A man who suffered seven years of headaches only discovered he had a brain tumour at a routine eye appointment.
Matt Voice, 40, from Lancing, West Sussex had been struggling with dizziness since he was 32, but became increasingly concerned when he began to suffer headaches and vision problems.
He believes he wouldn’t be here now if he hadn’t visited the optician.
In April 2020, while working as a technical mobile mechanic, Voice was taken to Worthing Hospital A&E, West Sussex, after he collapsed on a customer’s driveway, but the incident was put down to high blood pressure.
But when the dad-of-two continued to struggle from blackouts and excruciating headaches he decided to book himself an optician’s appointment after he also began seeing “black orbs”.
Voice was referred to Southlands Hospital eye clinic, West Sussex, after they spotted his optic nerve heads in both eyes appeared to be swollen.
Following further tests, Voice was shocked to be diagnosed with astrocytoma glioma – a type of brain cancer – in May 2020.
Having undergone a partial craniotomy, to remove 70% of the tumour on one side of his brain, Voice also had to endure chemotherapy and radiotherapy. His cancer is now under control.
“If I hadn’t pushed for my optician appointment I wouldn’t be here today,” he says of his diagnosis.
“It didn’t sink in when they told me I had brain cancer – I wasn’t expecting it at all.”
Voice credits the optician appointment for potentially saving his life.
“I’m so glad I went,” he says. “I was driving and had to pull over because my vision just went all blurry and I felt sick.
“But doctors kept saying it was my blood pressure.
“As my eyesight was getting worse, I pushed to get an optician’s appointment.”
Voice was seen by an optician in Worthing Specsavers who identified that he had papilledema – a swelling of the optic nervies – and referred him to a specialist at the hospital, who revealed he had a lesion on his brain.
After being referred to a consultant Voice was given his official diagnosis.
“I was told it was on the left and right side of my brain and that it would become aggressive,” he said.
In July 2020 Voice underwent a partial craniotomy followed by six weeks of extensive radiotherapy in August 2020.
Chemotherapy started in January 2021 but Voice only managed three rounds of the eight he was scheduled to have after becoming too ill to continue.
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Voice says his brain tumour journey has been difficult for the entire family, particularly his son Mason, 11, and daughter, Darcy, 15.
“It’s been hard for my children to see me like this,” he says. “I lost all my hair, and I could see the children looking at me differently.
“I’m still their dad but I can’t do anything with them anymore.
“It’s changed everything.”
While his cancer is now under control, Voice has been told the tumour could grow, which means he’ll likely need further treatment.
Currently he struggles with memory loss, mobility and co-ordination, which has seen him close his business and move back with his mum, Bev Gargate, 64, a part-time nurse.
“It’s frustrating,” he says.
“I worked my whole life as a mechanic, so I was very switched on.
“Now I struggle to remember something my mum has just told me or what the date is.”
Voice says it is now a case of watching and waiting to see if the tumour will grow.
“It’s horrible waiting for the results of the MRI to see if it has grown,” he adds.
“I just have to pray it hasn’t each time.
“I’m just glad I went to the opticians when I did, otherwise I don’t think I’d be here for my children.”
Commenting on Voice’s diagnosis Denis Youngman, a director optometrist at Specsavers’ Worthing store, says: “Matthew came to visit us in 2020, during the first lockdown.
“He complained of a number of odd symptoms, which had led to an A&E admission a few days earlier. A&E made a referral to routine referral to neurology, which would have had him waiting weeks. However, I felt his case warranted an urgent in-store examination.
“During the examination I found his vision to be reduced and, more importantly, the optic nerve heads in both eyes appeared to be swollen. As a result, I referred him immediately to the eye department in Southlands Hospital.
“Many of these cases turn out to be benign intra-cranial pressure, however Matthew called to inform me that it was a brain tumour and urgent surgery was planned.
“He recently booked in to see me recently and you can imagine how pleased I was to see Matthew making a good recovery.”
Additional reporting SWNS.