- Associated Press - Monday, May 22, 2017

MARLBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) - Julie Dalbec immediately knew something was wrong when she noticed an odd white reflection coming from her 2-month-old daughter Samantha’s right eye in a picture she had taken moments earlier.

“I knew that wasn’t right,” said Dalbec, an occupational therapist. “She was crying constantly. We thought she just had colic.”

Her instincts were correct. A short time later, Samantha was diagnosed with retinoblastoma - a very rare cancer that quickly spreads and rapidly develops from immature cells in the retina in the back of the eye. It can be detected using indirect light.

Samantha underwent several tests and doctors determined the cancer had not spread up her optic nerve and into her brain.

“We were thankful and grateful,” said Dalbec.

Doctors offered two options for Samantha - remove the damaged eye or leave it in and have her undergo chemotherapy and radiation. Because the disease had already significantly damaged Samantha’s vision leaving her legally blind, Dalbec opted to have doctors remove the eye and eventually fit Samantha for a prosthetic.

“Leaving in that eye would’ve been a different pathway,” said Dalbec.

The Richer Elementary School second-grader will participate in this weekend’s Relay For Life of Marlborough and Hudson for the seventh straight year. Samantha, 8, called the Relay For Life her favorite days of the year.

“I do it because it’s fun for me and I do it because it’s a good cause,” said Samantha. “I feel bad for people who had cancer like me. If it ever got canceled I’d scream in my pillow for an hour.”

Samantha is often the youngest cancer survivor at the Relay For Life and the American Cancer Society’s Pedal to End Cancer each year. She rode her own stationary bike for an hour at this year’s Pedal to End Cancer in March.

“They were all cheering so I felt like an inspiration,” she said.

Samantha’s condition has done little to slow her down. She is training for a Junior Olympic gymnastics team, is a Girl Scout, reads at a fourth-grade level, sings and draws. She even wrote her own book about her condition titled “My Cancer Book.”

“There isn’t anything that she doesn’t do,” said Dalbec. “She doesn’t stop running, flipping, cartwheeling. She’s just so positive.”

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Online:

http://bit.ly/2ruLiXt

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For more information: The MetroWest Daily News, www.metrowestdailynews.com

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