Eye Fight to Win

“Cancer.” That’s a word no parent should ever have to hear. So you can imagine how heartbroken Janai Bryand and her husband, Johnny Escobedo, were when their daughter, Sophia, was diagnosed with a rare type of eye cancer before she was even 2 years old.

It started with a routine eye exam during an 18-month well-baby check. Sophia’s pediatrician noticed an abnormality in her left eye and advised that they follow up with a specialist as soon as possible.

“My alarm bells went off in full force,” says Janai.

Soon after, she learned that Sophia had a rare type of cancer that affects the retinas in both eyes called bi-lateral retinoblastoma.

“The team inspired us with their incredible concern for Sophia.” - Janai Bryand

They were immediately referred to a specialist. “With both eyes affected, the doctor said he couldn’t risk removing her left eye. So instead, Sophia underwent months of aggressive targeted chemotherapy on both eyes,” Janai explains.

Around that time, Janai joined a Facebook group for parents of children with retinoblastoma. One of the moms suggested getting a second opinion from the pediatric oncology specialists at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco.

“We were able to get in right away, and the care Sophia received was so streamlined and coordinated,” recalls Janai. “The team met with us frequently and provided all kinds of information.”

Unfortunately, Sophia’s condition continued to worsen, and the tumors grew into an area within Sophia’s left eye that couldn’t be treated with chemo. The only choice was to have it removed.

“Thankfully, we were able to have the procedure at the children’s hospital in San Francisco, where we felt so comfortable,” says Janai.

Sophia’s progress since her surgery has been remarkable. “We are grateful to all of the donors who support the hospital,” says Janai, “and for the extraordinary care that our entire family received.”