£10 test at Stratford Specsavers saved my life from brain tumour
A SIMPLE £10 eye scan saved not only Matt Beacham’s eyesight but possibly his life.
The 55-year-old from Stratford thanks his lucky stars every day now after a scan revealed he needed urgent medical attention and, after various tests, a nine-hour operation to remove a tumour.
Matt admits he ignored the warning signs and put his dizzy spells and constant headache down to getting old when the reality was he had a tumour the size of a golf ball growing in his head.
Even his seven-year-old Doberman, Zeb, had tried warning Matt about the cancerous growth by licking and sniffing his head when they were sat in the car after their daily walk.
Matt did seek some medical advice – he visited the doctor after he experienced a ‘pulsing noise’ in his right ear but nothing showed up.
When the symptoms persisted, he decided it was time to get his eyes tested and booked to see an optician at Specsavers in Stratford.
Matt told the Herald: “I felt dizzy and had headaches but just thought at the age of 55 I was getting old. I was getting a bit squinty and I’d ignored the reminder letters from my opticians, Specsavers, saying that my eye examination was due, so I thought I’d best get my vision checked in case I needed some new specs.”
At Specsavers the optometrist director, Andrew Eaves, carried out a full eye examination, which included using an OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography) machine which provides a detailed structural scan of the eye – it costs £10.
Matt, the founder of the Carriages Café, added: “It never really occurred to me that it would be anything more than a change in prescription and so when the optometrist director, Andrew, said he was making an urgent referral to the hospital I was surprised and, of course, a little worried.”
At the end of the test Andrew said to Matt he’d spotted the optic nerve looked swollen and made an urgent referral appointment at Stratford Hospital where Matt would have a number of tests, including an MRI scan.
“I actually went straight from there to completing the Three Peaks Challenge to raise funds for Guide Dogs – a charity I’ve supported for many years now,” said Matt. “It was, in a way, a good distraction.”
Following a short break in Wales with his wife, Louise, Matt returned home and received a call from University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire asking him to attend.
At the hospital, medics delivered the news that Matt had a golf ball-sized benign lesion growing on his brain. Due to its position the doctors advised that they wouldn’t be able to reduce the size of the growth through medication, and that he would need an operation to remove it.
Ignoring it was not an option and it was too late for other treatments – the tumour had been growing for two-and-a-half years; the doctors told him was if nothing was done he would go blind, be paralysed from the waist down or even die.
On Friday, 3rd December, last year Matt underwent the nine-hour operation at Walsgrave which was successful and he’s now back home in Stratford recovering in advance of a check-up in three months’ time.
“Looking back I should have heeded the warning signs and questioned why Zeb was persistently sniffing my head,” Matt said. “Then there were the headaches and the dizziness and the reminders from Specsavers for an eye examination.
“I would tell anyone now – go and get your eyes tested.
“This whole experience has changed my outlook on life and I’ve become much more positive. I wake up feeling happy. I think the NHS has amazing people and this summer I want to walk 196 miles along the Brittany coast to raise money for the NHS and Guide Dogs.”
Mr Eaves, an optometrist director at Specsavers, said: “For the cost of two posh coffees you could have a test that could save your eyesight and it only takes 30 minutes.
“I had a patient who said he was tired because of work, so I gave him an OCT and it showed his blood pressure was right off the scale and he was at high risk of a heart attack or stroke.
“In Matt’s case he wasn’t having many problems but if he’d left it any longer he could have.
“It’s not just for the big things, the test can help diagnose, it can spot glaucoma in its very early stages.”
Over the years Matt has become a charity champion for Guide Dogs UK – he has personally sponsored 13 dogs, raising money through walks, river swims and bungee jumps.
One of the guide dog puppies was named after his father, David, who owned Coiffure by David in Stratford and who died last year, and another pup was named after his mum, Eleanor.
His connection with Stratford goes back a long way. As a ten-year-old he auditioned as a page in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Romeo and Juliet and in productions which included Patrick Stewart, Ben Kingsley and David Threlfall.
He has worked at Pinewood Studios as a scene painter for Bond films and was also a scene painter at the RSC and he founded the Carriages Café on The Greenway.
“This experience has really highlighted to me how important it is not to put off important check-ups and not to neglect your health,” Matt said. “If I’d not visited Specsavers for that sight test I may well be in a very different position today and so for that I’m extremely grateful.
“I’d like to say a big thank you to Andrew Eaves and
his team and for the excellent care from the team at the University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire.”