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Why I wanted to show my appreciation to those that treated my eye cancer

As a glasses wearer, I have always attended regular two yearly appointments at my local opticians in Horsham, West Sussex, and I considered a visit in 2011 like any other.  I had the usual assessment and photograph taken of the back of my eyes and I was told by the optician that they had noticed something in my left eye that would need monitoring. One year later, I returned to the same opticians for a check-up and it was decided at that point to refer me to an ophthalmologist, Miss O’Sullivan, at East Surrey Hospital.

Miss O’Sullivan explained what the optician had seen and that it could be either a freckle or a tumour and that they would need to monitor it every six months. The monitoring involved taking measurements and photographs of the back of my eye. On one appointment, I was informed by Miss O’Sullivan that the freckle was growing and that she suspected it was a tumour and explained that I would need to be referred to a specialist centre in Liverpool for further investigation and possibly treatment.  Obviously, I was worried by this suspicion and what was going to happen. Naturally, I hoped it would have been a freckle and the dark cloud that had hung over me for the last year would disappear.    

With trepidation, I received an appointment to attend the Liverpool Ocular Oncology Centre in St Paul’s Eye Unit, at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, in 2012 where I was seen by Professor Bertil Damato. My worst fears were soon confirmed; it was a melanoma, a type of cancer that can appear in the eye. Professor Damato was really good in the way that he explained the diagnosis and also the three treatment options that were available to me. He and his team were very much involved with the decision-making process and answered all the questions I had. With all the information I have been received, I decided to have the Proton Beam Radiotherapy in Clatterbridge Hospital, on the Wirral.


"The treatment was a huge success and the dark cloud disappeared."

All was well with my eye until 2016 when I noticed what can be described as a stream of cobwebs in my left eye and I returned to St Paul’s Eye Unit under the care of Professor Heimann. He explained that it was a haemorrhage in my eye and that I needed an operation to treat it. Once the treatment was over I was again continually monitored.

During these treatments I had been impressed with the care that I had been given.  The service really is good. I always felt that they were focusing purely on me, no matter how busy the clinic was and they instantly instilled a sense of confidence in their ability and that reassured me; so much so, I decided to make Prof Heimann’s Eye Tumour Research Fund my charity during my Year as Captain of the Cottesmore Veterans Golf Section in 2017.

I realised that this is a small charity that would best benefit from the charity monies which our section could raise. The majority of monies were raised by two golf competitions that I helped organise - Our Seniors Charity Open in July and the Cottesmore Pro-Am in September.

I unfortunately could not play golf for most of the 2017 season because of a golfing accident in January 2017 where I fractured my knee cap. However, my captaincy year was successful and I raised £3400 for the charity. I can’t thank the Cottesmore club, members, visiting golfers and the sponsors enough for their support in helping to raise this money. A lot of people think research is funded by the NHS, but it isn’t.  Without support and the donations that the Eye Tumour Research Fund receives, much of the research, that has helped me and others, just simply wouldn’t happen.  I would urge everyone to help in whatever way you can so that these specialists can continue to improve eye tumour diagnosis and treatment.    

I am delighted to say that my eye is good, my life has returned to normal and I am even playing golf now. 

Alex Henderson

Professor Heinrich Heimann with Alex