Peter’s story

13 May 2024

Devoted grandfather Peter found himself grappling with a bitter reality in 2019 when the news of his daughter's pregnancy reached him - an event that should have been brimming with joy became tinged with sorrow.

Peter's story

Diagnosed with ocular cancer, or cancer of the eye, Peter feared he'd never get to see his second grandchild’s smile. The thought of missing out on such a precious moment was a crushing blow for Peter.

“It was a very dark time for me, I felt so depressed,” says Peter. “The granddaughter I already had was simply the light of my life and the thought of not ever seeing my second grandchild’s face was just so deeply distressing.”

Ocular cancer is a rare but serious disease that can be difficult to diagnose. In some cases, it is life threatening.

For Peter, he had noticed changes in his left eye which he mentioned to his local optometrist on the South Coast of NSW, who referred him on to a specialist.

Peter's story

They spotted a tumour straight away and arranged an urgent appointment for Peter to see the Ocular Oncology team at Sydney Eye Hospital.

The specialty care and services offered at Sydney Eye Hospital, mean that people like Peter are referred from all parts of Australia to receive world-class eye-health care. Peter was in the care of a large, highly specialised team including Associate Professor Con Petsoglou.

Along with the tumour the Sydney Eye Hospital team detected surface cancer in both Peter’s eyes. To stop it from spreading to the rest of his body, they had to remove Peter’s left eye. This was very traumatic, especially as Peter relied on his right eye, which still had cancer as Associate Professor Petsoglou explains.

“Unfortunately, the cancer kept recurring in Peter’s right eye,” he says. “After trying many different treatments, we eventually stopped the cancer, but the eye itself was severely damaged and was unable to heal.”

At this stage Peter was blind and losing hope that he’d ever get his vision back. He was also at risk of infections unless his eye could be reconstructed and the surface cells replenished.

Peter's Story

To do that, his integrated specialist medical team, which included the Ocular Oncology, Cornea and Oculoplastic units, worked together with the NSW Eye Bank using the gifts of no less than four eye donors.

“Sydney Eye Hospital is the only centre that is able to provide this multi-disciplinary care,” says Associate Professor Petsoglou.

“It was a very dark time for me, I felt so depressed,” says Peter. “The granddaughter I already had was simply the light of my life and the thought of not ever seeing my second grandchild’s face was just so deeply distressing.”

This final operation took place just before the birth of Peter’s second grandchild and, much to everyone’s delight, was successful. Thankfully Peter regained partial vision.

“I honestly can’t put into words how it felt,” says Peter. “The whole time the team had been doing absolutely everything they could to help me, and they’d become like family. So to finally have some vision back was simply incredible for all of us.”

The Hospital sees up to fifty people diagnosed with eye cancer each year. Multi-disciplinary teams collaborate and consult to find the right solution for each person. The eye-health workers on the front line of care will always persevere to get the best outcomes, and Peter’s story is testament to just how life-changing that determination can be.

Peter's Birthday Cake

The timing for Peter couldn’t have been more perfect. His daughter gave birth to a beautiful baby boy who, along with his big sister bring Peter and wife, Robyn, unimaginable love and joy.

The doting grandparents spend two days each week looking after their grandchildren, something Peter hadn’t dreamt he’d be able to do when he was blind.

“It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life, and I just love it,” says Peter. “The baby is old enough to play games with now, and our favourite game is peek-a-boo.”

Sydney Eye Hospital will do everything to save people’s sight. Donations to the Sydney Eye Hospital Foundation fund training and education of specialist staff, surgical equipment and state-of-the art technology to continue this vital work.

While Peter relies on Robyn as his full-time carer, it is ‘more than a miracle’.

“I am still classified as legally blind,” says Peter. “And I struggle with distance, can’t read or watch TV or even find things like food or clothes unless I know exactly where they are.”

“But I now have slight vision where I can see my family when they are up close. I can’t see facial features, but I can see them smile.”