Clapham boy fights back from eye cancer

Ben Wilson with mum Tara, Vision Express manager Malcolm Heyes, sister Anya and dad Andrew. �
Ben Wilson with mum Tara, Vision Express manager Malcolm Heyes, sister Anya and dad Andrew. �

When Ben Wilson was six months old, his right eye had to be completely removed due to a rare form of cancer.

After being diagnosed with bilateral retinoblastoma, Ben had to undergo chemotherapy, laser therapy and an enucleation – life-saving surgery to remove his eye – in the fight to save as much of his sight as possible.

Six-year-old Ben now has what he calls a ‘magic eye’, an artificial eye which, according to his proud mum Tara, looks completely real “unless he rubs it and it goes upside down!”

Today the Clapham Primary School pupil leads an entirely normal life after recovering from the horrendous ordeal when he was a tot.

Ben is such an inspiration, he and his family were recently invited to open the new Vision Express shop in Morecambe.

Tara first spotted there was something wrong with Ben’s eye when she was bathing him under a fluorescent light. She said: “I could tell his eye looked different but nobody else could see it.

“Then he went into hospital for something completely different, he had a floppy larynx. I mentioned the eye. They referred him to the opthamology department at the RLI (Royal Lancaster Infirmary).

“They didn’t know what it was and referred him to Alder Hey in Liverpool.

“We were told it was tumours in both eyes. I don’t know how me and my husband drove home after that. We were gobsmacked.”

The condition had been caused by a faulty gene. The tumour in his right eye was 13mm, so the entire eye had to be removed. Laser treatment and chemo saved his left eye, and then began the long road to recovery.

Tara said: “If we hadn’t have gone to the RLI we would have lost him, he could have developed a brain tumour.”

But Ben and his mum, dad Andrew, sister Anya and brother Ricky pulled together, and he was eventually given the all-clear.

His ‘magic eye’ allows him to do everything his schoolmates do, although he does have to wear special goggles for swimming.

Tara said: “It’s entirely cosmetic, he can only see out of his left eye.

“It’s like a ball of coral or a shell. He tried about seven of them before we found a perfect match. He can take it out himself when he goes to hospital and they check his socket. It’s amazing to see.

“It fell out once while he was in his high chair. The cat thought it was amazing, this thing flying across the floor!”

Ben and his family represented the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT) when they cut the ribbon to open the new Vision Express on Euston Road in Morecambe, following the firm’s buy-out of Conlons.