The mum of a young eye cancer survivor is joining Vision Express this Retinoblastoma Awareness Week (13-19 May 2018), in raising awareness of the condition which threatened her daughter’s life – as new research reveals two thirds of parents with children aged six or under have never taken them to get their eyes checked.
Glasgow youngster, Eliza Thomas was diagnosed with the rare eye cancer, retinoblastoma (Rb) in 2015 when she was three years old, after her mum, April noticed she had a worsening squint and took her for an eye test at their local Vision Express.
“We weren’t really expecting anything to be seriously wrong,” explained April, who moved with her family to Glasgow from Westminster, London in 2016. “But, when the optometrist examined her, she saw what looked like a tumour growing in her eye and told us to take her to hospital immediately.”
The worried family soon received the news they had feared the most – Eliza had eye cancer and had been losing the sight in her left eye for months without anybody knowing. Unfortunately, the diagnosis came too late for the tumour to be treated by chemotherapy or laser therapy, and the family were told the only way to save her life was to remove her left eye.
“The day of the surgery was very emotional for all of us,” continued April. “I went with her into theatre and stayed with her until they put her to sleep. Then, as soon as I left, I cried my eyes out because I knew it was the last time I would see her with both her eyes.
“People always commented that Eliza had the most beautiful eyes, so the fact she was having one removed was devastating. But, at the same time, I also felt relief and hope that this operation would get rid of the cancer and save her life.”
Luckily, the operation was successful, and Eliza was fitted with an artificial eye – which she calls her ‘magic eye’ – a few weeks later. Three years on, she is doing well. She now has regular check-ups every six months to monitor her progress and vision.
As part of Retinoblastoma Awareness Week 2018, and three years on from her diagnosis, Eliza, now six, and her mum were invited back to the Vision Express store where Eliza was first referred, to highlight the importance of regular eye tests for children and film a short video to raise further awareness. View it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7-RKiOb2qo
Izzy Sayam, Vision Express optometrist, said: “Luckily for Eliza, just by her having a routine eye test, we were able to detect her cancer early on and get it treated before it spread.
“If you notice your child’s eyes are turning in or out, it’s really important to get them checked out by a GP or optician because that can be an early warning sign or a problem. Another important warning sign is if you take a photo of your child’s eye and there is an absence of red reflex or you see a white reflection.”
Joining forces with Vision Express for the week is charity partner, the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT). Patrick Tonks, chief executive of the charity, said: “Our new research has revealed 66% of parents with young children aged six and under have never taken them to get their eyes tested and over 50% have never heard of Rb.
“This week, we are urging all parents to be aware of the symptoms and to have their child checked out if they have any concerns at all.”
Vision Express has enjoyed an award-winning partnership with CHECT since 2010, using initiatives to raise awareness of Rb and drive donations for the charity, so they can help more families affected. It was also the first optician in the UK to roll out a protocol to ensure a quick and effective referral if Rb is suspected.
Around 50 to 60 cases of Rb are diagnosed each year and while 98% of those diagnosed will survive, they may face having an eye removed, like Eliza, or have lasting vision impairment issues.
Children’s sight can be tested at any age, and it’s recommended that they see an optometrist before they start school and begin learning to read. With eyes being fully developed by the time youngsters are eight years old, any sight defects that have gone undetected by that time are largely irreversible. All children under the age of 16, or under 19 and in full-time education, are entitled to a free eye test and a contribution towards glasses or lenses on the NHS.
To book an eye test at your local Vision Express store, visit www.visionexpress.com/book-eye-test/
 Survey commissioned by the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust and carried out by MMR Research, 2018
About Vision Express
Vision Express is one of the largest optical retailers in the UK and part of GrandVision, the global leader in optical retail operating in more than 40 countries, spanning over 6,500 stores and online.
With almost 600 stores nationwide, Vision Express first opened its doors in Newcastle in 1988. Built on a passion for the profession, it has gone from strength to strength, driven by a commitment to unparalleled customer service and providing the best individual optical care, the right product and great value. Customers can select from a vast range of genuine designer brands and the latest technology lenses, through to complete glasses from £39.
With around 6,000 employees, Vision Express makes a significant difference to the communities it operates within, and the organisations it chooses to support. As part of its commitment to Vision. Taken Seriously, and as a responsible and caring retailer, Vision Express is proud to partner with a range of healthcare charities, which have touched the lives of customers and teams. These companies provide vital support to people affected by vision-related conditions. They are part of the Vision Express Charity Project and include:
- Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT)
- International Glaucoma Association
- Macular Society
- Stroke Association
- Temple Street University Hospital