Photo saves toddler's life after revealing rare form of cancer

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Monday, May 11, 2015
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One mother knew something was wrong when she noticed something in her son's eye on a photo she took on her iPhone.

ROCKFORD, Ill. -- A mother's cellphone camera caught a silent killer and saved her 2-year-old son's life.

It all started when Julie Fitzgerald and her husband, Patrick, noticed unusual spots on Avery's eye. The 31-year-old mother of three from Rockford, Ill. sensed something was wrong.

"I just had this gut feeling in my stomach that something was wrong with his eye," she told Good Morning America.

Fitzgerald typed in Avery's symptoms online and stumbled upon a story being shared on Facebook about how a white glow in photos could signal bigger problems. She then snapped a photo of Avery with her cellphone.

"I did not want to take the picture because I had this dreaded feeling in the pit of my stomach, and I took the picture and boom, his whole pupil was just white and that's when I knew," Fitzgerald told WREX-TV.

Fitzgerald acted immediately. She and her husband took Avery to the doctor who confirmed their fears: Avery had cancer.

"He took one look and said there are multiple, multiple tumors," Fitzgerald said.

The rare form of cancer, known as retinoblastoma, had left 75 percent of Avery's eye covered in tumors. Doctors had to remove the eye, and the surgery came just in the nick of time.

"If we did not get this eye out, the cancer would have spread to his blood and to his brain," Fitzgerald told ABC News.

Avery is now healthy and alive thanks to his mother's intuition. Avery's dad, Patrick, has very simple advice for other dads out there.

"Listen to your wife, that would be the first thing. Trust your gut," he said.

"Our lives went from normal to cancer to a cancer survivor in three weeks. It turned out to be our worst nightmare, but it saved our son's life," Julie Fitzgerald said.

Avery will eventually get a prosthetic eye. Doctors believe all the cancer has been removed.