A LEADING health campaigner has undergone surgery for a deep-seated brain cancer which was only discovered after an eye test.
Richard Somerville, who has been a regular sight on Penzance streets organising a petition to save Poltair hospital, is currently recuperating in West Cornwall Hospital after a delicate six-hour biopsy operation at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth on Friday.
And now, as he prepares to face six weeks of radiotherapy to try to destroy the tumour, Mr Somerville is keen to get the message across that having regular eye tests is vital.
The 67-year-old went for a check-up three weeks ago and the optician showed him a scan where a corner of his sight in both eyes was blank – described as "black blobs".
"At that point, in retrospect, what I would have liked would have been to be referred to hospital immediately," he said.
"As it was, I didn't think any more about it. But by coincidence, I had an appointment to see my GP the following Monday and showed him the chart with the black blobs on them."
Within hours he was seen by a consultant geriatrician at West Cornwall Hospital and given medication to reduce swelling from the tumour which was diagnosed.
Mr Somerville is full of praise for the surgeon who operated on him but believed his case could act as a warning for others.
"The surgeon did a brilliant job," he added. "It was a very delicate, lengthy operation and I do not appear to have suffered any significant damage – what he did could well be life- saving.
"He was satisfied that it was fairly successful and I am pretty positive – as I have been all along – about the future.
"However there does appear to be a gap with this sort of situation. With some medical conditions, for example if you have a detached retina, you will be immediately referred for further treatment when they show up in an eye test.
"But if I had not gone to see my doctor that morning, I really do not know what would have happened.
"I urge people not to wait longer than the recommended two years to have your eyes tested – it can help identify conditions such as glaucoma, diabetes, high blood pressure and blurred vision. It is as much down to us to make sure we take precautions."
Mr Somerville praised the staff at West Cornwall Hospital, who, he said, have "without exception, been absolutely brilliant".
Already he is feeling stronger and was hoping to speak at the first consultation meeting on the future of Poltair Hospital last night at St John's Hall.
He expects to return to his home near the hospital soon and his sisters and their families are travelling from Canada and Holland to be with him at Christmas.
See page 9 for more about the options for Poltair's future.