A Norwich family is trying to defy the odds, as their two 9-month-old twins were diagnosed with potentially deadly eye tumors.
At just 9 months old, twins Cayden and Carter's happiness shines bright, but behind the innocent smiles and the playful coos, lies physical pain and a struggle that many of us will never experience.
The twins were born prematurely at 34 weeks. Because of that, physical therapy became part of their routine, and it was there, where doctors picked up on something odd.
"I'm not seeing his eyes receiving any light or can see anything in his left eye," said mom of the twins, Tayla Barker.
Doctors told Barker to take them to children's hospital in Boston, where just two weeks ago, they got the diagnosis that changed this family forever.
Both children are battling eye tumors.
"He's got retinal blastoma, which is a cancer in the eye, and I was like, 'excuse me, what'," Barker said.
She delved into the disease and got scared when she learned Cayden's tumor was the largest on the scale.
"A, B, C, D, E. E being the largest," Barker said.
Even though they have a 5- and 9-year-old, the young parents were confronting brand new challenges and making life-changing decisions like whether or not to remove a body part from their son, and they had to choose quickly.
"We had to sit down and really think about what was going to save his life because if that 'E' tumor didn't get killed by the chemo, it was sitting on top of his optic nerve which was connected to the brain so if it started to travel through that nerve and get to his brain, brain cancer you don't come back from," Barker said.
Cayden's left eye was removed this week. Then, it was Carter's diagnosis. Doctors found his sight is also in jeopardy.
"He has three tumors in his right eye and one in his left eye," Barker said.
On that A-E scale, mom says Carter's tumors are a 'C.' Next week, he begins chemotherapy to save his sight.
"If the chemo doesn't kill the tumors, he could lose his right eye," Barker said.
Both mom and dad still don't know how the tumors formed and because they're so young, the twins couldn't alert their parents that something was wrong, but here they are, just 9 months old, already in a fight for their life.
"The doctor said he's been without vision in that eye for at least two or three months. He (Cayden) doesn't even know the difference, but I do and I always will," Barker said.
Tayla is a paraeducator at Norwich schools and dad Angel works at a restaurant. Both of their lives have been put on hold as they fight for their sons.
Weekly trips to Boston and the medical bills are piling up.
Strangers from around the state are contributing to a GoFundMe page, which can be found here.
Meanwhile, mom Tayla is confident this struggle will form an unbreakable bond between these twins.
"I'm going to need him to be his eyes when he gets bigger," Barker said.
Later this month, there will be a fundraiser dinner for the family in Gales Ferry.