When something that’s usually rare happens once or twice, we typically dismiss it as coincidence. But what about when it occurs among four women all roughly the same age who went to school at the same university?
That’s the situation a quartet of former Auburn University students are facing as they battle an extremely rare cancer: ocular melanoma, a cancer of the eye. Though melanoma is most often thought of as a sun-related skin cancer, ocular melanoma attacks the pigmented sections of the eye and seems to have no connection with solar radiation.
It’s also extremely rare, afflicting only six out of every million people. That’s what makes its sudden appearance among four women in the Auburn, Alabama, area so striking.
“I was just seeing some mild flashes of light for, say, seven to 10 days,” Allyson Allred told CBS News as she described her diagnosis in 2001. “(The doctor) said, ‘Well, (your retina is) detached because there’s a 10-millimeter melanoma sitting on it.”
Two of Allred’s friends also ended up suffering from the disease, a fact that shocked Dr. Marlana Orloff of Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center in Philadelphia. “Most people don’t know anyone with this disease,” she stated.
“We said, ‘OK, these girls were in this location, they were all definitively diagnosed with this very rare cancer. What’s going on?’”
Experts have also discovered a similarly baffling cluster of ocular melanoma cases in Huntersville, North Carolina. But while they may not know what’s causing the disease, they’re still trying their hardest to save their patients’ lives.
Sadly, the treatment regimen is often horrific. Surgeons often have to remove the afflicted eye.
One of Allred’s acquaintances chose to keep her eye, and the cancer spread to her liver. For Allred, her cancer has returned nine different times, and doctors recently discovered it in a horrible location.
“Two days ago, (I) found out that it’s come back to my brain,” she explained. “So I’m actually gonna have radiation on my brain tomorrow.”
When asked by a CBS correspondent how she could possibly deal with such horrible circumstances, Allred gave an inspiring, faith-filled answer: “It’s totally the Lord, totally the Lord that has carried us through every step of it.”
Chilling and powerful, as is her hope that further medical funding will save others from the dark path she’s had to walk. If anyone deserves prayers and praise, it’s this brave Alabama cancer fighter.
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