Chichester mum tells of son’s rare eye cancer

Eight-year-old Owen Bishop was on hand to cut the ribbon to mark the new 'Vision Express at Tesco' Fishbourne Road store officially open
Eight-year-old Owen Bishop was on hand to cut the ribbon to mark the new 'Vision Express at Tesco' Fishbourne Road store officially open

A Chichester mum who has been campaigning for awareness since her son was found to have rare eye cancer, helped him open a new opticians outlet.

Owen Bishop, eight, an ambassador for the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT) was diagnosed with retinoblastoma (Rb) in both eyes in 2009.

He displayed the main symptoms of the rare cancer – a white glow in his eyes and a squint – along with persistent nystagmus, a condition of repetitive and involuntary eye movement. But, doctors failed to recognise the signs and gave him glasses.

By the time he was diagnosed, Owen had a detached retina and had lost the vision in his right eye. He underwent chemotherapy, cryotherapy and laser-therapy, to treat the cancer and halt the growth of tumours, as well as blood and platelet transfusions for infections caused by his treatment.

Katy said: “Owen was massively affected by his diagnosis. He developed a fear of people and transport was tough, especially trains because we used to get the train to the Royal London Hospital for his treatment. He feared libraries and groups of people – he just couldn’t speak as he was so socially scared.”

Despite all that he has been through, and with reduced vision and hearing – a result of the chemo – Owen has managed to overcome his obstacles and was given a CHECT Champion Award in honour of the courage and bravery he has shown.

Katy has campaigned for greater awareness of Rb and thanks to her hard work, information about the condition was published in the personal child health record, the red book, given to every parent following the birth of their child.

“If you suspect anything, persist and follow it up,” she said. “As a parent you know your children and you know when something is wrong. Eye tests should be part of their routine health check and parents should get them to an optician for one regularly.”

Owen helped open a new Vision Express at Tesco store at Fishbourne Road East, one of more than 200 launching across the UK in 2018, following Vision Express’ acquisition of Tesco Opticians at the end of last year.

Vision Express has had 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. It was the first UK optician roll out a protocol to ensure a quick and effective referral if Rb is suspected.