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Your kids should be wearing sunglasses | A cancer story

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Write a blog post about sunglasses so we can sell more product, right?  But no, this is more personal than that.

Child wearing sunglasses

In the spring of 2004, store owner Kevin Robinson noticed a blurry spot in his right eye.  He saw his optometrist to get it checked out, who sent him to an ophthalmologist at City Hospital the very same day.  The doctor ran a string of tests, then sat Kevin down and told him he had a type of cancer called choroidal melanoma. 

Kevin has been a paddler and cross country skier his entire life. There is a lot of reflection off water and snow and when he was younger he wasn't as diligent with eye protection as he could have been. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, scientists believe sun exposure may be a risk for eye cancer for a number of reasons.  Melanoma usually develops in areas of the eye that receive the most sunlight, and is more prevalent in those with light coloured skin and/or eyes.  There is also some evidence suggesting a higher risk of eye cancer in those people who primarily work outdoors.  (See source below)*.

Child skiing with sunglasses

The news hit Kevin like a truck.  It wasn't until the next day when he was sitting on his bed petting his dog Genny that he thought "It will be ok, I've always landed on my feet." 

As parents, most of us are good about keeping our children's skin protected from the sun, which penetrates our atmosphere more destructively than ever in the past.  Why are we not protecting their eyes?  It's been said that sunglasses are like sunscreen for your eyes.  They are.

Lacking the expertise and resources in Saskatoon, Kevin had to go to Vancouver to get treatment.  This involved an excruciatingly painful process called plaque radiotherapy in which radioactive grains of gold were placed on the back of his eye for a week.  He spent this week in a hotel room with his eyes closed, as he would experience intense pain every time his eye moved.

Kevin Robinson in the hospital with eye cancer

While there, the BC Cancer Agency did an extensive interview to determine how large a factor genetics might have played.  They told him they see a higher incidence of eye cancer cases from the prairies than from other parts of Canada, perhaps due to environmental reasons (lots of sunlight hours) or because many of us have European heritage.

Kevin still goes to Vancouver for yearly follow-ups and gets checkups every six months.  He has undergone countless laser surgeries and injections in the effort to control pressure and swelling in his eye and maintain the vision he has left in it.  That being said, he has a large blind spot in his right eye and may well lose his central vision if his retina detaches from a bleed, a highly possible occurrence in the future.  (The picture below shows Kevin describing his blind spot.)

Kevin Robinson talking about his eye cancer

Whenever friends or family have a new baby, Kevin and his wife Cathy give them the gift of baby sunglasses.  You can never regrow your eyes, and protecting them from harmful radiation is a responsibility every parent should take seriously.

Child paddling canoe wearing sunglasses 

*Source: http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/eye/risks/?region=on#ixzz5UPO0VVQ2

canoeing cross country skiing kids staff

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