Cathy Woodstock was so determined to raise awareness of retinoblastoma after her little girl Kitty’s cancer battle that she signed up for a charity trek through the Sahara desert. She shares her story…

My daughter Kitty was nine weeks and three days old when she was diagnosed with retinoblastoma.

I first spotted that there was a problem when she was just three weeks old – I could see through her pupil in her right eye and she would cry if she was under bright lights. Several people kept telling me that I was imagining it and that there was nothing wrong but I stuck to my guns and asked the GP to check Kitty’s eyes at her six-week check.

A referral was made immediately and within 10 days we were at the Royal London Hospital for a preliminary check of her eyes. We were asked to bring Kitty back two days later, on 5 June 2013, to be examined under general anaesthetic and they found a tumour in one of her eyes. Due to its size, it was felt that she should have her eye removed ASAP.

Treating Kitty’s retinoblastoma

Kitty’s enucleation took place a week later, when she was just 10 weeks old. The difference in her was instant – she was happy and feeding better than she ever had before. Her recovery exceeded all our expectations and she was off all pain medication within 48 hours of leaving hospital.

The Childhood Eye Cancer Trust was a huge support to us and three months after Kitty’s diagnosis, I completed the Thames Path 25k challenge from Putney Bridge to Hampton Court to raise funds. Just six weeks later we found out that Kitty’s cancer had returned in her other eye. She had cryotherapy treatment and was in remission for 14 months but she relapsed again in 2015. Tests have confirmed that Kitty is a genetic carrier, which means she has a 50% chance of passing Rb onto her children.

Kitty is currently doing really well but it is absolutely vital that we raise awareness of this rare but highly treatable cancer to make sure that another child doesn’t lose their eye or sight as a result of a late or missed diagnosis.

That’s what inspired me to sign up for the Sahara Desert Trek – not just to fundraise for CHECT (although it is a big bonus) but to improve awareness of retinoblastoma.

Heading to the Sahara Desert

The Sahara trek was amazing! The first day of trekking was a little cold and windy but by the end of it we had all bonded into this great team.

What our chef, Omar, could cook with a one burner camping stove was fantastic. Playing drinking games in the middle of the desert without the drink was… memorable. Although I didn’t find the trek too hard initially, on the third day an old injury flared up so I missed about three hours of trekking and it was decided that I shouldn’t continue to sustain more damage.

I managed to complete 32 out of 38 miles and the whole experience was a once in a lifetime – the memories and fun shall remain with me forever.

If you’re reading this and are feeling tempted to sign up I’d say go for it, it’ll be an adventure that you never forget.

Take part in an overseas challenge

If you’ve been inspired by Cathy, why not sign up to your own overseas challenge and help us in the fight against retinoblastoma?

Visit our charity overseas treks page for more information and to register your place.