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'Football Sheila' thanks for sight-saving eye test

26 October, 2017
Sheila Allinson and Nick Hesford at Specsavers Preston
Nick Hesford from the Preston team with Sheila Allison outside the store

As every football fan knows, a game can swing one way or another in an instant, for better or worse.

For 82-year-old mum-of-two and grandmother-of six, Sheila Allison, a life-long Preston North End fan, it was the split second her local optometrist at Preston Specsavers stopped her regular eye test that changed her life forever 10 years ago.

Specsavers Preston’s optometrist Nick Hesford, had spotted something was very wrong and referred Sheila to hospital where she was diagnosed with a malignant tumour behind her right eye.

A stark choice

Within hours of popping into store, doctors offered Sheila a stark choice; either have her eye removed and replaced with a false eye or to have four metal pieces put in place ready for proton beam treatment at a specialist cancer centre.

She decided not to have her eye removed and go ahead with the treatment. 10 years later, Sheila’s vision is so good, she is still be able to drive and watch her beloved Preston North End in action – for the 71st season.

Last Friday, Sheila visited Specsavers Preston and was reunited with optometrist Nick Hesford who surprised her with a bouquet of flowers.

‘He’s my angel’

Sheila said: ‘It is a miracle I am still here 10 years on and I can see really well and do everything I want. Whenever I see Nick at Specsavers I give him a hug, he’s my angel and he saved my life!

‘I’ve worn glasses since I was 18, so at 72, I was used to regular eye tests! I had no idea there was anything wrong with my eye as I had no symptoms or pain and my eyesight was fine.

When they told me about the cancer, I honestly thought that was it.’

Looking back at the ‘devastating’ choice she was given by doctors, Sheila said: ‘I asked my son Peter what I should do and he said, “Mum, it is your eye and your tumour, it has to be your decision”. 

‘I decided not to have my eye removed and go ahead with the proton beam treatment at the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre.

‘Thankfully the treatment was a success, and even though they said I might still lose my sight over the next few years, I still have vision in that eye, although it is slightly impaired.’

Love for the beautiful game

Two years before Sheila was diagnosed, as she turned 70, she was a mascot for her beloved Lilywhites.

Sheila said: ‘I live, eat and sleep football. I went to my first game when I was 11 with my dad and I just love it, I rarely miss a home game. I don’t like too much attention but my nickname is “Football Sheila”.

‘I also like to take my friends shopping so being able to drive is really important to me.’

A word from the store director

Preston Specsavers director Sean Buckley said: ‘Sheila is like a celebrity in store, and we’re absolutely thrilled she could join us on Friday.

‘Sheila’s helping us bring attention to the very vital, but commonly overlooked issue that is regular eye tests. We recommend that anyone who hasn’t been for a professional eye test in the last two years to pay us a visit.’

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