SPOTLIGHT: Boy doesn't let 'bad eye' slow him down

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MORTON, Ill. (AP) — As 3-year-old Beckham Zobrist shakes his shaggy blond hair from his face, his left eye fixes on the Play-Doh in front of him while his right eye's movement lags.

Beckham wears a prosthetic right eye after his was removed in June because of retinoblastoma, an aggressive form of eye cancer that often infects infants and toddlers.

Friends of the Zobrist family planned a fundraiser to help offset the medical and travel expenses from Beckham's "bad eye," as he calls it, on Nov. 17 in Morton.

Almost five months after his surgery, Beckham is recovering, roughhousing with his big brothers and sneaking into the stash of leftover Halloween candy when his parents aren't looking. But the cancer cells that still cling to the back wall of his eye socket could start multiplying any time, causing a tumor.

"We're just trying to get life back to normal, the way normal was five months ago," said Erin Zobrist, Beckham's mom.

Before the illness, Beckham was a carefree kid. He loved trains, superheroes and just about anything one of his big brothers did.

But he was gradually losing sight as his right eye filled with cancer. His parents noticed what looked like tissue floating in his pupil, so they took Beckham to see a doctor.

"We just went in thinking that something was up. I didn't think cancer," Beckham's dad, Nick Zobrist, said. "He (the doctor) came in a little after 12, and just sat down and told us it was serious, that he had cancer and we needed to get to Philadelphia as soon as possible."

Five days later, Beckham's eye was removed at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Doctors told his parents if the cancer had grown another month, it would have spread to his brain.

"Right now it seems like it happened forever ago," Nick Zobrist said. "The blessing of finding out and having to go right away and all of that happened in a week, is we were in such parental mode that it was just a fog."

The Zobrists brought Beckham home to find their yard filled with balloons and a welcoming party for the tired little boy.

At the time, Beckham wasn't interested, but a few short hours later the rejuvenated child ran around the yard, popping as many balloons as possible.

"He's still Becks," Erin said. "He is what gets us through, outside of the Lord. He's just so strong.

To his three brothers - Brody, 9, Cade, 8, and Trae, 6 - Beckham never changed. He's still the baby of the family and gets the top spot in every dog pile.

"The first time I saw him, I was like 'He's going to look different,'" Brody said. "Now he's back to normal, pretty much. He doesn't have an eye patch on that covers half of his face."

For two months, Beckham wore eye patches decorated with lizards, flames and camouflage. Now he wears a prosthetic, an acrylic lens painted to match his big, blue left eye.

"It was an oversized, white contact, is what it looked like," Nick Zobrist said. "They put an eye on that."

But most of the time, Beckham's family doesn't even notice what he calls his "bad eye."

"It's all better. It looks like it was his normal self again," Cade said.

Despite Beckham's relatively normal lifestyle and the loving support of three big brothers, regular tests and MRIs are a reminder that his battle hasn't ended.

"It's still very sad to us, and the uncertainty with that cancer still sort of looming there, it's got a heaviness to it," Erin Zobrist said. "We're just one day at a time."

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