Three young Georgia brothers all face same eye cancer diagnosis as their mother

The Rush brothers, Tristen, Caison and Carter, share a lot in common, including the same cancer.

Their mom Angie is a survivor, too.

"It's been a part of my life for as long as all my life, pretty much all my life," Angie Rush says.  "And, now, it's a part of my boys' life."

Pediatric oncologist Dr. Thomas Olson, Director of the Solid Tumor Program at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, is treating all 3 brothers, including the youngest, Carter, who is now 3.

"They have bilateral retinoblastoma, which is a tumor of the retina in the back of the eye," Dr. Thomas says.  "In about one-third of cases, it runs in families."

Angie Rush was diagnosed when she was just 6 weeks old.

"My eye was removed, and then I kept getting checkups," she says.  "Then, I think at about a year, another tumor was discovered in my left eye, and that's when it officially becomes bilateral retinoblastoma, when it's found in two eyes."

Angie and her husband Aaron knew any children they had would have 50/50 chance of inheriting the genetic mutation for retinoblastoma.

While they didn't expect all 3 boys to be diagnosed, they were ready, and urged doctors to screen each of their newborns for retinal tumors.

"If you know you have it in your family, you can catch it earlier, and there are more options," Dr. Olson says. " What they're doing is minimal chemotherapy and laser therapy. Those are for very small lesions.  For much bigger lesions, there is even more complex therapy."

Tristen, born prematurely, was diagnosed at three weeks with tumors in both eyes.

"The top priority would be to save his life, and then to save his eye, and then to save as much vision as possible," Angie Rush says.

Caison was just two or three days old, when doctors found tumors in both his eyes.

Still in the NICU, he underwent six months of chemotherapy and laser treatments.

"That definitely was scary, watching his tiny body go through everything," his mother says.

When, Carter, the youngest, was born in 2019, his retinas looked clear, at least at first.

"Nothing came up, and then we did genetic testing, and that came back positive," Angie Rush says.  "So, we knew that we had to keep getting him checked, until, until the tumors showed up."

Because they were all diagnosed very young, Dr. Olson says, they were all able to be treated without removing an eye.

Today, the Rush boys at 8, 5 and 2 and healthy.  

They still get checkups, but are done with treatment.

Like their mom Angie, cancer is just part of their story.

"It's something that has made me stronger, and I've gotten through it," Rush smiles.  "It makes me the person that I am, but it's not all that I am."