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Youngster fighting eye cancer joins Vision Express to officially open new Berkshire opticians

Press Release   •   May 17, 2018 19:00 BST

L-R: ‘Vision Express at Tesco’ Reading West store manager Emily Palethorpe, Tyraah Bell-Lama and mum Jade Bell

Three new ‘Vision Express at Tesco’ stores have officially opened their doors in Berkshire, with celebrations led by four-year-old Tyraah Bell-Lama, who has battled a rare and aggressive eye cancer.

As an ambassador for the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT) – a Vision Express charity partner – Tyraah was on hand to mark Retinoblastoma (Rb) Awareness Week 2018 with official ribbon cuttings at the new Portman Road, Napier Road and Sandhurst premises.

Tyraah’s mum Jade knew something wasn’t right with her young daughter when she noticed she had a slight squint and a white glow in her right eye in family photos. After taking her to their local GP, she was soon referred to the Royal London Hospital. There, on Christmas Eve 2014 and aged just eight months old, Tyraah was diagnosed with Rb, a rare and aggressive eye cancer.

“Something inside me knew straight away that’s what Tyraah had and I burst into tears,” said Jade. “As a parent, sometimes I think you just know. But, although I already knew in my heart that Tyraah had retinoblastoma in one of her eyes, it was still a shock to hear the words out loud when she was diagnosed.

“Christmas Day that year was really strange. We went to my nan and granddad’s house and everyone was very subdued. There just wasn’t anything to celebrate and at that point we had no idea what the future held.

“Things moved very quickly after the diagnosis and Tyraah had her first chemo treatment just three weeks later.” In the end, to save her eye, and her life, she needed six rounds of chemotherapy followed by cryotherapy and laser therapy.

“Tyraah is now on the right track, with regular checkups showing improvements in sight in her right eye,” continued Jade. “She has always been a smiling, happy child, who loves everybody and everything. You really wouldn’t know that she has been through all of this. She is totally different now – she absolutely loves going to nursery and playing with others and is a real people person.

“Before, I wouldn’t have thought of an eye test being that important, but I now know you should never put off anything as important as that. If I hadn’t taken Tyraah when I did, she would have had to have her eye removed. I don’t think there’s enough awareness of Rb or how parents should deal with the diagnosis so it’s great to see Vision Express and CHECT working to make parents more informed.”

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.

Emily Palethorpe, ‘Vision Express at Tesco’ Reading West store manager said: “We were honoured to welcome the Tyraah and her family 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 let people know about the importance of regular eye exams for children.”

The Reading West, Napier and Sandhurst stores are three of more than 200 launching across the UK in 2018, following Vision Express’ acquisition of Tesco Opticians at the end of last year. Another ‘Vision Express at Tesco’ outlet has also opened in nearby Slough, on Brunel Way.

The four 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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