Atlanta Parents Left 'Overwhelmed' After All 3 of Their Sons Are Diagnosed with Same Eye Cancer
Within a five-year period, Tristen, Caison, and Carter Rush were all diagnosed with Retinoblastoma
A Georgia family is dealing with unimaginable circumstances after all three of their sons were diagnosed with the same type of cancer.
Tristen Rush was just four weeks old when his parents, Aaron and Angie Rush, learned that he was diagnosed with Retinoblastoma in 2015, according to a GoFundMe page set up by Aaron’s mom Jeanne Rush on the family’s behalf.
But that was only the beginning of what was to come for the Rush family, as the Marietta parents welcomed two more boys after that year — Caison in 2017 and Carter in 2019 — and both were also diagnosed with the eye cancer, which forms in the retina during early childhood.
Aaron and Angie are now dealing with the astronomical medical expenses that come with treating three children battling cancer while their family continues to push for more funding for childhood cancer research, NBC affiliate WXIA-TV first reported.
“[More funding] would lead to less side effects, possibly less time for kids being in the hospital and more time for them to be kids,” Angie said, according to NBC affiliate WTHR. “Just more effective treatment, so they can get better.”
After Tristen was diagnosed in 2015, Aaron and Angie spent their days taking their son to the Children’s Hospital of Atlanta for monthly chemotherapy treatments, Evaluations Under Anesthesia (EUA), MRIs, and laser treatments, the GoFundMe stated.
Two years later, they welcomed Caison but the baby was born with Retinoblastoma, which prompted “the cycle of treatments, EUAs and MRIs” to begin again, according to the GoFundMe.
Unfortunately, things only got worse this month when Carter, who was born cancer-free in July 2019, learned that he also had two tumors in his eyes.
“They are about to embark on this cancer journey for the third time,” Jeanne wrote on the GoFundMe page. “Carter will begin 6 months of chemotherapy and continued laser treatments to keep the tumors at bay.”
With the third diagnosis, the family spoke to doctors and learned that the Retinoblastoma can be hereditary, especially since Angie lost her left eye as an infant, WXIA-TV reported.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, researchers estimate that one-third of all retinoblastoma diagnoses are hereditary and caused by mutations in the RB1 gene, which is a tumor suppressor gene. Though rare, Retinoblastoma is often curable when diagnosed early and treated promptly.
“The dangers are that the tumors can completely cover the eye in which you would have to remove your eye because you don’t want the cancer to spread,” Angie told WTHR.
RELATED VIDEO: Cookies for Kids’ Cancer Funds Cancer Treatments by Encouraging Everyone to ‘Be a Good Cookie’
To cope with medical expenses, the Rush family has sold their home and moved in with relatives to save money, according to the GoFundMe. Still, that hasn’t prevented some financial struggles, including meeting their insurance deductible just one month into the new year, WTHR reported.
“They’ve met it every year for the last five years,” Aaron’s mom, Jeanne, explained to the outlet. “They’ve sold their home and moved in with Angie’s parents [to save money to pay for medical bills.]”
Jeanne has also been traveling from her home in Crawfordsville, Indiana, to Atlanta to help the parents care for the boys, whose strength and courage she pointed out as admirable.
“They are warriors,” Jeanne explained to WTHR. “I go with them to the hospital many times and they get IVs, they get drops in their eyes and they are just warriors.”
Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE’s free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.
In addition to selling their house, the Rush family has been relying on the GoFundMe page for financial assistance. Since it was created on Jan. 14, the fundraiser has brought in over $10,000.
“…the ‘unknowns’ of dealing with cancer are stressful enough without the added financial stress associated with the numerous doctor visits, hospital stays, and missed time from work,” the page reads. “Please keep this family in your prayers as they face each new challenge associated with childhood cancer head-on.”
As Carter approaches his next chemotherapy treatment on Feb. 17 — the second of six treatments — the Rush family is urging the federal government to allocate more from its cancer research budget towards pediatric cancer research. Currently, only 4 percent of the funds are allocated to pediatric cancer research.
But above all, they’re just feeling grateful that the treatments have not yet taken a major toll on Carter’s cheerful mood.
“The fact that he is happy most of the time and he’s just living his life is a wonderful blessing for him and us too,” Angie told WTHR.