I got blurry vision, but it wasn’t like I needed glasses – it happened really fast. I was on holiday and I suddenly realised I couldn’t read the road signs.
I was living near Moorfields Eye Hospital at the time, so I went there first, and they just said I needed glasses. So I saw an optometrist and she tried everything and then said there was something wrong and I needed to see a specialist. Then various specialists put me through a bunch of tests – I couldn’t believe how many parts of the eye there were specialists for – and finally I had a brain scan and that showed a benign brain tumour – a craniopharyngioma.
I was referred by the eye specialist who did the brain scan.
I had an operation at King’s College Hospital to remove the tumour and that went fine, but a year later, I got blurry vision again – I was one of those slightly unfortunate people – and a scan showed it had grown back. So I had it removed again and then about three months later, back it came again. So this time, they went in harder and really scraped it out. I did freak out a bit that time, I must admit, as my tumour was very close to my eyes and they had to kind of lift up my brain to get to it. I’ve got a few pins I can feel in my head from that last operation – they went in from outside – but I don’t know too many grisly details – you don’t need to know too much, you know!
Well, it’s eight years since my last operation and I’m fine. I did have to have radiotherapy afterwards, at Bart’s, but I’d just have my radiotherapy in the morning and then I was free for the day, so I’d sneak out for a coffee with my wife. In terms of permanent effects, my pituitary gland was destroyed by the radiotherapy, so I have to take hormone replacements, and I’ve also lost my sense of smell, but that’s OK – if you’re going to lose a sense, that’s the one to lose!
The main thing is, I can still paint. People said to me: “What a terrible thing if you couldn’t paint anymore,” which for an artist is very true. When I visited London a few years ago, I took all my surgeons prints – the ENT surgeon, the radiation guy and Mr Bullock.
He’s a fantastic person. I really enjoyed working with him: he has a great sense of humour. You really feel kind of in love with your surgeons, I think. I had great confidence that I was under his care, and he’d have no problems at all. I also really enjoyed being in hospital. When I went in for surgery, they had JazzFM on, which I thought was brilliant – it’s what I listen to when I’m working.When you get a certain sort of illness, the best place to be in the world is in London – the breadth of expertise is phenomenal. With Peter Bullock, I thought, he’s the best guy in the world to be doing this.