Eye test saves life of Eastleigh woman

Specsavers Eastleigh

Specsavers, Lifesavers

An Eastleigh woman has told how a brain tumour the size of a golf ball that had her ‘screaming in pain’  was only picked up during a chance eye test.

Repeated visits to her local GP surgery had failed to find any thing physiologically wrong and she had been told she suffering from “stress”

Sophie Peters, 26, believes she would have died had it not been for a chance visit to the Specsavers shop in Market Street where an optician referred her for an urgent appointment at Southampton General Hospital

Peters had suffered the crippling headaches for over a year but now, 18 months after surgery to remove a low grade meningioma brain tumour, she  is holding an event to raise funds for the national charity Brain Tumour Research.

Sophie Peters says she still suffers from nightmares as a result of the shock of her diagnosis but considers herself lucky to be alive after a surgeon told her that had her treatment been delayed another month he would have been unable to save her.

“As a result of the diagnosis I have suffered with post-traumatic stress disorder and I still have nightmares in which I am back there and I have to tell my mum that it has happened again. It is so important that we find out more about brain tumours. I don’t want anyone else to go through what I have and would advise anyone who, like me, suffered from severe headaches should persist until they have a diagnosis that they can believe.”


Sophie (right) and colleagues prepare for their Host for Hope event for Brain Tumour Research

Sophie (right) and colleagues prepare for their Host for Hope event for Brain Tumour Research

Tomorrow (Saturday 13 June) Sophie Peters is organising a Host for Hope fundraising event between 10.30am and 5pm at the Woodlands Café at Itchen Valley Country Park where she works as a catering assistant.

Visitors will be invited to make donations to the charity which funds a network of Research Centres of Excellence, including one at the University of Portsmouth.

“So little is known about brain tumours and it is vital that more research takes place. My surgeon told me that no-one knows what causes them and it was just bad luck. Looking back, this makes me very frustrated. Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer … yet just 1% of the national spend on cancer research is allocated to this devastating disease. This is unacceptable” said Sophie.

The annual Host for Hope campaign sees people across the country getting together at coffee mornings, dinner parties, and all manner of food-related events and making donations to Brain Tumour Research.

Sue Farrington Smith, Chief Executive of Brain Tumour Research, said: “Sadly, Sophie’s experience of delayed diagnosis is not that unusual. We are extremely grateful for her support in raising vital funds and awareness of brain tumours.”

Brain Tumour Research helps fund an annual £1 million programme of research at its Centre of Excellence at the University of Portsmouth. Further partnerships announced last year with Queen Mary University of London and Imperial College, plus Plymouth University will pave the way for a £20 million investment in brain tumour research over the next five years.

Sophie Peters

Sophie Peters

Sophie Peters tells her story:

“It was around Christmastime in 2012 when I started to have headaches. At first, I didn’t really think anything of it but after a month or so I went to the doctor who put it down to stress. The pain seemed to be getting worse and I went back to my GP two or three times a month for the next couple of months. I was given various tablets, including beta blockers which can help for migraines, but they didn’t work.

The headaches continued and I persevered with the doctor, explaining they were worse and that I had noticed they were often happening in the morning. In trying to explain how bad the pain was I remember saying that I was feeling a great pressure inside my head and it was so bad that I wanted to stab myself in the head. That sounds extreme but things had got so bad and I was desperate. After seeing a couple of different doctors I was given a neurological check at the surgery but this didn’t show anything was wrong. Eventually I was referred to a hospital neurological unit but there was a mix up and, despite a number of phone calls from me, the appointment never came through.

It had gone on for so long by that stage with repeated diagnoses of stress that a little bit of me just felt like giving up. Normally I have trouble sleeping but, by this stage, I was extremely tired and one evening, while I had friends round, I fell asleep. That was so out of character for me. I also remember being with my mum one time when the pain was so bad I was screaming because of the pressure I could feel in my head.

Ironically, I was having a good day when, in November 2013 I went into Eastleigh on a shopping trip. I walked past Specsavers opticians and there was a man there inviting people for an eye test. As they had an appointment straight away I went in. I explained that I had been having these headaches and the optician did some tests. I was told that my optic nerve appeared to be haemorrhaging and swollen and that I needed to go to the hospital straight away.

I don’t really know what I thought at that stage but certainly I didn’t really think it was anything serious or even connected to my headaches. A friend drove me to the eye unit at Southampton General Hospital and I waited for a couple of hours. To be honest, I felt guilty even being there. I felt absolutely fine and there were people around me who were obviously ill.

The eye checks which I had had at Specsavers were repeated, with the same results. I was admitted to the hospital on Friday and taken for a CT scan. The results showed there was some sort of swelling on my brain but they couldn’t tell what it was. I was given steroids to help with the swelling and had an MRI scan the following day. I felt like a fraud; there I was in hospital and I didn’t feel ill at all. I was certain that I would be going home soon and that the doctors were being over-cautious although my mum said she thought there must be something wrong.

My friends came to visit and we walked down to Costa and I even thought maybe the headaches were due to caffeine addiction!

I stayed in the hospital for the weekend and, on Monday, the doctor came to see me along with a nurse to hold my hand. The doctor said the lump was a tumour in the right ventricle. I just froze. He said no-one knows what causes brain tumours, it’s just bad luck. Looking back, I find it very difficult to understand why so little is known about brain tumours and that is why I am adamant to do all I can to raise awareness and funds to allow vital research to take place.

When I asked the doctor if I could go outside he said: “As long as you come back.” I burst into tears and could feel myself shaking as I phoned my mum who came to the hospital straight away.

