Malia’s story: My daughter’s brave and courageous battle against retinoblastoma
Malia Macias is a happy, healthy and energetic 9 year old. She loves school, meeting new friends and has big dreams to become a veterinarian one day. It all changed when Victoria saw something unusual in her daughter’s eye, which would lead them on an unexpected journey. “When Malia was 10 months old, I noticed she had a lazy eye,” Victoria said. “During her one-year check-up, her pediatrician examined Malia’s eyes and didn’t notice anything unusual. When she asked me if I noticed a white glare in my daughter’s eyes in photos, that question really struck a chord with me. The pediatrician told me if you see a white glare in her eye, it could be a sign of something more serious. She suggested we see an ophthalmologist to examine Malia’s eyes further. When we returned home, I started looking through photos of Malia, and sure enough, I noticed there was a white glare in one of her eyes.” Malia had her first ophthalmology appointment with Dr. Evelyn Paysse at Texas Children’s Hospital, as suspected Malia might have retinoblastoma, a form of eye cancer. Retinoblastoma is a malignancy of the retina (lining of the back of the eye). “When we met Dr. Gombos for the first time, he was very forthcoming and explained to me more about retinoblastoma and ways to treat it,” Victoria said. “He performed an eye evaluation under anesthesia (EUA) on Malia and confirmed my 1-year-old daughter had bilateral retinoblastoma. In November 2014, when Malia was almost 3 years old, Gombos removed her left eye and inserted an ocular implant. She was then fitted with a prosthetic that is hand painted to look exactly like the other eye.
“Today, Malia is doing great,” Victoria said. “She doesn’t think twice about her prosthetic eye, and she is just like any other child her age. We are relieved that we found out about her diagnosis early because her other eye was relatively unaffected. The tumor in her right eye was found in a state where they could get it under control quickly and her vision was not affected. We had a wonderful experience with Dr. Gombos and Dr. Chintagumpala. They made us feel confident in the treatment they were giving Malia. I could tell how passionate they were in helping children with retinoblastoma. For our family, we were fortunate to have the resources right in our own backyard. We didn’t have to travel very far. My daughter looks forward to seeing Dr. Gombos for her annual checkups. She loves to update him on everything in her life and I appreciate the time he takes to sit down and talk to her. He’s been her supporter through this journey.”