When There Is No Eye
Most children experience at least one period of time when they cannot wear a special eye.
For 4-10 weeks after enucleation, most children do not have an artificial eye. The special eye is not made until the socket has healed. This ensures the best possible fit.
Sometimes a child is not able to wear a special eye due to infection or an implant exchange surgery.
Many children do not receive a special eye after their cancer-filled eye is removed. Usually this is because artificial eyes are not available or are too expensive. This means the eye lids will remain closed, or almost closed, and the lids will lay flat.
There are a number of important considerations to make about your child’s coping, and your own coping as a parent when there is no eye.
First, it is important to remember that the eye was removed to help your child be as healthy as possible, and give him the best chance of surviving the cancer. Focusing on the positive – the health and wellbeing of your child – is your priority.
Your medical team will discuss strategies for the regular care and cleaning of the socket to ensure the tissue inside it remains healthy.
Some parents and families are deeply distressed that their child looks different, with one eye closed. Different cultures have different beliefs and responses to children who are missing an eye, or look different.
Many parents find it helpful to have a standard prepared “script” or statement to say when strangers or friends ask what happened to the child’s eye. Your family can decide how much information you would like to share with others. An example is:
“My son/daughter had cancer in their eye. Their eye was removed as part of the cancer treatment to save their life.”
Many children who have their sick eye removed as an infant are unaffected by the lack of special eye as they grow older, since they have only known life without the eye.
However, some children feel self-conscious or uncomfortable about the fact that they look different from their peers. They may face comments from others about their eye.
Again, it is helpful to prepare scripts that explain what happened and the reason the eye looks different. An example:
“When I was little my eye was sick and needed to be removed”.
These statements can be enhanced by adding; “Even with only 1 eye I can do everything that you can do. I can run fast, I can draw beautiful pictures, I can ride a bike……etc…”
I Can / I Am
Children who are self conscious or uncomfortable with appearing different may benefit from writing an “I am book” or an “I can book” that includes facts about all the amazing things they can do and photographs or drawings for each statement. Here are some examples:
I am a big sister.
I am the tallest in my class.
I am a daughter.
I am a cousin.
I am a cancer survivor.
I am a good painter.
I am an eager student.
I can jump really high.
I can cook eggs all by myself.
I can swim.
I can sing beautiful songs.
I can do anything you can do!