Rocky’s story: How a photo can save your life

Kara Sefo wants the community to know that taking a photo of your child with the flash on can help detect retinoblastoma.

Two-year-old Rocky Sefo is facing a battle most adults could not even imagine.

Since he was just four-months-old, he has been fighting for his life against retinoblastoma – an eye cancer that begins in the retina that most commonly affects young children.

His mum, Kara Sefo had noticed something reflective in his eye but because he was a happy and healthy baby it did not appear to be anything serious at the time.

Rocky, Kara, Giselle and Rony Sefo.

“When he was about four months old we noticed that he had a bit of a lazy eye and I remember one night, while I was doing the dishes, looking over at him while he was having some tummy time he had a reflective spot in his eye a bit like a marble or cats eye,” Kara says.

“We were busy so I thought we must get that looked at, but he was meeting all his milestones, so we didn’t worry too much.

 “At six months old we took him to our GP, but he didn’t notice much so he referred us to an ophthalmologist to be safe and we got him checked a month later.

“We were at the appointment for two hours and they found he had a big mass behind his left eye and that we needed to be at Westmead Children’s Hospital the next day.”

So, in 2018, at just seven-months-old, Rocky was rushed to Sydney where doctors discovered the cancer.

What followed was the fight of his life, there was a risk the mass in his eye could lead to a tumour in his brain.

The news rocked the family’s life.

Kara, her husband, Rony and daughter, Giselle were faced with the thought they could lose their bubbly little boy.

After finishing a tough round of chemotherapy later in the year, things were starting to look up for Rocky but a routine checkup in January 2019 discovered new tumours had grown.

“By the time we got to September he needed chemo directly injected to the eye,” Kara says.

“And then this year things got a bit crazy, it had advanced so badly that they needed to remove his eye.

“So, in March they removed his eye, but that wasn’t the end of the battle, they said he still needed to start chemo again straight away.”

The family decided to delay chemotherapy because of the pandemic, which Kara says gave Rocky some time to be a kid and have a normal life.

“He is so cheeky and stubborn,” she says.

“Nobody is built for this journey, but no one could handle it like Rocky does.”

Kara is sharing Rocky’s story in a bid to save other children’s lives.

She wants parents to know that a photo taken using a flash can detect the disease in the eye, as any growth will reflect and appear like a marble.

Rocky at the Anzac Memorial Walk in Newcastle.

Kara adds, early detection is key and that taking the photo and knowing what it meant could have made Rocky’s battle a little bit easier.

On Thursday last week, Rocky started chemo again at John Hunter Hospital and he will have to endure six cycles of the treatment over the next six months.

Kara is hoping this round could be his last.

She adds the cost of his treatment has caused the family to struggle financially.

So, to help them out their friends have started a GoFundMe page to raise money for Rocky’s battle.

Any donation they receive is a big help and goes directly to helping Rocky’s fight.

For updates you can join the family’s public Facebook group.

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