League City woman recovering from rare eye melanoma

A local mom has a dramatic story to share after recently undergoing treatment for a rare eye disease. She's thankful for her treatment at Houston Methodist Hospital and encourages others to not take good health for granted. 

Angela Collins is a busy wife, mom of three and a chemical engineer. She was working when something just seemed "off" with her typical 20/20 vision.  

"Blurry, out of focus vision in my right eye over the course of a week.  It went from I thought I had eye strain, to I lost all peripheral vision and I could only see through a narrow tube," says Angela. 

Emergency room doctors immediately referred her to a specialist.

"They confirmed I had a retinal detachment, but not from an injury but growth and pretty sure it was a malignant tumor.  I'm not even 40 yet.  I didn't have confirmation, but he was pretty sure it was cancer. We had to make sure it hadn't metastasized anywhere else, this cancer tends to go to the liver and then it gets pretty nasty, so I thought about my kids, family and just prayed and prayed that it hadn't gone anywhere else," says Angela.  

Melanoma is most often known as skin cancer, but Angela was diagnosed with uveal melanoma, a rare cancer in the eye.

"Most people have never heard of it, so when they're diagnosed, they're shocked. It is a very deadly cancer.  On average of all patients who have this, half do pass away from it. It is rare and pretty dangerous," explains Dr. Amy Schefler, an Ocular Oncologist with Houston Methodist Hospital.

That was overwhelming news for Angela and her family, but they soon got a positive update.

"Her cells are not an aggressive type.  The likelihood that some of those cells slipped out is less than 1 percent in the next 5 to 10 years for her. That is great news for her," smiles Dr. Schefler.  

"I feel extremely blessed about that!  It definitely shifts your perspective on what's important, a reset button so-to-speak, and I think it's going to have me make life changes," Angela says. "I'm a pretty healthy person, I've always been pretty healthy, but there's always something you can do better."  She says it has already brought her close family even closer.

Dr. Schefler performed surgery to remove Angela's tumor and administered targeted radiation therapy.

"We place a radioactive disk called a plaky therapy, a disc the size of a nickel with radioactive seeds actually glued in there, that is custom designed for the patient.  We pick and choose for the patient, so they get just the right amount of radiation, not too much, not too little to kill all the cells. It's placed on the surface, not outside, of the eye, right over the tumor," explains Dr. Schefler.

Angela kept the disk on for a week, covered by a patch, and then her treatment was complete. 

"I feel great now!  My vision is better than it was when this first went down.  I still don't have peripheral vision yet and my central vision is no longer watery and blurry, it's smoky or hazy.  It will come with time when swelling is down, so we'll deal with that at the time. The fact that I have any vision in that eye is a blessing."  As the swelling goes down, Angela's vision is expected to get even better.

For more information, visit https://www.cancer.gov/types/eye/patient/about-intraocular-melanoma-pdq and https://www.houstonmethodist.org/doctor/amy-schefler/.