Ontario toddler loses eye to cancer as family struggles to make ends meet
CTVNews.ca Staff, with files from CTV Kitchener
Published Monday, March 25, 2019 10:56PM EDT
The family of a brave Ontario toddler is struggling to make ends meet after little Mateo lost his right eye to cancer.
The one-year-old had his eye removed last summer and wears a prosthetic one, but he is still not cancer free.
Mateo Alfaro was only a few months old when his parents noticed a strange glow in his eyes.
They were told the devastating news that their baby had cancer in August.
“I think hearing that word is every parent’s nightmare,” Mateo’s mother Alina Alfaro told CTV Kitchener.
Mateo, baby brother to Lucas and Marcus, was diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer known as retinoblastoma, after doctors found close to a dozen tumors in both eyes.
His right eye was removed to save his life at Sick Kids children’s hospital in Toronto and medics performed laser surgery on his left.
“Once he got out of surgery and I saw the patch on his eye, that was pretty bad, pretty hard,” Mateo’s father Jorge Alfaro said.
“We do have to clean his eye, turn his eye, it’s pretty traumatic for him,” Alina added, fighting back tears.
As well as the emotional toll, the financial costs are racking up for the Alfaros.
Mateo’s prosthetic eye cost just over $570, 75 per cent of which is covered by Ontario’s assistive device program.
But that still leaves the Alfaro family several hundred dollars out of pocket.
Monthly trips back and forth to Toronto and accommodation are adding up and Alina has taken a leave of absence from work so she can be with her son full-time.
But as Mateo grows, so do his needs. The one-year-old’s prosthetic needs to be re-fitted as he gets bigger.
“The majority of the healing happens in the first year from the initial surgery so that's when the most modification happens,” ocularist Matthew Milne said.
Friends of the family have started an online fundraising campaign to help Mateo, who was born with the RB1 gene which means there’s a chance the cancer could return or spread within the first few years of his life.
The GoFundMe page has raised more than $9,000 of a $15,000 target.
Frequent assessments, tests and scans will be necessary until Mateo is of school age as tumours can commonly reoccur, the family friends wrote on the GoFundMe page.
Money raised will be used to help cover immediate and long term travel, accommodation and medical expenses, friends wrote on the page.