Our hearts go out to one Pennsylvania family dealing with far more than their share of hardships. Maryann Oakley and her husband Nathan are parents to twin girls, Eve and Ella, who are both currently battling the same life-threatening eye cancer.
“We’ve been through too much,” Maryann shared with People. “And the twins, more than some will endure in a lifetime.”
The 2-year-old twins have been diagnosed with Retinoblastoma. According to Columbia Optimology, the rare eye cancer affects only 250-350 children in the U.S. each year.
Their cancer journey began just 10 days after the girls were born in December 2017. Eve was first admitted to the hospital with a twisted bowel before going into cardiac arrest and septic shock. She was placed on life support for more than a week as her kidneys and liver both began to fail.
Mom Opens Up After Her Twin Daughters Were Both Diagnosed With Same Rare Eye Cancer
“I was screaming in there, like, ‘She was fine!’” recalls Maryann. “It was just, everything changed so fast. We had no idea if she was going to pull through.”
After doctors discovered a white fog over Eve’s eyes that hinted at Retinoblastoma, the cautious couple decided to have Ella screened as well “just to be safe.” That’s when their healthcare team discovered that Ella had cancer as well.
“They found two tumors, one in each eye. And I’m like, ‘What the hell is going on?’ I have one child on life support, one is getting diagnosed with cancer.’” The mom found herself with a two-week-old undergoing chemotherapy, while her other two-week-old daughter remained on life support at another hospital two hours away.
“You pretty much just go on Auto-Pilot, that’s the only way I can explain it. It’s just bad news after bad news. You just pray, standing outside for a breath of fresh air, just praying, like, ‘Let Eve live. I don’t care if she has brain damage. Just let her live, please.’ My mom passed away of uterine cancer shortly before they were born, so she never got to meet them. But I was already through that once. I was like, ‘Please let this child live.’”
Eve was eventually taken off life support and moved to the same hospital as her sister to begin chemotherapy as well. Doctors were able to successfully use a laser to remove one tumor from Ella’s eye.
The girls are currently being scanned for new tumors every three months. Thankfully, doctors say that their risk of tumors will decrease once they’re between three and five years old.
The couple has endured great financial hardships over the past two years and a GoFundMe page has been set up to help cover some of their medical bills.
“Our lives are pretty much turned upside down emotionally, financially, physically. Yes, they’re doing well now, but we constantly have anxiety of when the cancer is going to come back and [whether] Miss Eve’s going to be okay with her hearing and her bowel.”
We hope that these resilient girls continue to thrive. “I love sharing their story,” Maryann shared with People. “I hope one day that they can go on and do the same thing.”
Katie Nave is a freelance writer, producer, and mama living in Brooklyn, New York. Driven by her passion for storytelling, she is always seeking opportunities to elevate people who are working to better the world around them.
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