We had an anxious wait to find out what was going to happen. I thought I would be discharged and then called back for surgery in a couple of months but the surgeon said he would be operating very soon, on the Thursday.

More would be known about the type of tumour I had once the operation was underway. It turned out to be a low grade meningioma which was 4.2cm wide, larger than a golf ball. It was removed in its entirety. Although I had initial problems with the sight in one of my eyes this has now been resolved and, thankfully, I have recovered well.

I was told that, had my brain tumour been undiagnosed for another month, I would have slipped into a coma and there would have been nothing that could be done for me. The neurosurgeon and everyone at Southampton General Hospital were fantastic and I credit the optician with saving my life. Although it is scary to think there is a small chance the tumour might grow back, I need to be confident that this would be picked up on my yearly MRI scans.

As a result of the diagnosis I have suffered with post-traumatic stress disorder and I still have nightmares in which I am back there and I have to tell my mum that it has happened again.

I work part-time as a catering assistant at the Woodlands Café at Itchen Valley Country Park and my colleagues here have been fantastic and are backing me with an event to raise funds for Brain Tumour Research.

It is so important that we find out more about brain tumours. I don’t want anyone else to go through what I have and would advise anyone who, like me, suffers from severe headaches should persist until they have a diagnosis that they can believe.”

Sophie’s Story ©Brain Tumour Research 2015


  5 comments for “Eye test saves life of Eastleigh woman

  1. mm
    Stephen Slominski
    June 12, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    “Sadly, Sophie’s experience of delayed diagnosis is not that unusual”

    So says the CE of Brain Tumour Research.

    That has certainly been the experience of this family and it’s not confined to Brain tumours.

    In January 1993 my father went to a local GP about a niggling pain which he had in his neck .

    The diagnosis was that it was ‘probably a muscle strain’ .

    Anti- inflammatory drugs did not seem to help much and after repeated visits my Dad was referred for physio treatment sessions at the Hub.

    These he found extremely painful.

    He went back to the doctor and told him he couldn’t continue with the treatment as it made him cry with pain and the doctor told him not to “be a baby”.

    This is a man who survived working in a Ukrainian coal mine, a winter in a Siberian logging camp and was wounded in action in Italy during WW2; A man I had never seen cry in forty years.

    Not ever.

    Despite my Dad being in discomfort with his ‘muscle strain’ my parents went to Italy for a holiday that May but ended up in an Italian A&E when the pain suddenly worsened.

    There he was examined and x-rayed by proper doctors who asked if he was receiving any treatment and were horrified to hear about the physio.

    They advised my parents to come straight home and gave them the x-rays and a letter and told them to go straight to hospital and not to bother with the doctor.

    I picked them up from Gatwick and the next day took my dad to Winchester A&E where he was admitted and subsequently diagnosed with a bone tumour on his fifth cervical vertebra.

    He died six months later.

    Four years later I felt a small bony lump on my forehead which felt tender.

    My GP’s verdict was that it was “probably nothing” and suggested perhaps it had always been there and I had not previously noticed it.

    Needless to say , repeated visits eventually won me an x-ray – apparently again – “nothing to worry about”.

    I pointed out just a few years ago my father died of cancer after being told a bone tumour was just muscle strain.

    “..and so” said the doctor “you think that might happen to you?”

    “Well, yes”

    “I can assure you 100% that you do not have a bone tumour”

    Fast forward a bit and I’m sat in front of a Consultant Maxillofacial Surgeon telling me:

    “You’ve got a bone tumour”

    Fortunately a biopsy revealed it to be benign – like Sophie it was a low-grade type of tumour and not only that, but the surgeon kindly sanded it down to size with a Black & Dekker so now it’s hardly noticeable.

    But it was a huge worry at the time and for some years after.

    We often hear that early diagnosis of cancer is vital for it’s successful treatment and we are urged to visit GPs at the onset of any suspicious symptoms but it seems to me that once an initial non life-threatening diagnosis is made, it is very difficult to persuade GPs symptoms are anything other than muscle strain /stress/anxiety or hypochondria.

    Of course if you suffering from painful symptoms that are being dismissed by your GP you will become stressed and anxious.

    I’m not surprised that so many desperate patients are driven to present themselves at A&E because they know that not only are there a full range diagnostic facilities available on site but also that the doctor’s judgment will not be clouded by reading GP notes and they are more likely to be treated – not fobbed off.

    Well done Sophie Peters for her fundraising – and well done to Specsavers too.

    Not only are they saving lives – they never charge for repairing my specs !

  2. June 12, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    Two scary stories. Glad you’ve both been able to tell the tale. It shows the importance of regular eye tests, researching your own symptoms and not trusting your GP’s diagnosis too readily.

    Doesn’t Sophie look well in that picture…!

  3. June 12, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    My son also suffered from a tumour behind his eye (and somewhere else) 13 years ago when he was one year old. Very similar episodes – we visited the GPs far too many times and our concerns were dismissed, even though my son’s eye was swollen and he was obviously not well.

    Since he was admitted to the hospital, he was well looked after by multidisciplinary teams from Southampton to Winchester, including oncologist, ophthalmologist, surgeons, orthopedics, clinical nurse specialists, and community nurses. We are very grateful.

    I hope all GP surgeries are better, and work better and connect better with the hospital, to save lives.

    For more details: Life in Children Cancer Ward at Southampton General Hospital

    • mm
      Eastleigh Xpress
      June 12, 2015 at 6:49 pm

      What a worry that must have been! When you’re a parent you KNOW when there is something not right with your child.

  4. Graham Hunter
    June 12, 2015 at 11:27 pm

    Very very moved by these three experiences.
    I agree with Ray 100%.
    We must raise the awareness of the importance of checks .

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