Danny Hunt, 58, from Islington, north London, was repeatedly turned away by doctors until a specialist noted he had a tumour with ‘spider legs’, which indicates a particularly severe form of the disease.
Eye cancer dismissed as a migraine ate a giant hole in a father-of-four’s face. Just one year later, Mr Hunt, a former gardener, had to have his right eye removed along with bone in his nose and jaw.
Due to radiotherapy destroying Mr Hunt’s teeth, leaving him barely able to eat, Mr Hunt’s skeletal frame and prominent scar mean he is too embarrassed to leave the house, with even his granddaughter screaming at the sight of him.
Mr Hunt, who used to rely on his 24-year-old son Stephen to clear excess fluid out of his nose and eye, is too weak for facial-reconstruction surgery after suffering from multiple health complications in the past.
Doctors have therefore created a ‘flap’ using skin from his back and an artery in his leg to cover the gaping hole in his face. Around 750 new people in the UK are diagnosed with eye cancer every year.
Danny Hunt’s eye cancer, which was misdiagnosed as migraine, ate a giant hole in his face
A year after his diagnosis, he had his right eye removed along with bone in his nose and jaw
Mr Hunt’s wife Mandy (pictured on their wedding day) said it has been ‘heartbreaking’
WHAT IS EYE CANCER?
Eye cancer most commonly affects the middle layer of the organ.
Around 750 new people in the UK are diagnosed with eye cancer every year.
It affects approximately 3,500 new people annually in the US.
Common symptoms include:
- Complete or partial sight loss
- A pale, raised lump on the eye surface
- Blurred vision
- Change in eye appearance
The main cause is over exposure to UV light, leading to melanoma. This is more common in people with fair skin, hair and eyes, as well as those with a large number of moles.
Treatment depends on the type and size of the cancer, as well as whether it has spread. It may involve radio or chemotherapy and surgery.
Dismissed as migraines
Mr Hunt began suffering from severe headaches and throat infections in 2008. His GP diagnosed him with laryngitis, while hospital staff later said he must be suffering from migraines.
Yet Mr Hunt’s wife Mandy noted her husband had a ‘lump’ next to his eye that was getting ‘bigger and bigger’. The couple went to Moorfields Eye Hospital to get a specialist’s opinion.
Mandy said: ‘They said ‘there’s something not right – there’s something at the back of your eye’.
‘The bone underneath the brain has crumbled’
Speaking since his diagnosis, Mandy said: ‘He has had so many operations.
‘Because there’s no bone in his nose, everything comes out of his nose.
‘The bone underneath the brain has crumbled.’
Mr Hunt’s son Stephen spent two years helping his dad clean out anything that got stuck in his nose after the surgery.
Nurses were apparently not allowed to clean out the eye socket on visits, which meant various bodily secretions were left to build up in Mr Hunt’s face and flooded into his lungs.
Mr Hunt’s skeletal frame and facial scars mean he is too self conscious to leave the house
‘They expected him to die’
The year before being diagnosed with cancer, Mr Hunt underwent surgery to remove ‘crystals’ surrounding his heart that developed from tuberculosis in his 20s. The upper part of his right lung was also removed.
He was also diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, which is a genetic disorder that affects the body’s tissue. These together have left Mr Hunt too weak for facial-reconstruction surgery.
Mandy claims the last few years have been ‘heartbreaking’ for her family, adding: ‘He was healthy, energetic. He used to work 16 hours a day.
‘He just wanted to give his kids everything.
‘He’s such a hard worker. He loved his job.
‘It’s just heartbreaking’
Mandy said: ‘Children see him and laugh at him. The little ones just don’t understand.
‘Our granddaughter Lily is one. If Danny’s on the sofa and she looks at him, he frightens the life out of her and she just screams.’
Another of their nine grandchildren asks when granddad will be ‘getting a new eye’.
Mr Hunt is currently waiting for new dentures to be made, as well as a ‘mouth shield’ to replace the palate that was removed in surgery.
Mandy said: ‘It’s just heartbreaking when all this has come about.
‘I can’t believe what we have been through.’