A FOUR-YEAR-OLD girl who was earlier this year diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer will spend Boxing Day in hospital as she receives laser treatment.

Meadow Wilkinson from Easterside, Middlesbrough, was diagnosed with Retinoblastoma in June after her mother noticed a 'slight turn' in her eye.

Hannah Wilkinson, also parent to Lyla, 13, and Harvey, 15, said she began to notice Meadow's eye 'drift inwards' when she became tired, fuelling concerns that something was wrong.

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She said: “Last Christmas we began to notice her left eye had turned a little and when she was tired it would drift inwards.

"We took her to the health visitor for advice and they suggested to be on the safe side we go to the GP so we could be referred.

"We expected we might just get an optician’s appointment and a patch to correct the squint."

In January, Meadow was referred for an appointment with opticians at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.

After noticing Meadow's condition deteriorating, she was then sent to the specialist eye centre at Birmingham Children's Hospital for further examinations.

Ms Wilkinson said: "They were able to examine her eye further and we were told Meadow had cancer – from then life turned upside down.

“I’d never heard of Retinoblastoma before, so it was very overwhelming but by the next day we were on our way home."

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Despite being in shock, Ms Wilkinson said experts had offered reassurances that Meadow's cancer was treatable.

She said: "The hardest part was going home and telling Meadow’s brother and sister that she had cancer – they are old enough to understand what cancer is, but we told them not to panic and that we were going to be able to look after Meadow and she’d be ok.”

Retinoblastoma is so rare, the Birmingham Children's Hospital and The Royal London Hospital are the only hospitals able to fully-treat the condition.

Mrs Wilkinson said Meadow had gone through the first stage of treatment with chemotherapy, but she had lost vision in her left eye due to the tumour.

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Meadow's father, Michael Wilkinson said 'fast treatment' would now help prevent her from being removed, and said: "The first round reduced the tumour size by 50 percent then the second round reduced it by a further 25 percent.

"It was very intense treatment under sedation and took 2 to 3 hours as the chemotherapy drug was delivered directly into the affected area of the eye – but it was really effective and she only needed those two rounds.

“She is now receiving laser treatment and we travel to Birmingham every four weeks to get this and so far that is also going well."

This Boxing Day, Meadow's treatment plan will mean she is admitted to the children's hospital for further rounds of laser treatment.

Mrs Wilkinson said: "Although we won’t be at home for the whole of Christmas it’s important that Meadow continues with her treatment so she can get better.

"She’s more excited about Christmas as she’s a bit older and we’ll make the most of the time we all have together.”

Figures from Cancer Research UK show that when the cancer is entirely within the eye and has not spread more than 9 out of 10 of these children are cured.

Lisa Millett, spokesperson for Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People in the North-East, said: “Despite everything that she has been through at such a young age Meadow is a real star.

“Cancer can have a devastating impact on children and young people and many of those who survive may experience serious long-term side effects from their treatment.

“We’re encouraging people to nominate inspirational youngsters for this year’s Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People Star Awards, so we can recognise more children.”

Her parents added: "The support we have had from family and friends has been amazing and we can’t thank them enough for all their support through the year.”