An Illinois mom discovered that her son had eye cancer after snapping a picture of him with her cellphone. (Photo: Julie Fitzgerald)

An Illinois mom discovered that her son had eye cancer after snapping a picture of him with her cellphone.
(Photo: Julie Fitzgerald)

Julie Fitzgerald eye cancer

An Illinois woman said she spotted her son’s eye cancer in a cellphone photo and although it turned out to be her family’s worst nightmare, “it saved our son’s life.”

It all started several months ago. Julie Fitzgerald from Rockford, Ill., said she had been seeing spots in her 2-year-old son Avery’s eye.

“I would notice that when I was looking at Avery in a light I would see something in the back of his eye,” she told WREX-TV last week.

“I did not want to take the picture because I had this dreaded feeling in the pit of my stomach,” Julie Fitzgerald said….

Fitzgerald said she went online and started researching. She read about one instance in which an eye with cancer had appeared white in photos while the other eye appeared red. She said had a feeling something was wrong, so she grabbed her cellphone and snapped a picture of her toddler’s face.

“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,” she told the station. “His whole pupil was just white and that’s when I knew.”

Fitzgerald’s son, Avery, was soon diagnosed with retinoblastoma, an eye cancer that starts in the retina. About 75 percent of the boy’s eye was covered in tumors, Fitzgerald told ABC News.

The doctor “took one look and said there are multiple, multiple tumors,” she said.

Essentially, Fitzgerald’s snapshot served as a red reflex test in which doctors use light from an ophthalmoscope to detect differences in the reflections in the pupils, such as one pupil that reflects red and another that reflects white, according to a 2008 article in the American Academy of Pediatrics. The test is used to find cataracts, glaucoma and retinoblastoma, among other problems.

Indeed, other parents have seen abnormalities in their children’s eyes much the same way. Just last month a woman in Chandler, Ariz., noticed the white hue in her infant’s eye and received the same diagnosis: retinoblastoma.

The Fitzgeralds learned that Avery had most likely been blind in one eye since he was born, though the tumors had been growing only about six months, WREX-TV reported. He had to have his left eye completely removed.

A "white glow" in the eye of a photo with a flash can be a sign of retinoblastoma, a cancer of the eye. Above, a photo of a child with retinoblastoma, taken in 1989.

A “white glow” in the eye of a photo with a flash can be a sign of retinoblastoma, a cancer of the eye. Above, a photo of a child with retinoblastoma, taken in 1989.

“If we did not get this cancer out, it would have spread to his brain,” Fitzgerald said.

The family is still waiting to see whether Avery will need to undergo chemotherapy but, for now, they think he is cancer-free. Eventually, he can get a prosthetic eye.

Fitzgerald’s advice: “Trust a momma’s gut,” she told WREX-TV.