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West Lothian toddler’s brave battle with eye cancer revealed during relaunch of Edinburgh optician

Press Release   •   Aug 21, 2017 16:42 BST

L-R: Steven, Reiss, Lauren and Lewis Mulligan with Vision Express Fort Kinnaird store manager James Kirk

Lewis Mulligan, from Armadale, was just three months old when he underwent life-saving surgery to remove his right eye, following a cancer diagnosis. Now, the youngster’s mum has shared the family’s story at the relaunch of the Vision Express Fort Kinnaird store.

In 2016, Lewis’ parents sought medical attention for their young son after his mum, Lauren, noticed a ‘cat’s-eye’ reflection in one of his pupils and instantly knew something was wrong. The family were soon referred to Birmingham Children’s Hospital, where Lewis was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a rare form of eye cancer.

“My heart sank when I saw the reflection as I had been given a leaflet about retinoblastoma after having our first little boy, Reiss,” Lauren explained. “The morning of our hospital appointment, we watched while our tiny baby was put under anaesthetic to confirm the diagnosis.”

Diagnosed with cancer in both his eyes, the tumour in Lewis’ right eye was so severe, there was no other choice but to remove it. The tumour in his left eye was less severe and was treated on two separate visits to Birmingham Children’s Hospital. He later underwent further chemotherapy at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh as some of the cancerous cells from the right eye had spread to the layer of the eye where the blood supply is.

During the operation to remove his right eye, Lewis also had genetic testing, which revealed he has a chromosomal abnormality - chromosome 13q deletion syndrome - which was the cause of his retinoblastoma. This abnormality can sometimes mean other genes may have been lost or damaged, potentially causing some physical or developmental delays or disabilities.

“I had no idea what this syndrome was or what it meant for Lewis but once we were told what it caused, it made sense as he showed a lot of the signs,” Lauren continued. “Lewis' development is severely affected. He is still learning to sit unaided and he was around nine-months-old when he began to hold his head up independently.

“Because of this, we know Lewis will never be discharged from the hospital and he will be seen there throughout his entire life. There will be more professionals introduced as he grows up and although we don't know the extent of the 13q, we do know that Lewis will face challenges.”

Now 13-months-old, Lewis has eight-monthly check-ups as the risk of reoccurring tumours is very high but his parents remain hopeful that he is on the road to recovery. “Lewis is a very special little boy – he’s so young but he has gone through more than most of us have in our lifetime.

“Having been in the children's cancer ward we do consider ourselves incredibly lucky that we were able to take Lewis home and watch him flourish. We have a very positive attitude and celebrate every small thing Lewis accomplishes. His big brother, Reiss, adores him and he is a huge inspiration to a lot of people,” added Lauren.

As ambassadors for the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT), a charity partner of Vision Express, the Mulligan family were invited as special guests at the relaunch of the newly refurbished optical store in Fort Kinnaird. They were welcomed by store manager, James Kirk and the rest of the team, who have over 30 years’ combined optical experience with the national retailer.

James said: “Retinoblastoma is a condition we are very passionate about raising awareness of at Vision Express. It was a pleasure to have Lewis and his family with us to help us unveil our new-look store.

“We had a fantastic day celebrating and our newly refurbished store will allow us to continue providing current and new customers with the thorough and personal service Vision Express prides itself on.”

Patrick Tonks, chief executive of the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust, said: “Retinoblastoma is a rare and fast-growing eye cancer that affects babies and young children, mainly under the age of six. It can either impact one or both eyes and there are around 50-60 cases diagnosed in the UK every year – approximately one child a week.

“A diagnosis of retinoblastoma has a major impact on the whole family as well as the baby or child and so it is lovely for Lewis and his family to be able to share their story and open the Vision Express store. Our greatest thanks go to the Mulligan family for their work in raising awareness of childhood eye cancer.”

Vision Express has enjoyed an award-winning partnership with CHECT since 2010, using initiatives to raise awareness and drive donations for the charity.

Vision Express offers an eye test to best practice guidelines of the College of Optometrists (COO), with each Vision Express optometrist being a qualified eye health professional. To book an eye test at the Fort Kinnaird store, call 0131 657 5413, visit Unit 20A, Kinnaird Park, Edinburgh EH15 3RD.

or make an online enquiry at: www.visionexpress.com/book-eye-test/

For more information on retinoblastoma, please visit www.chect.org.uk

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 400 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 4,500 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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