How a photo saved the life of a Halifax boy

Thomas Hale with mum Liz
Thomas Hale with mum Liz

A mum from Halifax has spoken of the shock of discovering her little boy had a rare form of eye cancer.

Thomas Hale was only seven months old when he was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, undergoing chemotherapy to save his sight and his life.

In 2009, Thomas’ mum, Liz, noticed an odd white glow in his eye after taking a photograph on her new camera phone. “I was just playing around and taking photos of the children,” she explained. “The first picture of Thomas looked unusual, so I took a few more, but his eyes still looked different.”

Liz spoke to her sister, a nurse, who advised her to take him to see their local GP. Only a few days later, they were seen at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary where Thomas was diagnosed with retinoblastoma in both eyes – one tumour in his left eye, and three in his right. Undergoing months of laser treatment and chemotherapy to combat the cancer, he has been left with limited sight, but the family are thankful that he didn’t need to have either eye removed.

“Without that first photograph who knows how long it would have been until we found out,” Liz added. “The diagnosis was a big shock, but we feel very lucky that we noticed it early.

“Thomas’ greatest strength is that he gets on with life in such a normal way that nobody would ever guess he had cancer.

“He never plays on his misfortune and is happy to talk about his condition and the treatment he went through.”

Now aged nine, Thomas, who will continue to be monitored by doctors for the rest of his life, strives to live life to the full despite the day to day challenges he faces due to his impaired vision. He has help from his 13-year-old sister Beth, who provides her little brother – not to mention her parents – with unrelenting support. In recognition of Thomas and Beth’s outstanding efforts in the face of adversity both children have previously been named as CHECT Champions by the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT).

Thomas was recently invited to officially open the new Vision Express store in Seacroft and the White Rose Centre, both in Leeds.