A cancer survivor who was blinded by treatment for his deadly brain tumour has had his vision restored by surgeons.
Nathan Cummings, from Blackpool, described his girlfriend, who he saw for the first time last week as ‘one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met’.
The 24-year-old was diagnosed with a malignant tumour two years ago, after doctors found a ping pong ball-sized mass in his brain which left his family fearing he would die.
Chemotherapy’s effects left him with cataracts, a condition that can slowly lead to complete blindness.
Mr Cummings, who was taught to use a cane, told The Gazette: ‘It was like I was walking through a fire. It was like my eyes were full of smoke, clouding my vision. I couldn’t really see anything. It had been like that for about a year.
Nathan Cummings, 24, lost his vision as result of the side affects from the intense chemotherapy needed to save his life after a tumour the size of a ping pong ball was discovered in his brain in 2019. But a major operation now means he can see from his right eye
Nathan Cummings says seeing his girlfriends of eight months Samantha Maywood for the first time after getting his vision back as ‘best feeling ever’
Mr Cummings said the support of family members like his grandmother Anne and grandfather Bob Cummings ‘kept him going’
‘At first it wasn’t too bad. I could still see a bit. But as time went on, it got worse and worse.’
Medics at Blackpool Victoria Hospital offered him laser eye surgery, and two cataract operations, in the hope it would stop him having to rely on others for help.
The surgery gave him the ability to see out of his right eye but work to restore vision in the left was unsuccessful.
WHAT ARE CATARACTS?
Cataracts occur when the lens – a small transparent disc inside the eye that helps to focus light – becomes cloudy.
The patches gradually become bigger over time, according to the NHS, and can lead to blurry vision and, in some cases, blindness.
Cataracts affect around half of over-65 in the UK. Some 24 million adults aged over 40 in the US also suffer from the condition, according to figures.
In children they are much less common, with around one in 3,000 being born with them or developing them in childhood.
The Royal College of Ophthalmologists has warned that due to a rapidly ageing population, the number of required cataract operations is expected to jump by 50 per cent over the next 20 years.
People are more at risk if they have: diabetes, suffered an eye injury, take certain medications or have other eye conditions.
Cataracts can also be caused by cancer treatment as a result of the radiation delivered to the body to kill cancer cells, those with head and neck cancers are particularly at risk due to the proximity of the eyes to the potential treatment site.
Symptoms normally develop very slowly and include being more sensitive to light and thinking everything looks washed out.
Cataracts can be removed by surgery and replaced with an artificial lens. No other treatment is available.
The Mail has long campaigned against the current unfair system for surgery in the UK, which were a postcode lottery until the health watchdog issued guidelines last August to tackle problem, which had led to many sufferers being denied the straightforward 30-minute operations.
It was the first time Mr Cummings laid eyes on his girlfriend 25-year-old Samantha Maywood, with the pair having started dating after he lost his sight.
The couple met on dating site E-harmony, with Ms Maywood helping to guide him when they went out, including to a few cinema dates where Mr Cummings listened to the movie.
‘We went to see Fast and Furious 9,’ he said.
‘I walked in, and it was pitch black, and I couldn’t see anything. I didn’t really want to see it — I took her to say thanks for helping me.’
Upon finally being able to see Ms Maywood’s face for the first Mr Cummings said: ‘She’s one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met.
‘When I first met her, I was blind, and I said to her: ‘I’m going to look after you. You’re probably the most beautiful person I have ever met.
‘I still think that — even though I’ve got my eyesight back, I still think she’s one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met.’
He added on seeing her the first time: ‘That was the best feeling I have ever had, to be honest.’
Mr Cummings was diagnosed in 2019 after falling suddenly ill, dropping more than a stone in weight in just four weeks.
Medical scans showed a tumour, which had been growing for years inside his brain.
Oncologists said it had already reached the most dangerous stage, meaning it was growing quickly.
Mr Cummings underwent two intense rounds of radiotherapy and chemotherapy at the Christie Hospital in Manchester in 2020.
Despite helping to fight off his cancer, the treatment cost him his eyesight.
The chemotherapy drug which kill fast growing cancer cells also damaged his eyes.
He said: ‘I couldn’t do anything on my own. Other people could go out on their own, visit their friends and family — I couldn’t do any of that.
‘It affected me every day. I had a few falls off curbs, and because I’m over six feet tall I had a way to go.
‘I had someone come out and train me to use a cane, so that helped me a lot.’
Mr Cummings had a total of three operations to restore his sight, including two cataract surgeries, where a plastic lens is inserted to replace the cloudy natural lens.
Only one of these surgeries was successful, partially restoring his sight in one eye which was then further improved through laser eye surgery to give him almost completely normal vision.
Mr Cummings said: ‘It feels great to have my sight back. I couldn’t believe it at first.
‘I can actually go to the cinema with my girlfriend now and do thing I wasn’t able to before.
‘It has been a difficult few years, but it hasn’t all been terrible. I’ve had a bit of fun on the way.
‘Hopefully in a few weeks my vision in my right eye will improve even more. My left eye won’t ever recover now. That’s completely blind.’
On his road to recovery, Mr Cummings also battled sepsis and meningitis twice, and was diagnosed with Covid while undergoing treatment shortly after Christmas.
He must now go to hospital every three months for a scan to make sure the tumour has not started growing again.
His 42-year-old mother Anna Hale said: ‘Nathan isn’t cured. But he has scans every three months, and at the moment he is stable.’
After laser eye surgery Mr Cummings can now see out of his right eye, the other has been permanently blinded
Mr Cummings during the cancer treatment to stop the tumour in his brain from growing further
‘The past two years have been difficult for Nathan. He’s been training with a cane; he’s had to change his life in so many ways and that has been hard for him to do.
‘But he’s coped with it really well. He has carers in four times a day to help him with tasks, and he’s got a lot of support from his grandma, me, and everyone else. He’s taken it all in his stride.
‘For the past two years, he has been hit with illness after illness, and it’s only in the past few months that he’s started living his life again.
‘He’s spent two years in hospital. Now he’s finally getting his life back, and his eyesight as well.
She added: ‘We honestly didn’t think Nathan would be here today. The tumour was so aggressive. But he’s here. Now we have just got to take life day by day.’
Mr Cummings added his the support from his family and girlfriend was invaluable during his experience.
He said: ‘My family and my girlfriend have kept me going. I never wanted to let them down or see them upset. I didn’t want to see my relationships fall apart. I had to stay strong for them.
‘I’d like to thank Blackpool Victoria Hospital and the Christie doctors. They are the ones who helped me survive. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for them.’
Brain cancer tumours are relatively rare with 12,100 people diagnosed with them very year in the UK, and are more common in older people with 25 per cent of cases among people over 75-years-of-age.
There are many different types of brain tumour with differing long term prognoses but as whole only 40 per cent of people with the cancer surviving for over a year.
After five years this figure drops to about 10 per cent.
Cataracts are an incredibly common cause of blindness and vision impairment in the UK, particularly for older people.
Cataracts are caused by cloudy patches that develop over the clear lens of the eye, usually over many years, they have many causes with cancer treatment among them.
Surgery is the only proven way to cure cataracts and in most cases is a straightforward procedure usually only taking 30 to 45 minutes to replace the cloudy lens with a plastic one.