News & Events

Michael’s Story

Posted on

Meet Michael. 

At 15 months old, doctors told Michael’s parents that his left eye needed to be removed. The cause: retinoblastoma, or cancer of the retina.

“There was no way to save it,” said Michael’s mother, Veronica. “It was that severe.”

On Tuesday, January 24, the top director and professor of the pediatric oncology team at UCSF Benioff’s Children’s Hospital removed Michael’s eye.

Even when facing adversity, Michael always seems to have a smile on his face.

 Even when facing uncertainty, Michael always seems to be wearing a smile.

His parents initially noticed a strange, white cloudiness in his left eye, where his pupil should have been. After repeatedly urging his pediatrician to look at the eye, the doctor finally saw something, and Michael was referred to a local hospital. Scheduling an appointment, however, was nearly impossible, as Michael faced an eight-month-long wait at the hospital.

Michael’s parents, instead, headed to EYE-Q Vision Care after hearing positive things about the facility. Learning that EYE-Q had a pediatric ophthalmologist sealed the deal. Veronica, was able to get her son in to see Dr. Derick Holt, EYE-Q’s pediatric ophthalmologist.

At his appointment, Michael’s uneasiness was apparent as the doctor ran the necessary tests. “Even though my son was kicking and screaming, Dr. Holt was so gentle and patient with him,” said Veronica. After assessing the test results, Holt was straightforward in telling Michael’s parents what he believed to be wrong with Michael’s eye: cancer.

He and his staff immediately referred Michael to UCSF to receive an official diagnosis. Dr. Holt told Michael’s parents to expect a phone call from UCSF before the end of the week, but within hours, they had gotten the call.

It seemed even Michael knew he was in good hands.

 It seemed even Michael knew he was in good hands.

With their appointment scheduled at 7 a.m. the following day, Michael and his parents made their way to San Francisco. The next morning, Holt’s prognosis was confirmed, and the doctors told Michael’s parents that his eye needed to be removed to save Michael’s life.

Since his surgery, Michael and his family have faced countless challenges, though they have never dulled his spirit. Doctors told his mother that children with one eye have a hard time walking, and Michael would most likely run into things. But his depth perception is perfect, and Michael walks up and down stairs with ease. Veronica says:

“He’s just an awesome little warrior.”

We completely agree.

Even the chemotherapy couldn't hamper Michael's tenacity and fighting spirit.

Even the chemotherapy couldn’t hamper Michael’s tenacious fighting spirit.

Michael just turned two, and his healing journey has nearly come to an end, as he was pronounced cancer-free on August 3, 2017. To assist with remaining travel and medical expenses, Veronica has created a GoFundMe page where family and friends can contribute and help keep Michael cancer-free. EYE-Q has kicked off fundraising with a $1,000 donation, and encourages the public to continue contributing.

“It is difficult at times to see young patients that have to deal with serious illness,” said Dr. Holt. “At the same time, children often show remarkable courage, resilience, and sheer positivity. It has been a privilege to participate in Michael’s care. The optimism and perseverance Michael and his family possess has inspired all of us here at EYE-Q.”

Thank you to Veronica and Michael for allowing us to share their story.

Please click the GoFundMe page to donate to Michael and his family. 

Watch more about Michael’s incredible story in the video below.