‘Inspirational’ Crouch End girl, 7, awarded for helping others with artificial eyes after cancer battle

Erin Gentry

Erin Gentry - Credit: Archant

An inspirational seven-year-old who had her eye removed because of a rare form of cancer has won a national award for helping others.

Erin Gentry receives her CHECT Champion Award Certificate. Erin was nominated by Gemma Melisi, the p

Erin Gentry receives her CHECT Champion Award Certificate. Erin was nominated by Gemma Melisi, the play specialist at the Royal London Hospital, for the help she gives to other children at the hospital's eye club. Erin teaches the children who are not confident with their artificial eye. She was given the award by CHECT support worker Lesley Geen during a special assembly at her school. - Credit: Archant

Erin Gentry was diagnosed with retinoblastoma (Rb) at the age of two, and needed lifesaving surgery followed by chemotherapy.

She now wears an artificial eye, and dedicates a lot of her time to helping other children in the same predicament.

Erin teaches youngsters how to clean and fit their artificial eyes, and her efforts have been recognised by the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT).

Her mum, Tamzin Caffrey, 42, said: “The doctors discovered that Erin couldn’t see out of her left eye at all which was a complete shock.

“We’d had no idea that anything was wrong.

“Suddenly little things started to click into place – for example, Erin had been at a pirate party a couple of weeks before and had refused to wear the eye patch, getting quite upset.

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“We now realise that they had put it over her good eye so she couldn’t see anything at all.”

And she added: “It’s very hard to accept that your beautiful, perfect child is going through something like this and you just lurch through each day, getting by as best you can.

“But Erin got through it with a smile on her face which put us grown-ups to shame.”

Erin, of Rathcoole Gardens in Crouch End, was named a CHECT Champion.

Gemma Melisi, a play specialist at the Royal London Hospital, said: “Erin is an amazing teacher and loves to help the other children.

“Without people like her, Eye Club simply wouldn’t work.”

Recalling how her daughter decided she wanted to help others, Tamzin said: “We tried to encourage Erin to take her eye out, wash it and put it back in every week but it took years before the tears stopped.

“Then one day, about two years ago, we were at a hospital appointment and she just took it out herself as if it was no big deal.

“It was the first time she’d done it and was a turning point for Erin. Once she got to the stage where she could confidently handle her eye herself, Erin wanted to teach other children too.”

CHECT chief executive Patrick Tonks said: “Erin is a true inspiration to us all.

“Not only has she overcome her own challenges, she has used her experience to help other young cancer survivors, something which will have a huge impact on their confidence.

“We are delighted to present her with this award.”