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Byron’s battle; Parents fighting to save their son’s sight

Byron Brown’s bright blue eyes shine but there is a potential they could lose their ability to see. His family is asking the community for some assistance as they seek to obtain proper medical care for the 21-month-old. Byron Brown’s bright blue eyes shine but there is a potential they could lose their ability to see. His family is asking the community for some assistance as they seek to obtain proper medical care for the 21-month-old. Tribune photo by Ilene Olson

Little Byron Brown has deep-blue eyes that mirror his pleasant disposition. But behind those beautiful eyes lurks a tumor that threatens the 21-month-old’s eyesight.

Fortunately, the tumor was found fairly early, and new medical technology makes it possible for his doctor, a specialist, to target chemotherapy directly to the tumor. There’s a good chance that Byron’s cancer will be cured.

But that doctor, ophthalmologist Amy Schefler, is in Houston, so Byron’s parents, Kai and Susan Brown of Powell, must take him there every three to four weeks for treatments.

This difficult medical journey began with concerns about Byron’s developmental delays. A doctor recommended an MRI to see if there were any abnormalities in his brain that might account for that.

While the MRI, performed on March 29, didn’t detect anything of concern in that respect, it did find something else: retinoblasoma, a rapidly developing cancer, behind his right eye. This form of cancer typically strikes very young children.

Susan Brown said Byron’s doctor is hopeful that, with treatment, his sight can be saved. Without treatment, his sight in both eyes, and even his life, could be threatened.

So began a long process, initially in Denver, to determine the type and exact location of the tumor, and the best way to treat it. Eventually, that led the Browns to Dr. Schefler in Houston.

Susan Brown said Dr. Schefler is able to inject chemotherapy into an artery that feeds the tumor, thereby targeting the tumor and sparing Byron the worst side effects of the therapy. Still, he’s been fussier than usual.

“He’s just not his happy self,” she said.

Byron had his second treatment in late May. Although it is a one-day treatment, testing and follow-up visits required him and his parents to stay in Houston for about a week. The therapy is working — the tumor had shrunk a little after the first treatment — but it is taking a toll on the family’s finances.

While Byron’s medical bills are covered by Medicaid, the Browns are struggling to keep up with the bills and still cover the cost of monthly travel and accommodations in Houston. Eventually, they hope to be able to stay in the Ronald McDonald House while they’re in Houston, but that will depend on availability.

The Brown family also is preparing for a move to Vernal, Utah, where Susan was hired recently for a teaching job. She finished her bachelor’s degree in elementary education in December. While she’s excited about her new job, the move adds another financial burden.

Susan Brown said an oncologist also is trying to find out if Byron’s condition is genetic and possibly could also explain some of his developmental issues.

“He’s not crawling, walking or talking,” she said. “But that will be figured out at a later time; we are just focusing on getting rid of this tumor.”

Several more treatments are likely, followed by additional trips to Houston to monitor Byron’s progress.


How You Can Help

A trust fund has been established to help the Brown family cover the cost of flights to and from Houston for Byron’s chemotherapy treatments, and to help with accommodations while they’re there.

Donations can be sent to Byron Brown, or the Brown family, at Basin Law Group, 117 N. Bent St. in Powell, where Kai Brown is employed.

As a fundraiser, the Browns also are selling black T-shirts with “Byron’s Battle” printed on them in orange. The beginning B and ending E are printed larger to spell “BE” in “Be strong.” To order online, visit


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