“I’m just trying really to do something with it to help others be aware that childhood cancer does exist,” Maryann Oakley shared.
Eve Oakley was only 10 days old when she went through an emergency surgery, a medical crisis, and a six-month hospital stay. A physician examined Eve's eyes and found malignancies there. Retinal cancer called retinoblastoma was the cause of their diagnosis. Eve's twin Ella received the same cancer diagnosis a few days later. The Oakley family has encountered many difficulties as the twins, who are now 4 years old, continue to battle cancer on and off, but they want to spread awareness and inspire others. “I live a life full of hope for them, and I live a life (knowing) tomorrow isn’t promised,” their mom Maryann Oakley, 43, of Marysville, Pennsylvania, told TODAY.
Maryann Oakley's husband and she were shocked to find she was expecting fraternal twins while she was pregnant. When both twins eventually formed, the pregnancy appeared to be healthy after it initially appeared that just one would survive. Oakley underwent a cesarean delivery when she was 37 weeks pregnant with the girls. Eve began acting strangely around New Year's Eve 2017, which was only 10 days after the girls were born. “She was not eating, and she was just screaming,” her mom recalled. The tests revealed the origin of her symptoms—a twisted bowel. Her colon was partially removed by doctors, who also made an ostomy, a bodily hole that permits excrement to exit and into an external bag. Eve had a cardiac arrest when she was getting well.
Eve soon developed septic shock, her liver and kidneys started to fail, and she started passing blood when peeing. Seizures started happening to her. Her left eye had tumors, an indication of retinoblastoma when cancer cells developed in the retinal tissue, which was discovered during an eye test with her eyes dilated. Eve was being treated in a hospital that was not a retinoblastoma specialist, but they needed her to be stable first before moving her. Meanwhile, physicians advised Ella to get tested as well. "There was a lot going on", Oakley said. Since Eve's health was more fragile, Ella attended outpatient therapy while Eve remained in the hospital, which was 2.5 hours' drive away. For a while, Eve was on life support, and her parents alternated between caring for her and her sister.
Ella has been stable since August 2018, but Oakley said that because retinoblastoma grows as the eyes grow, she is still at "high risk for relapse." Ella still has "tiny" tumors in both eyes, but they've shrunk with treatment, so the family hopes they're "dead."
When Eve relapsed in March 2022, the family was dealt another curveball. Despite receiving treatment, she relapsed in November 2022 and began cryotherapy. Eve uses signs primarily to communicate and suffers from hearing loss. But that doesn't stop her from having a good time. “She’s outgoing and fearless".
In an effort to increase awareness of pediatric cancer, Oakley shares the twins' story on social media. She strives to be optimistic even when things are difficult. “Never give up. We have been dealt a bad hand of cards,” Oakley said. “I’m just trying really to do something with it to help others be aware that childhood cancer does exist.”
Cover Image Source: Instagram | Maryann Oakley