A father who suffered seven years of headaches discovered he had a brain tumour at a routine eye appointment — and says he wouldn’t be alive today if he hadn’t gone.
Matt Voice, 40, struggled with dizziness from the age of 32, and became increasingly concerned when he began to suffer headaches and vision problems.
In April 2020, Matt was taken to Worthing Hospital, West Sussex, after he collapsed on a driveway, but the incident was attributed to high blood pressure.
However Matt continued to struggle with blackouts and excruciating headaches and booked himself an optician’s appointment after he began seeing “black orbs”.
Matt was referred to Southlands Hospital eye clinic, West Sussex, after they spotted the optic nerve heads in both eyes appeared to be swollen.
Following tests, Matt was shocked to be diagnosed with astrocytoma glioma – a type of brain cancer – in May 2020.
Matt had a partial craniotomy, to remove 70% of the tumour on one side of his brain, as well as chemotherapy and radiotherapy and his cancer is now under control.
He suffers with short term memory loss and struggles with his mobility and co-ordination which has seen him close his business and move back with his mum, Bev Gargate, 64, a part-time nurse.
Matt – who used to work as technical mobile mechanic and is dad to Mason, 11, and Darcy, 15 – from Lancing, West Sussex, said: “If I hadn’t pushed for my optician appointment I wouldn’t be here today.
“It didn’t sink in when they told me I had brain cancer – I wasn’t expecting it at all. It’s been hard for my children to see me like this – I’m still their dad but I look different.
“They have seen me have a seizure which no kid should have to see.
“It’s frustrating now that I forget things – even what day or month it is. Now it’s just a waiting game to see if the tumour will grow.
“But I’m so glad I went to Specsavers – that appointment may well have saved my life. I was driving and had to pull over because my vision just went all blurry and I felt sick. But doctors kept saying it was my blood pressure.
“As my eyesight was getting worse, I pushed to get an optician’s appointment. It nearly got cancelled because of Covid but I pushed to go.”
Matt was seen by an optician in Worthing Specsavers who identified that he had papilledema – when they spotted his swollen optic disks – and referred him to hospital.
“I was then seen by a specialist at the hospital, and they told me I had a lesion on the brain,” Matt said.
Matt was then referred to a consultant in Brighton Royal Hospital, Brighton, East Sussex, and diagnosed with astrocytoma glioma in May 2022.
“I was told it was on the left and right side of my brain and that it would become aggressive,” he said.
“I started suffering seizures and the light would go out in my eyes.
“It was horrible for my children – Mason, 11, and Darcy, 15 – to witness.”
Matt had a partial craniotomy in July 2020 – which involved removing 70% of the tumour on the right side – followed by six weeks of extensive radiotherapy in August 2020.
“The part of the tumour removed was the size of a fist,” Matt said.
Matt underwent chemotherapy in January 2021 but only managed three rounds of the eight he was scheduled to have after it made him too ill.
“I lost all my hair, and I could see the children looking at me differently,” he said.
“I’m still their dad but I can’t do anything with them anymore.
“It’s changed everything.”
Matt’s cancer is now under control, but the tumour is likely to grow, which means he’ll likely need further treatment.
Currently he struggles with memory loss, mobility and co-ordination.
“It’s frustrating,” Matt said.
“I worked my whole life as a mechanic, so I was very switched on.
“Now I struggle to remember something my mum has just told me or what the date is.
“I have to have a stair lift in the home and at 40 years old I’ve moved back in with my mum.”
Matt is now on ‘watch and wait’ to see if the tumour will grow.
“It’s horrible waiting for the results of the MRI to see if it has grown,” he said.
“I just have to pray it hasn’t each time.
“I’m just glad I went to the opticians when I did – otherwise I don’t think I’d be here for my children.”
Denis Youngman, a director optometrist at Specsavers’ Worthing store, said: “Matthew came to visit us in 2020, during the first lockdown.“He complained of a number of odd symptoms, which had led to an A&E admission a few days earlier. A&E made a referral to routine referral to neurology, which would have had him waiting weeks. However, I felt his case warranted an urgent in-store examination.
“During the examination I found his vision to be reduced and, more importantly, the optic nerve heads in both eyes appeared to be swollen. This was highlighted on one of the two OCT machines we have in store. As a result, I referred him immediately to the eye department in Southlands Hospital.
“Many of these cases turn out to be benign intra-cranial pressure, however Matthew called to inform me that it was a brain tumour and urgent surgery was planned.
“He recently booked in to see me recently and you can imagine how pleased I was to see Matthew making a good recovery.”