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Teen eye cancer survivor opens new Cirencester optician

Press Release   •   May 17, 2018 17:00 BST

CHECT ambassador Ruby Coward with ‘Vision Express at Tesco’ Cirencester store manager Deborah Wade.

The new ‘Vision Express at Tesco’ store in Cirencester has officially opened its doors, with a celebration led by teen eye cancer survivor, Ruby Coward.

As an ambassador for the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT) – a Vision Express charity partner – Ruby, aged 15, was on hand to mark Retinoblastoma (Rb) Awareness Week 2018 with an official ribbon cutting at the new Kings Meadow premises.

In 2004, when Ruby was 15 months old, she was diagnosed with Rb, a rare form of eye cancer, in both eyes after her mum noticed cause for concern.

“Just before Ruby’s first birthday, I saw she had a squint in her left eye and mentioned it to the health visitor, who said it was common in young children and should correct itself,” explained Janine, Ruby’s mum. “A few weeks later, though, we noticed a squint had developed in her right eye, so the health visitor made a non-urgent referral to the local hospital.”

Three months later, Ruby had an examination under general anaesthetic and was found to have large tumours in both eyes. She was diagnosed with Rb soon after. Janine said: “Luckily, the cancer had not spread anywhere else and we were reassured that children with Rb have a very high survival rate. We were shocked to learn that 15 months old is considered a late diagnosis of the disease and therefore chemo was the safest option at that stage.”

Ruby had six rounds of chemotherapy, which shrank the tumour in her right eye so that most of her sight was saved. Unfortunately, she has been left with very little vision in her left eye, and wears glasses now.

Since Ruby’s diagnosis, Janine has looked at photos of her as a baby and can see a noticeable white glow in her eyes – the most common indication of Rb, with a squint being the second most common symptom.

“Ruby has been so resilient and hasn’t let Rb stop her from doing anything she wants to do,” continued Janine. “We have had amazing support from CHECT and it’s nice to have families that are in the same place as you are - it’s a great support network.”

Vision Express was the first optician in the UK to roll out a protocol to ensure a quick and effective referral if Rb is suspected. The national optical retailer 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.

Deborah Wade, ‘Vision Express at Tesco’ Cirencester store manager said: “We were honoured to welcome Ruby and her mum to our store, to share their personal experience of eye cancer. It’s a great morale boost for the team to raise awareness of Rb, and of the amazing work CHECT does for those families affected.

“Many people don’t realise that eye tests at school are no longer mandatory and this is a perfect opportunity for Vision Express to raise awareness about the importance of regular eye exams for children.”

The Cirencester store is one of more than 200 launching across the UK in 2018, following Vision Express’ acquisition of Tesco Opticians at the end of last year.

The new stores showcase a purple-infused rebrand being introduced across the entire Vision Express network, which features a refreshed logo, striking purple and green colour décor, bright sofas and wooden flooring, delivering a modern, inviting and vibrant environment to encourage customers to feel at ease.

Vision Express CEO Jonathan Lawson added: ““We are incredibly grateful to the children and families from CHECT, for giving up their time to help us to raise awareness of Rb and eye health. The courage and determination that each of them shows never ceases to amaze me.

“This is a hugely exciting time for the Vision Express family, and we’re delighted to welcome new team members to the company and provide a seamless eye health service to former Tesco optical customers. Crucially, we’re pleased to now be able to offer our vision expertise in a convenient location to residents.”

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
  • Brake

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