A FAMILY from York have launched a huge fundraising campaign after a routine check-up revealed their baby had a rare eye cancer.
Walter Rappe-White was only six months old when doctors found tumours in both his eyes and diagnosed him with retinoblastoma, which affects one in 20,000 children.
His condition may have gone undetected had the family been in England, meaning he could have gone blind. But because they have been living in Sweden, Walter underwent a routine test that is not performed in this country.
Dad Billy White and his partner Christin have watched Walter endure six rounds of chemotherapy and many general anaesthetics in the fight to save his vision and the tumours have now been removed.
But Walter, now 14 months old, will need monthly check-ups until he is five or six in case the cancer returns.
Billy, 32, is now preparing to run seven marathons in seven days next week, to raise £10,000 for the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT), which provides advice and practical support to patients’ families. Grandmother Gill Crook, who still lives in York, is also calling for British GPs to be made more aware of the rare condition.
Billy, who is from Copmanthorpe and attended Tadcaster Grammar School, said: “If we had lived in England it would not have been detected until much later and Walter’s chances of sight would have been much smaller. The work CHECT does spreading awareness of this disease is fantastic, which is why we want to support them.”
Next week Billy, a chef, and his friend Chris Wright, a gardener, will run 192 miles along Wainwright’s coast-to-coast route from St Bees in the Lake District to Robin Hood’s Bay. They will be joined on the final leg, on June 22, by friends, relatives and supporters.
Billy has run a marathon before, but said: “A lot of my training has not been relevant to the marathon I ran previously because this is more about endurance. Finding the time to fit in all the running has been difficult.”
Billy’s mum Gill Crook has also been fundraising, with a pig-racing night at The Royal Oak, in Copmanthorpe, and a chest shave for the local butcher. There is also a black-tie fundraising dinner at the Novotel Hotel in York on September 28.
Gill said: “It has been a horrendous few months, a very worrying time. In Sweden, at six months, a doctor looks into the baby’s eyes. The doctor said she was not happy and referred Walter to the eye department and they diagnosed it.
"The doctor had been practising for years, but had never seen it before. The Trust is campaigning for GPs here to be more aware of this disease. It’s important they are aware. It was picked up early and Walter has his sight. If it had not been, I think he would have had no sight.”
Joy Felgate, chief executive of the CHECT, said: “The funds raised from Billy and Chris’s huge efforts will help to ensure that when a parent’s worst nightmare is realised and they are told the devastating news that their child has eye cancer, they do not have to face this on their own.”