Antonio Constantine tries on frames at Vision Express Kingston

Vision Express hits the target with awareness campaign as young eye cancer survivor attends Kingston relaunch

Six-year-old Antonio Constantine performs ribbon cutting to open the newly renovated optician in The Bentall Centre

A young eye cancer survivor, who has overcome drawbacks to become Britain’s youngest shooting champion, was recently invited to help Vision Express celebrate the opening of its new-look Kingston store.

In October 2011, when he was less than a year old, Antonio Constantine was diagnosed with retinoblastoma in both eyes. Many survivors of the rare eye cancer must have life-saving surgery to remove the affected eye but Antonio’s diagnosis was early and following successful chemotherapy and laser therapy, both eyes were saved.

As an ambassador for the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT), Antonio, now six, was invited, along with his mum Valentina Volpicella and sister Cecilia Constantine to help the Vision Express Kingston team celebrate the reopening of its store, after an extensive renovation.

“Antonio’s sight was very much affected by the ordeal,” Antonino’s mum, Valentina explained. “He was blind in both eyes when diagnosed but thanks to a very effective chemo, his tumours shrank and Antonio regained precious sight in his left eye.”

Over the years, Antonio from Claygate in Surrey has learnt to adapt and was recently named Britain’s youngest shooting champion, despite having tunnel vision in his left eye, and no vision in his right eye.

Antonio now wears glasses for safety purposes; to prevent any objects hitting his eyes. “Children always have accidents such as a tennis ball or a pen being thrown, which could be really dangerous for him,” said Valentina. “He has two different types of protective glasses: a standard pair and a sports safety pair.”

Despite the challenges young Antonio had to face early in his life, Valentina says that he is just like any other six-year-old boy. “He is a very happy boy and navigates around so well most people wouldn’t ever realise he has had eye cancer,” she continues.

Antonio performed a ribbon cutting, as guest of honour, officially declaring the new-look store in The Bentall Centre open. Antonio, Valentina and Cecilia were welcomed by optometrist Farah Chaudhry and the rest of the Kingston optical team.

Farah said: “We had a fantastic day celebrating the reopening and it was a pleasure to welcome Antonio, Valentina and Cecilia into the store. It’s fantastic we could work with CHECT to give vital and lifesaving advice about retinoblastoma.

“Antonio is so brave and it’s inspiring to see how little he is phased by everything he has been through. Considering how little sight he has, it’s amazing that he is so talented in his shooting – he’s incredible.”

Patrick Tonks, chief executive of the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust, said: “Retinoblastoma is a rare and fast-growing eye cancer that affects babies and young children, mainly under the age of six. Around 50-60 cases are diagnosed in the UK every year – approximately one child a week. Retinoblastoma can either affect one or both eyes.

“Around 98% of children survive retinoblastoma in the UK but early diagnosis is crucial in order to save a child’s eyes, sight and life. Our congratulations to Antonio for his amazing achievements and our thanks to his family for helping to raise awareness of the importance of early diagnosis of this rare cancer.”

Vision Express was the first optician in the UK to roll out a protocol to ensure a quick and effective referral if retinoblastoma, also known as Rb, is suspected. The national optical retailer has enjoyed an award-winning partnership with the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT) since 2010, using initiatives to raise awareness of Rb and drive donations for the charity, so they can help more families affected.

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