REGULAR eye checks saved Sam John’s life – when an optician detected a brain tumour that would have put him into a coma within a week.
Six years later, the 15-year-old will be wearing a hat with staff and students at Neville Lovett School in Fareham to raise awareness of the disease.
His school’s show of support for Wear A Hat Day is a personal one – for Sam as well as former student Carl Buckley who lost his battle with a brain tumour in 2010, aged 20.
Sam admits he is one of the lucky ones, despite having endured years of operations, infections and chemotherapy.
Recently he was informed his tumour is worryingly changing shape.
He said: ‘I’m on amber alert at the moment, at my last scan they detected some flecks in my brain. But I’m staying positive.
‘I feel like a normal boy. The only inconvenience is my eyesight which is not great and my hand-eye co-ordination is terrible.
‘Brain tumours are common and I’ve known people who have passed away. I’m one of the lucky ones.’
Sam has pilocytic astrocytoma.
It is a benign tumour but inoperable as it sits at the top of his brain stem.
When it was first spotted ,by a Specsavers optician shortly after his ninth birthday, the tumour was resting on his optic nerve making him squint. He was taken to Queen Alexandra Hospital to drain fluid from his brain.
Sam, of Albert Road, Fareham, later had a biopsy at Southampton General Hospital where the right side of his brain was accidentally touched.
This affected the co-ordination on his left side, and a subsequent lumber drain in his spine leaked giving him viral meningitis.
Two years later, while still a pupil at Wallisdean Juniors, Sam started a two-year course of chemotherapy.
Through it all, the youngster was determined nothing would get in the way of school, and today he boasts top grades.
Sam said: ‘Events in my life have made me determined to be a paediatric oncologist, so I’m working as hard as it takes.
‘When I was having chemo, I was in hospital and back at school the same day.
‘I lost my hair and I had to use a wheelchair when I felt weak, but I got through it.’
He added: ‘I’m so proud to be a student at a very caring school that is 100 per cent behind such an important charity.
‘I hope we raise lots of money and awareness.’
Wear A Hat Day is run by Brain Tumour Research, which is behind the University of Portsmouth’s dedicated brain tumour research centre. The charity says brain tumour research receives less than one per cent of national cancer spending in the UK.
To support it visit braintumourresearch.org