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​Young eye cancer survivor unveils new premises for Oxford optician

Press Release   •   Jun 05, 2017 11:13 BST

L-R: Vision Express store manager Imari Serf, Ian Ellington, Tom Ellington and Sophie Ellington

Ten-year-old charity ambassador is guest of honour at Vision Express relaunch

A youngster from Buckinghamshire who battled a rare eye cancer when he was just two year’s old, was guest of honour this week, officially unveiling Vision Express’ new Oxford store.

Tom Ellington, now ten, was diagnosed with retinoblastoma as a toddler before having life-saving surgery, which involved removing his right eye.

Raising awareness of the condition in their roles as charity ambassadors for the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT) one of Vision Express’ nominated charity partners, Tom, dad Ian and sister Sophie, met with staff and customers, helped with a ribbon cutting and were given a tour of the new look Queen Street store.

Noticing at a young age that Tom had developed a squint, Tom’s parents took him for repeat visits to the doctor in 2009, before he was referred to a specialist and diagnosed with retinoblastoma.

Since his son’s diagnosis, Ian has been a trustee for CHECT and is now Chair of the charity. He explained at the relaunch that CHECT focuses on three main areas - research into the condition, supporting families who have recently been diagnosed and are going through the treatment process, and raising awareness of the symptoms.

Ian explains: “Children get squints a lot, but many parents don’t realise that they are one of the most common symptoms of retinoblastoma. Often, they’re not picked up by GPs as a symptom because eye cancer is so rare.

“I hadn’t heard of retinoblastoma before Tom’s diagnosis – I didn’t even know you could get eye cancer, especially not in children.

“We recommend that any parent with any worries regarding the eyes should always seek advice from a healthcare professional like an optician or GP. In a recent survey CHECT found that 25% of parents are now going to an optician first with any concerns about their child’s eyes.”

Tom’s diagnosis and treatment led to him having his right eye removed, to save his life, and he now wears an artificial eye. Ian explains however, that he is just like any one of his friends and hasn’t let it affect his childhood: “Tom loves cricket, running, and playing football - he plays for an under-10’s team and he seems to be getting on really well with judging the ball and things like that.”

Ian, Tom and sister Sophie, were welcomed into Vision Express by the Oxford store manager Imari Serf and her team, who together have over 100 years of combined optical experience.

Imari said: “It was great the Ellington family could join us to commemorate such a special day in the store’s history and for Tom to perform the official ribbon cutting.

“Tom is such an inspiring youngster and we hope by sharing his story we can educate more parents about the symptoms to look out for, while encouraging them to get their children’s eyes tested regularly.”

Vision Express has enjoyed an award-winning partnership with CHECT since 2010, using initiatives to raise awareness and drive donations for the charity. It was the first optician in the UK to roll out a protocol to ensure a quick and effective referral if retinoblastoma is suspected.

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 Oxford store call 01865 243567, visit 31 - 32 Queen St, Oxford OX1 1ER 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 more than 390 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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