecca, 35, noticed her eye moving strangely while she was playing with her toys.

StPictured: Isla Palul (right) with mums Rebecca (left), Charlotte (centre)


StPictured: Isla Palul (right) with mums Rebecca (left), Charlotte (centre)Credit: Jam Press
Doctors discovered Isla had a tumour in her right eye


Doctors discovered Isla had a tumour in her right eyeCredit: Jam Press
Pictured: Isla showing a glow in her right eye


Pictured: Isla showing a glow in her right eyeCredit: Jam Press

“I remember playing with Isla on the floor, and her looking down at a toy then looking up at me.

“When she looked up, her right eye whizzed out to the side and back again as if it couldn’t focus,” Rebecca recalled.

Rebecca, who lives in Putney, London, with her wife, Charlotte, 36, and their other child, five-month-old Theo, also noticed little Isla’s eye would sometimes “wobble”. 

Initially, her parents thought she had a lazy eye – a type of poor vision which develops when there’s a breakdown in how the brain and the eye work together.

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“I remember not feeling very worried about it,” Rebecca said.

Her mums took Isla for a check in hospital – at this point still believing she likely just had issues with her vision.

After several tests, doctors told Rebecca her little girl had a tumour in her right eye.

The rare form of cancer, known as retinoblastoma is diagnosed in 40 to 50 children and babies every year in the UK

If it’s picked up early, retinoblastoma can often be successfully treated, according to the NHS.

“I cried and Isla looked at me perfectly happy probably wondering what was going on,” Rebecca said.

Luckily, doctors hoped the eye could be saved, and Isla started systemic chemotherapy.

Isla, ow three-years-old, contracted multiple infections during the six rounds of chemotherapy she received, which meant multiple stays in hospital, but fortunately, the tumour shrank.

And despite her health challenges, Rebecca says brave Isla stayed happy and smiling throughout her treatment.

She said: “Isla battled through chemotherapy like a little trooper, she kept us all going.

“The tumour is now stable, which is amazing [but] there are some tiny tumour seeds which keep appearing and growing in Isla’s eye, so she has needed lots of cryotherapy to treat these.

“Isla has had periods of quite a few months where everything seems to be looking good. However, she’s also relapsed a few times.”

Since diagnosis, Isla’s parents have noticed symptoms that were almost too subtle to spot and are keen to warn other parents what to look out for.

It wasn’t until her mums took a photo of Isla using a camera flash post-diagnosis that they noticed the most common symptom of retinoblastoma – a white ‘glow’ in the eye.

The Childhood Eye Cancer Trust says that typical signs of retinoblastoma include a white glow which may only appear in certain lights or a squint, as well as a change in the appearance of the eye or a swollen eye.

Isla has also been left with slight reduced vision in her right eye, that Rebecca reveals was not obvious before: “Sometimes she struggles with walking down steps and her balance, but it is only when her left eye is patched to help with the vision in her right eye that you can really notice.”

In spite of Isla’s health journey, Rebecca insists the young tot is taking everything in her stride, staying busy with gymnastics, swimming and watching Frozen.

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And in 2022 she was even awarded a CHECT Champion award from the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust for her bravery.

Although Rebecca hopes that Isla is on the mend, she admits “the unknown is difficult” as they can only wait and hope for continued good news, but support from family, friends and the charity has been instrumental.

Symptoms of Retinoblastoma

Retinoblastoma is a rare eye cancer found in children which originates in the part of the eye called the retina

Often, doctors find retinoblastoma on a routine well-baby examination. Most often, however, parents notice symptoms such as:

  • White (leukocoria) or red pupil instead of the normal black
  • Misaligned eyes (strabismus) looking toward the ear or nose
  • Reddened, painful eye
  • Enlarged pupil
  • Different-colored irises
  • Poor vision

Source: The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia