A 24-year-old man who thought his eye might “fall out of his head” said he visited hospitals nine times before being told he had a rare cancerous tumor on his optic nerve.

Farid Oladapo, an assistant sports teacher who lives in Sanderstead, south Croydon, was diagnosed with embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma – a type of soft tissue cancer – in June 2022 after noticing bruising and swelling in his right eye.

But he said he visited several different hospitals nine times before receiving the diagnosis, while studying International Politics at Brunel University London.

A spokesperson for Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has since said that Farid “was diagnosed and treated in line with best practice national benchmarks for treatment guidelines”.

Farid said his “mind was spiraling” after the diagnosis and he was soon undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy – and at one point, he thought he was “at death’s door” due to complications during treatment in August 2022.

Despite these setbacks, Farid managed to complete his degree, graduating in the summer of last year – and now that he has achieved remission, he is looking to the future and dreams of one day creating his own football agency.

Farid decided to share his story for Teen and Young Adult Cancer Awareness Month in April to raise awareness about embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma and encourage others to “appreciate life more.”

Farid in the hospital (Collection/PA Vida Real)

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Farid told PA Real Life: “I thought to myself, everyone is telling me this will go away, so maybe I'm overreacting and I'll just let it go – but my eye started to feel really bad.

“My eye was coming out of my head – I assume my eye was coming out of my face – and I thought if it kept coming out it might fall out of my head.

“Every time I show people (the photos), they can’t believe people were sending me home with my eye like that.”

Speaking about the impact of his diagnosis, he added: “My perspective on life has definitely changed.

“So when people complain about certain things, I think when I was in the hospital there were three-year-olds walking around with tubes in their noses who had leukemia and they won't see how old you are.

“They're literally just playing with their toys, smiling and happy, and you're complaining about some menial first world problem?

“You won’t understand unless you go through it, and I don’t want people to go through it, but I feel like I definitely appreciate life more.”

Farid's photo of the scan showing the tumor (Collect/PA Real Life)

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Farid first noticed a small bruise on his right eye in May 2022, but assumed it would “fade” over time.

He then noticed swelling around his eye, which prompted him to make an appointment with his doctor, but after completing vision tests, he said doctors “sent him away.”

Although Farid's vision was not affected, the swelling got progressively worse and he said he visited Croydon University Hospital's emergency department – ​​not once, but several times.

“Every time I went to the emergency room, they would do the same visual test over and over again and then send me home,” Farid said.

A spokesperson for Croydon Health Services NHS Trust has since said that “an urgent referral was made to Moorfields Eye Hospital” during his first emergency department visit.

Farid decided to visit the A&E department at St George's on June 3, 2022 for a second opinion, and St George's University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said he has been referred for ongoing care.

Still searching for answers, however, Farid said his parents paid £300 for a private doctor's appointment for him, where the same visual tests were carried out – but this time, the consultant was “not sure” what was wrong.

Farid continued to monitor his eye, but over the next few days the swelling worsened and he began to experience double vision and noticed that his eye was “pointing slightly to the right.”

He said he called his GP and a doctor told him it was possible he had “something pressing on his brain” – but when he visited Croydon University Hospital again, he said staff carried out the same visual test.

“In total, before I got anywhere with this, I think I went to the hospital nine times before anyone told me (the diagnosis),” he said.

“My eye was coming out of my face, it turned yellow – it was so horrible.

“The next day, or two days later, I couldn't close my eyes either, I couldn't sleep, so I started to get agitated.

“There was pus all over my eye, there was fluid on my face, the eye was turning yellow and a yellow rubbery substance was growing on top of it, as if it was infected.”

Farid then visited Moorfields in St George's, where he said his eye was stitched up on June 8 to prevent further infection.

After getting an exam, Farid was told by doctors that a mass was causing his eye to bulge out — and he said a biopsy during surgery on June 10 later revealed it was a cancerous tumor, specifically embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma.

“Whenever you hear about cancer, you just assume people die – that's exactly what you know,” Farid said.

“My grandfather passed away, my friend’s father passed away, so that’s all I know – I don’t think I’ve spoken to anyone who had cancer and lived to tell the story.”

Farid began chemotherapy in June 2022, undergoing eight rounds at The Royal Marsden, and had radiotherapy in October for six weeks at University College London Hospital, followed by a further three rounds of chemotherapy in January 2023.

He experienced side effects of extreme fatigue and pain – which still affect him today – as well as nausea, vomiting and weight loss, and said his hair started “falling out in the shower”.

Farid, who is 6ft tall, suffered complications during treatment in August 2022, which led to him spending two weeks in intensive care, where he was left “unconscious and unconscious”, and his weight dropped by 85kg (13st 4lbs). for 60kg (9st 4 lbs).

Farid was left with 'snake skin' marks from wearing a mask during radiotherapy, but these have since disappeared

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“I literally looked like a bag of bones, I looked like a skeleton,” Farid said.

Farid was writing his dissertation while in treatment, but with the help of his Young Lives vs Cancer social worker and his parents, as well as the support of his close friends, he was able to “get through” it.

Although he said he was left with slightly blurred vision in his right eye, he has achieved remission and will continue to have check-ups for the next 10 years.

He feels “proud” to have managed to complete his degree and has since achieved his FA Level 1 in Football Coaching, and will soon start his new role as a business analyst and commercial banker at Lloyds Banking Group.

As part of Teen and Young Adult Cancer Awareness Month in April, Farid wants to share his story to raise awareness about his symptoms and encourage others to “trust their gut” when it comes to their health.

“The most important word I would use about my cancer journey is unpredictable,” Farid said.

“You find out what kind of person you are when you're in difficult situations… and after you go through it, you become a stronger person.

“You have to stay positive, you have to stay strong – not just for yourself but for the people around you – and you have to roll with the punches too.

“Things will happen on your journey that you don't expect, but you just have to keep going.”

Speaking about his advice to others, he added: “If you think something is wrong, keep going to hospital.

“Don't wait until it's too late and trust your gut… and even in bad circumstances, there are still things you can enjoy and enjoy and be happy with, so appreciate the little things.”

A spokesperson for Croydon Health Services NHS Trust said: “We are sorry to hear that Mr Oladapo was unhappy with the care he received.

“During his first visit to our Emergency Department on May 19, 2022, an urgent referral was made to Moorfields Eye Hospital, which specializes in ophthalmology.”

A spokesperson for Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said: “Mr Oladapo’s case was complex. After a visit to the emergency room, he was referred to us for further testing, where he was placed on urgent cancer treatment.

“The rare form of cancer with which he was diagnosed required a series of specialized tests to determine the most appropriate treatment option for him, however, he was diagnosed and treated in accordance with best practice national benchmarks for treatment guidelines and began treatment for his cancer. within 62 days of your initial referral.

“We encourage Mr Oladapo to contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (Pals) if he has any concerns or complaints about his care. Our Pals service can be contacted by calling 020 7566 2324, emailing moorfields.pals@nhs.net or visiting our City Road hospital office.”

Throughout his treatment, Farid was supported by Young Lives vs Cancer, a charity that supports all young people with cancer to ensure they receive the right care and support at the right time.

For more information, visit the charity's website here: www.younglivesvscancer.org.uk.

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