North East Connected

Young eye cancer survivor with sights set on pro football opens new Metrocentre optician

A brave youngster who has battled a rare eye cancer helped Vision Express open its new Metrocentre store – raising awareness of an aggressive condition called retinoblastoma, which led to his eye being removed.

James Marshall, 11, officially cut the ribbon on the Vision Express premises accompanied by mum Julie Weatherly, who describes her son as ‘happy, healthy and positive’. This is despite a diagnosis of retinoblastoma (Rb) at just 20 months old, shortly after which James’ tumour-affected eye was removed to save his life.

Now recovered, James has annual monitoring at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary to check the cancer hasn’t spread. Julie explains: “Ten years on, James doesn’t let having only one functioning eye stop him from fulfilling his dreams of becoming a footballer. He puts all of his time into enjoying the sport, and currently plays for the Heddon Juniors under 12s.”

James took a break from football to join the Vision Express team as an ambassador for the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT), which has been a charity partner of the optician since 2010 and supports families affected by the rare condition.

A ribbon cutting led by James celebrated the store’s recent move within the Metrocentre to a new home with state-of-the-art facilities, which will deliver expert eye care to Tyne and Wear residents.

Julie added: “The partnership between Vision Express and CHECT makes everyone more aware of the importance of eye tests, especially with conditions as rare as retinoblastoma. The charity hold members events too and they have given James the chance to meet other children who have had their eyes removed, which is something he would never have experienced otherwise.”

Vision Express Metrocentre store manager Janice Bainbridge added: “It was brilliant to have James and his mum join us to officially declare our new store open. His story of overcoming adversity despite the vision challenges he faces, is nothing short of inspirational.“We’ve traded from the Metrocentre for 31 years now, with a team that has combined optical experience of over 300 years – which includes our optometrist Steve and lab manager Rod, who are both celebrating 30 years as part of the Vision Express family.

“It’s great to ring the changes in a new location. Our new look has been well received by our customers, and we’re now in a much more convenient, accessible location too.”

The new Vision Express store is located at Lower Green Hall, Intu Metrocentre Gateshead, NE11 9YR.

To book an eye test call 0191 460 0644 or visit:

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