Mum with headache said she had a “ticking time bomb” tumor during a routine eye exam

Midsomer Norton’s Karly Cox has been diagnosed with ocular melanoma, an eye cancer that develops from pigment-producing cells, and credits her routine trip to Specsavers with saving her life

Karl Cox
Karl Cox

When Karly Cox came to Specsavers for her regular check-up, she expected the optometrist to give her a stronger prescription to combat her recent headache.

But the routine exam uncovered something far more sinister – a “ticking time bomb” tumor – and saved her life.

After experts at her local Midsomer Norton office noticed a strange shadow in her scan in January, she was admitted to Bristol Eye Hospital, where she was told she had ocular melanoma – an eye cancer that develops from pigment-producing cells.

The 33-year-old began radiation therapy at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust last month and will return in August for scans that will show if she gives the all-clear.

But the full-time mum has since lost the sight in her left eye and claims simple everyday tasks, like putting on makeup, have become much more difficult since the treatment.

Now, two weeks after the procedure, Karly is hoping her vision will eventually improve and wants to raise awareness of the importance of routine eye tests given that her tumor was discovered “at the last moment.”

Karly shares her story to encourage others to undergo her routine testing


Kennedy News and Media)

The optometrist noticed a strange shadow in her eye


Kennedy News and Media)

Specsavers optometrist Kaye Bradley said it’s “vital” to see an optometrist if you have any changes in your vision and that the optical coherence tomography scan can help diagnose many eye conditions and help with urgent hospitalizations if needed.

Karly, from Radstock, Somerset, said: “This eye test pretty much saved my life.

“They have an eye test every few years and if I had left it and it had been ocular melanoma because that’s how they treated it because it was too small for a biopsy and that’s how it presented, it would have spread to my liver.

“I just want people to be aware that they’re getting their eyes tested because it’s really important.

“Make sure when you get your eyes tested that you have that extra test because if I hadn’t had it I wouldn’t have even known and it would have been a lot worse because I would have lost my eye.

“I definitely caught it just in time and they told me I was lucky because people my age don’t usually get it, usually it’s 65 and older.”

Karly, who has worn glasses since she was three, has routine eye tests and was scanned with optical coherence tomography during her appointment last month.

She’s still coming to terms with what happened


Kennedy News and Media)

She said: “They offered me the additional health eye check and I went along with it.

“She put the images on the screen and at first we thought it was just a shadow.

“It wasn’t until we looked at it closely and she said ‘oh it’s not a shadow’ that she wasn’t sure what it was and she was really concerned so she said the best thing for me was to go to the Bristol Eye Hospital.

“I went to many different eye tests and they sent me for a CT scan and said they thought I had ocular melanoma.

“But at that point I didn’t know what it was. Then he started talking about radiotherapy and when he said ‘radiotherapy’ I was like, ‘Oh, that’s cancer’.”

The mother was then referred to Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust where she stayed for three days to undergo her radioactive plaque treatment.

She struggles with everyday things like makeup


Kennedy News and Media)

During the procedure, a small metal disk was placed on the surface of her eyeball over her tumor, which emits radioactive energy, most of it directed inward toward the tumor.

Karly said: “First, it [receiving diagnosis] didn’t really click. The effects of that haven’t really hit me, until now I can’t see anything, now it’s more worrying for me because I can’t see anything.

“My vision is so blurry now, I can’t see out of my eye at all.

“If I look to the left, it’s all black. They said that my eyesight was slowly coming back and was slowly deteriorating. It all depends on how my body reacts to the radiation therapy.

“Every day is different for me. Every day I wake up and see something different – it can be blurry, it can be blurry or I can see double.

“I never know what I’ll wake up to. I hope to wake up one morning and my vision will be a little bit better, enough for me to see.”

Karly, who is still coming to terms with her limited vision, said her eye is currently red and sore and she won’t know how much vision she’s lost for a few months.

Karly said: “I just want to go back and do normal things again. I wasn’t shopping alone. I’m too worried and get really anxious because I can’t see on my left side if someone is walking by the side of me.

“Even small things like putting on makeup are really difficult because I can’t see anything.

“I can’t draw my eyebrows because I can’t see and I get a lot of double vision, so I can’t really see and do things like I did before.

“I hid my face and put my hair right over it so you can’t see that side just because it’s easier.

“Looking back, I’ve always suffered from really bad headaches and they’re one of the symptoms.

“I noticed at Christmas that I keep getting rings around lights and keep seeing floating things.

“But it wasn’t enough for me to be concerned and think something was wrong with my eye. I just thought they were to blame for my eyesight, I didn’t think for a second it would be the way it was.”

A report released by Specsavers last year found that the number of eye tests conducted in 2020 fell by 4.3 million, a 23% decrease compared to the tests conducted in 2019.

And that an estimated 2,986 people have lost their sight due to delays in the detection and treatment of eye conditions, with some suffering from severe vision loss and blindness, said Kaye Bradley, optometrist at Specsavers Midsomer Norton: “We really appreciate Karly speaking up and emphasizes the importance of regular eye exams.

“It is important that you see an optician if you notice any changes in your vision.

“Optical coherence tomography helps us look at the health of your eyes in more detail, it allows us to see what’s going on beneath the surface of the eye.

“Many people are unaware of the capabilities of the equipment we stock with the OCT, coupled with the experience of the team we can help diagnose many eye conditions and make urgent referrals to specialist hospitals when needed. “

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