Watch: Woman who lost her eye to childhood cancer hopes to inspire others
A woman who lost her eye due to a rare condition has shared how she learnt to embrace her disability and now hopes to inspire others living with sight loss. Through wearing a range of striking and brightly coloured prosthetic eyes, she has developed her own 'unique' style.
Kelsey Ellison, 30, from London was was diagnosed with retinoblastoma when she was a toddler, a rare type of eye cancer that most commonly affects young children under the age of five.
When caught early, the condition can often be successfully treated. In Ellison's case, her treatment involved a surgical procedure to remove her eye just before her third birthday.
While she doesn’t have clear memories of the operation when her eye was removed or how it may have impacted her afterwards, Ellison says her parents tell her that it made her quite shy and withdrawn initially.
For years she hid the fact she had lost her eye by wearing a prosthetic to match her real eye, but she has now decided to embrace her differences and regularly opens up about her experiences on social media.
She now proudly shows off coloured and glittery eyes in her videos and regularly co-ordinates her prosthetic eye with her outfits. Ellison hopes that by sharing her story, she might help to inspire others facing the same difficulties.
But the singer and content creator says it's not always easy and while most people support her, others have posted cruel comments, telling her she isn't really disabled and calling her names such as "Cyclops".
"For years, I would hide the fact I had a fake eye and would wear a brown eye to match my real eye, but now I don't care and have so many different ones such as a black one, a green one and glittery ones too," she says.
"I tend to wear the green one the most so I have a brown eye and a green eye. That's when most people will ask me about my eyes as they are two different colours. Funnily enough, people usually don't ask me when I wear the black one."
Recalling her experiences of growing up with a prosthetic eye, Ellison says that while it never bothered her in school, when she got to college she found some people were horrible about it and she did experience some bullying.
"Now I am older, I am proud of it and will happily show it off," she says. "However, some people have made comments comparing me to Cyclops or Mike Wazowski (from the film Monsters Inc).
"They ask if I can see out of it, while others claim I'm not really disabled," she adds.
But Ellison says she has learnt to deal with the unpleasant comments.
"It doesn't really bother me now," she says. "I usually just ignore them but I'm also happy to educate people when they have questions.
"I think I look unique and people will remember me for it."
She also believes her experiences have taught her how to recognise those who are worth having in her life.
"Having one eye has made me realise the people who are decent and will speak to me," she explains. "If I had two eyes I think it would take me longer to realise if someone is a decent person or not. It's a good filter to see who is good in your life."
Since sharing her journey online, Ellison has been contacted by a company in America who have started sending her different eyes, which she describes as "really cool".
"I have so many now," she adds. "I used to get them for free on the NHS but I am being more experimental with them now."
What is retinoblastoma?
According to the NHS, Retinoblastoma is a rare type of eye cancer that can affect young children, usually under the age of five.
If it's picked up early, retinoblastoma can often be successfully treated. More than nine out of 10 children with the condition are cured.
Retinoblastoma can either affect one or both eyes.
Signs and symptoms of retinoblastoma include:
an unusual white reflection in the pupil – it often looks like a cat's eye that's reflecting light and may be apparent in photos where only the healthy eye appears red from the flash, or you may notice it in a dark or artificially lit room
a change in the colour of the iris – in one eye or sometimes only in one area of the eye
a red or inflamed eye – although your child will not usually complain of any pain
poor vision – your child may not focus on faces or objects, or they may not be able to control their eye movements (this is more common when both eyes are affected); they may say they cannot see as well as they used to
These symptoms may be caused by something other than retinoblastoma. But you should get them checked by your GP as soon as possible.
The recommended treatment for retinoblastoma will depend on the stage of the tumour. There are two possible treatment options for treating small tumours contained within the eye:
laser treatment to the eye (photocoagulation or thermotherapy)
freezing the tumour (cryotherapy)
The aim of these treatments is to destroy the tumour and in some cases, chemotherapy may be needed before or after these treatments.
Larger tumours will be treated with one or a combination of the following treatments:
brachytherapy – if the tumour is not too large, small radioactive plates called plaques are stitched over the tumour and left in place for a few days to destroy it, before being removed; radiotherapy to the whole eye may be recommended for larger tumours that have not responded to other treatment methods
surgery to remove the eye
For more information about living with sight loss visit Rnib.org.uk.
Additional reporting Caters.