OKLAHOMA CITY - It doesn’t take long for 2-year-old McKinley Norton to make friends in the playroom area of Jimmy Everest Cancer Center.
The blur of energy climbs into a kids' sized toy car, and she is off to the races with her new friend, who is a fellow patient.
McKinley doesn't have any hair, but she is also missing her left eye, which she lost in her fight with cancer.
“I started noticing that she would start walking sideways,” said her mom, Kourtney Norton. “I thought something is going on. She's not really walking with her left side. She's feeling around."
Kourtney said McKinley’s pediatrician mistook the eye tumor for a simple eye infection at first.
But, Kourtney’s persistence that something was not right with her little girl eventually earned her a key referral to an eye doctor.
That medical journey eventually wound up at Jimmy Everest Center for Cancer.
“She had a very large tumor in her eye, so essentially she couldn't see out of one of her eyes,” said John, McKinley's father. "Everything hit me at once when they said tumor, and I just looked at her and started crying."
In fact, pediatric oncologist Dr. Ashley Baker said the one centimeter tumor had already blinded McKinley’s left eye and extended into her optic nerve.
That meant she required surgery to remove the entire eyeball.
She’s now receiving chemotherapy, as well.
“It's the most common type of eye cancer, but it's still rare. In the entire U.S., there are maybe 300 cases diagnosed a year, so we'd expect to see five to 10 cases in Oklahoma each year," Baker said.
As only kids can, McKinley has already adapted to life with just one eye.
She grabs a notebook and starts happily scribbling inside it.
Watching her at work, it’s impossible to tell she only has one eye.
“They made it match perfectly. It has a suction cup to pop it in there. It fits on the ball, so it doesn't move," Kourtney said.
Kourtney said she and her husband John have been so pleased by the treatment McKinley has received at Jimmy Everest.
“The people are amazing. They’re nice. They’re just good people,” John said.
Kourtney and John can’t see their little girl’s future, but she’s skipping there, full steam ahead.
“It doesn’t seem to affect her at all,” John said. “She runs, and plays and laughs like any child.”
If you’d like to help kids like McKinley fight cancer, your donation to Jimmy Everest Cancer Center will be very much appreciated.