My daughter Rory was a horse girl before she was even born! By the time I was pregnant, I had owned Louie for almost four years. I bought him as a 5 year old and produced him from Beginner Novice eventing up through Preliminary. I knew him like the back of my hand, and I rode through nearly my entire pregnancy. I swear he could sense I was pregnant because he never put a foot wrong the entire time. When Rory was born, Louie was the first of our animals she met when we got home from the hopsital and he was instantly smitten with her.
Our horses live at home, so from that first moment meeting each other, Louie and Rory spent a lot of time together. Even when she could barely walk or talk, she would insist on accompanying me to do the barn chores—mixing grain, feeding, grooming, and cleaning stalls. On the morning of her 2nd birthday, in January 2020, she sat on Louie’s back and sang “Happy Birthday to Louie.” It may have been her birthday, but she loves him so much she wanted to share it with him! That day, we had a fun brithday party for her at home where she got to share Louie and our other animals with her friends. At the party, a nurse friend of mine commented to me how it was interesting that Rory’s eyes were two different shades of blue. I didn’t think much of it at the time because her eye color was constantly changing and we still fully expected her to end up with brown eyes like both my husband and myself.
Two days later at her 2 year check up with her pediatrician, Rory’s appointment was going well until the nurse couldn’t obtain a reading with the vision scanner. When her doctor came in, he couldn’t either and I mentioned what my friend had said about her eye color. He took a closer look at her eyes and suggested we see a pediatric opthalmologist immediately. But later that evening, he called me and said to skip the opthalmologist and go directly to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. At that point, I knew we were dealing with something serious.
We spent a few days at CHLA where Rory had an MRI and Exam Under Anesthesia (EUA) before she was officially diagnosed with Retinoblastoma, a very rare pediatric eye cancer of the retina, in her right eye. The tumor was so large that it was filled nearly the entire retina and was staged at Group E, the most advanced category. While we were given the choice to try systemic chemotherapy to shrink the tumor and possibly save the eye, the probability that her vision would return was so low and the probability that the cancer would spread was too high, we decided it was not worth the risk and chose to have her eye removed immediately. Had the cancer escaped the eye, it would have traveled on a direct path to her brain and bone marrow.
A week later, Rory’s right eye was enucleated. It was an outpatient procedure and we were home by that same evening. Rory bounced back so quickly, she was already helping me with barn chores again the next day! Just over a month later she received her prosthetic eye, which she will continue to be fitted for the rest of her life, but it doesn’t bother her one bit.
The pandemic started just a few days after she received her prosthetic. I am grateful for the extra time we’ve been given together when everything shut down. Rory and I spent hours together everyday outside with the horses. Louie truly helped both Rory and I process the trauma of her diagnosis and treatment, and the bond the two of them formed will never be broken.
Now, Rory and Louie are more attached to each other than ever. She rides him a couple times a week both in the arena and out on the trails, and has been learning to trot. She begrudgingly still shares him with me while we continue to pursue our dressage goals, but she has made it very clear that he is “Rory’s Louie” and will officially belong to her someday!
For the month of October 2021, we will be donating 9.5% of our sales from the Louie Collection to the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles Retinoblastoma Program.
To learn more about Retinoblastoma, please visit: www.knowtheglow.org