Nate Blum was diagnosed with Ocular Melanoma, a rare cancer of the eye, at age 13. His treatments included radiation, chemotherapy surgery. Currently, he has ongoing doctors appointments for injections and eye treatments.
Diagnosis: Ocular Melanoma (a rare cancer of the eye)
My story begins on December 24th when I was 13 years old. My mom, and I together received the news I had an Ocular Melanoma (a rare cancer of the eye).
Prior to a routine optometrist appointment there weren't any signs nor symptoms that would suggest anything was wrong. However, upon examination, my optometrist said that it appeared I had a freckle on my eye and wanted a specialist to take a look at it. The doctor suggested this as a precautionary note, just to be safe. Within 24 hours, my file had been shared with multiple physicians and specialists who resided at several hospitals and clinics. I was immediately scheduled with a specialist to look into this freckle further.
Two days later, Christmas Eve, after multiple tests and several hours with the doctors, our specialist Dr. Goldbaum walked into the room and, as compassionately as he could, announced the horrifying news: ”You have cancer of the eye and without treatment will have a life expectancy of two to eight months. Even with treatment, there is a 90% chance of it metastasizing to the liver, lungs or brain.” He said he would see me in a few days to discuss the options of my treatment...Merry Christmas.
Treatment: Radiation, Chemotherapy and Surgery; Ongoing injections & eye drops
The next few weeks were a whirlwind of appointments, hundreds of tests, and information rapidly fired at us. Answers were needed immediately. Treatment options and clinical trials...I even recall my mom being asked if she wanted to have a test done that would give us a 99% accurate diagnosis with regard to the fatality of the tumor. It was all a little overwhelming to say the least.
Treatment began in February with the first of several surgeries. Radiation, chemotherapy, steroids and many other treatments were administered throughout the first year.
This type of cancer doesn't usually occur in someone my age. This disease tends to affect the elderly. As a consequence treatment options based on history were limited. Thankfully, I responded well and my doctors made adjustments each month to help personalize the treatments according to my specific medical requirements. Ongoing injections and treatments are now part of my everyday life. The dormant tumor remains attached to the optic nerve. Removal of the tumor would require a removal of my eye itself. An option I may be forced to consider in the future.
Although you cannot tell, I have lost almost all sight in my right eye and I do not have any depth perception. These medical challenges have not stopped me from living a normal life and doing what I love most. I adjust as each day brings different challenges. I continue to play in sports, particularly basketball and I love being around my friends. Academically, I maintain above a 4.0 GPA and play Varsity basketball for my high school. I was even determined to get certified to scuba dive which required my physicians to work through a great deal of trial treatments to find a balance in ocular pressure and the depth of the dive.
It has been nearly four years since my diagnosis and I am now getting ready for a new round of tests and a scan hoping to hear all is clear. I am determined to live my life to the fullest potential. Respecting the need for caution, I am not going to let life dictate the terms.