Fundraiser held for ailing boy

By Michael-Allan Marion, Brantford Expositor

SIMCOE - Worshippers at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church want to help infant Lincoln Scott Balog beat retinoblastoma so he can see as much as possible of his future.

The Lifted UP trio filled St. Mary's hall on Sunday afternoon with southern and country Gospel refrains for the Little Warrior, Big Fight fundraiser.

The event will help Matt and Ruth Balog afford the medical expenses associated with taking their 10-month-old son Lincoln regularly to Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto for laser treatments to fight retinoblastoma, a cancer of the eyes.

Lincoln has two sisters, Sienna and Elise.

Although the family lives in Bright's Grove, a suburb of Sarnia, Matt Balog grew up in Waterford and still has strong family ties to the area. Members of the congregation rallied to put on the fundraiser when they heard about Lincoln's condition and the financial strain the family was enduring in the boy's fight against the cancer that is threatening to make him completely blind.

"It's going to be a long battle for Lincoln. He'll have to take treatments for the rest of his life," said Matt Balog.

Lincoln's retinoblastoma was identified when he was five months old after his parents noticed one eye was turning in. They took him to local physician, Dr. Ralph Teeple, who quickly diagnosed the condition as cancer.

"We were on our way to Sick Kids in Toronto within the hour," Balog recalled.

Lincoln is legally blind and has peripheral vision. But if the cancer was not beaten back he risked becoming totally blind.

Specialists gave Lincoln three rounds of chemotherapy but the treatment started to affect his hearing, so they switched to laser therapy. The protocol is done gradually in small increments so the cancer won't spread into his brain.

"There are isolated cases where laser treatments have opened up pathways to allow cancers into the brain," Balog said. "So they have to be delicate."

Lincoln is being treated by Dr. Brenda Gallie, an ophthalmologist who specializes in the procedure.

He will be watched closely until he is eight years old for the possible appearance of five other types of secondary cancers that he is at a higher risk of developing, his father said. If they don't appear, Lincoln will be going to Toronto for treatments for the rest of his life.

"It's never going to be clear sailing for him."

Balog is advocating that every child's eyes be checked before six months and regularly afterward.

"One in 15,000 children are affected by retinoblastoma. If we could have all children checked, think how many pairs of eyes we could save."