Free eye test saved Dan’s life after doctors missed tumour symptoms

A free eye test saved a Kingswinford man’s life after doctors repeatedly failed to diagnose his brain tumour.

Dan and Sonia on their wedding day
Dan and Sonia on their wedding day

Now, 10 years on and following three operations and radiotherapy, Dan Horrocks is sharing his story of hope to mark his 30th birthday.

“I can honestly say that a voucher from Vision Express opticians saved my life; it dropped through my letterbox offering me a free eye test," he said.

"Never one to pass up a freebie I took up the offer. I had been to numerous GP appointments but seemed nowhere near to getting to the bottom of what was causing my crippling headaches,” he said.

Dan was living in Kingswinford and studying politics at Birmingham’s Aston University when he started to feel unwell.

Dan during radiotherapy

He was having daily headaches which sometimes made him sick. His symptoms were variously misdiagnosed as an ear imbalance, a trapped nerve and even depression.

Now he is working with the charity Brain Tumour Research to raise awareness of brain tumours which are the biggest cancer killer of children and adults under the age of 40.

An optometrist at the Merry Hill branch of the national optician chain identified pressure on Dan’s optic nerve and made an emergency referral to A&E.

A subsequent scan identified a grade 3 ependymoma brain tumour, which was the size of a golf ball.

Treatment

Within days he was in surgery at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, and has since had two further operations and radiotherapy there plus further radiotherapy at the Royal Marsden Hospital, Chelsea.

Now living in Fulham, Dan works as a parliamentary researcher at Westminster for Dudley South MP Mike Wood and married his partner Sonia in a scaled-down Covid-secure ceremony in Chelsea in July.

“My most recent treatment finished in November 2018 and while I continue to have check-ups things are good now," said Dan.

Dan at Westminster, where he now works as a parliamentary researcher for Dudley South MP Mike Wood

"Although I know my tumour will probably come back at some stage, I am optimistic about the future. I have lived with the disease for ten years and have tried my best to enjoy my life.

“Prior to her death from a brain tumour three years ago, Dame Tessa Jowell did a great deal to highlight this awful disease and she certainly helped to fuel interest. I think it is a dreadful injustice that, historically, just one per cent of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease, particularly when it kills more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer.

“I hope that sharing my story will continue to highlight this injustice and that people who, like me, have unexplained symptoms continue to push for a diagnosis.”

Dan and Sonia on their wedding day

Brain Tumour Research funds sustainable research at dedicated centres in the UK. It also campaigns for the government and the larger cancer charities to invest more in research into brain tumours in order to speed up new treatments for patients and, ultimately, to find a cure.

The charity is calling for a national annual spend of £35 million in order to improve survival rates and patient outcomes in line with other cancers such as breast cancer and leukaemia, and is also campaigning for greater re-purposing of drugs.

Hugh Adams, head of stakeholder relations at Brain Tumour Research, said: “We are extremely grateful to Dan for sharing his story and working with us in order to raise awareness of this devastating disease. We wish him and Sonia all the very best.”

To donate to Brain Tumour Research, visit braintumourresearch.org/donation

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