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Meet Gillian

Hi, I’m Gillian and I was diagnosed with cancer in my left eye in January this year. My symptoms started in December when I was Christmas shopping in London, I couldn’t focus very well but I just blamed it on tiredness, my age and I thought that my glasses prescription may have changed and needed replacing.

I needed to book an eye test at my usual opticians but things kept getting in the way of me doing this. So it was only by chance that I got checked out, I was supposed to be meeting a friend for lunch but he had to cancel at last minute. I was already on the high street so I popped in to my usual opticians for an eye test, the optometrist told me I had a lesion in my left eye and referred me to an eye specialist to be assessed. I was a bit anxious but decided not to think too much about it until I’d seen the specialist, but later that week when I was in the gym, my sight became significantly worse.

I was referred to the local primary care centre who then contacted the specialist eye cancer team. I knew then that something was seriously wrong and on 23rd January I was diagnosed with choroidal malignant melanoma in the left eye. It was all a bit of a whirlwind and I was given three options to choose from there and then; wait and see and be reviewed in a few weeks’ time, have a biopsy or have a radioactive implant.

After lots of discussions I chose to go for a radioactive implant, and the next day I was in surgery having the operation. The implant was left in for six days and I had to spend a week in hospital, the rest was a waiting game to see whether or not the implant had been successful.

Initially, the doctors were really pleased with the results and everything seemed to have gone to plan, however, a more recent review has revealed that the treatment hasn’t been as effective as first thought. I’m now waiting to have proton beam radiotherapy treatment but I’m trying to remain positive and not let it get me down as I have the utmost faith in the doctors.

I have had fantastic support from all my family and friends since my diagnosis, it’s been a tough time but they’ve really got me through. I try and make light of the situation and see myself as unique, this type of cancer usually only occurs in young children or adults over 70, so I’m a definite exception to the rule.

I can’t fault the care and attention I’ve received at the Eye Hospital in Liverpool, Professor Domata, Professor Heimann and the specialist nurse, Gillian Heber, in particular have been fantastic. Gillian holds a support group at the hospital and she encouraged me to attend, I was a little nervous at first but it was really helpful to chat to people in a similar situation to me.

I now want to raise the profile of this type of cancer as even though it’s relatively rare, it’s also overlooked by a lot of people. I want to encourage everyone to get their eyes checked regularly, particularly if they notice a difference in their vision.

If I could give someone in a similar situation to me any advice, it would be...

  • Join a support group and talk to others who may have had similar experiences or conditions
  • Make sure you have the support of friends or family
  • Trust your clinical team and feel confident to ask them the questions

These are my messages for Action on Cancer...

  • Get your eyes checked regularly - earlier diagnosis results in better outcomes
  • Don’t buy glasses over the counter particularly if you have never had a problem with your sight before – use and trust the opticians

Choroidal malignant melanoma (form of eye cancer) facts...

  • The cause of choroidal melanoma is unknown, however, there is some evidence that environmental factors may play a role
  • Choroidal melanomas may produce no symptoms initially
  • Fortunately, tumours of the eye are rare; however, in adults, choroidal melanoma is the most common intraocular malignancy
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