Kate Foster was diagnosed with retinoblastoma as a baby and had her eye removed before her first birthday. Now, 28 years later, she looks back on her journey to achieve her dream of becoming a nurse, so she can support families just like hers…
I was 11 months old when I was diagnosed with retinoblastoma in my left eye, after many visits to the GP. The tumour was 0.8mm from my optic nerve and because it was so big I lost my eye and needed chemotherapy afterwards.
A few days after my surgery I returned home with no eye – my mam and dad were devastated but my older brother reassured them that I was still beautiful. I remind him regularly of this now!
After growing up and having numerous false eyes over the years I now have one I would say was pretty perfect. I have never let the fact that I have one eye define me, however it has been an influence in making me the person I am today.
Growing up with an artificial eye
When I was little my biggest worry was taking it out and showing my friends how cool it was, I stood up at nursery and told everyone why I had a different eye following questions from other kids in the class. I was never fazed.
As I got older that did change, kids can be cruel, so can teenagers and unfortunately so can adults. As a teenager I felt that having one eye made me different to everyone else – How would I ever get a boyfriend? Would anyone like me? Or would they be too worried about what other people would say if they did go out with me?
I left school at 16, and I began to build my life with the support of all of my family.
All I wanted to be was a nurse – I just wanted to care for people and make a difference to their lives. I wanted to be the nurse who everyone loved to have around, the nurse who always did their best. I wanted to support patients’ families through those heartbreaking and hard times, just like my family had faced.
Realising a dream
My life experiences gave me the determination and motivation to make my dream a reality. Thanks to the continuous support of my family, friends and partner who I wouldn’t change for the world, I succeeded in my dream and became a nurse nearly seven years ago.
My mam and dad are my rock, they picked me up when life got tough, wrapped their arms around me and reassured me it would be okay, they taught me how to be a better person.
They forever told me how beautiful was, until I started to believe them. They supported me through the good, bad and ugly times and the love I have for them is unconditional.
My brother is so brave. He stood up for me and supported me through my treatment and copious amounts of hospital visits, he never moaned about anything.
Falling in love
I met my partner Lee eight years ago, I remember telling him about my eye not long after we met and I was so nervous. He was not fazed in the slightest, my eye didn’t have any influence in his decision for us to get together.
He continues to support me every day, in every decision I make. He is my best friend. He gave me the confidence to believe in myself, he continues to believe in my ability and pushes me to always reach and succeed in my dreams.
I don’t know what I would do without my best friends, both Nicola and Stacey have continued to believe in me, support me and pick me up when the hard times come around.
I am now 28 years old, I own a house, drive a car, have made plenty of mistakes but learnt from them, have the best family and friends, the most amazing partner and I’m a nurse studying for a second degree in public health. I can honestly say having one eye hasn’t stopped me doing anything.
People still ask about my eye sometimes, and when I get the occasional cruel comment it does still hurt, but doesn’t that say more about them? And whether it be the fact I had a false eye or a huge spot they would always find something.
Don’t let retinoblastoma define who you are, dream big, there is nothing in this world that can’t be achieved. Always remember that everyone is fighting a battle we might not know anything about.
We all have our insecurities, but having one eye definitely makes me who I am, and honestly I would not change a thing about my life, because I wouldn’t be me.
I wouldn’t have the family I do, the friends I do, or my partner. I look at them every day and feel very lucky and grateful, and I thank my lucky stars I have them in my life.
If you’ve been affected by retinoblastoma, or you’re worried about it, we are here to help. Please visit our support page here to find out more and get in touch.