A FATHER-OF-FOUR is warning others not to ignore persistent headaches after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Specsavers store partner Don Watts, 53, has been given just 15 months to live after doctors discovered he has a glioblastoma – the most aggressive type of cancer that begins in the brain – which was the size of a pear.

He has now also set up a GoFundMe page with a target of £60,000 to help raise funds for a special form of treatment in Germany.

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Don, who is the retail director of Specsavers on Reading Broad Street and has been a local community stalwart for more than 20 years, says the last few months had been the most difficult time of his life and that the shocking news came completely unexpected.

He said: "Back in August I woke up early in the morning with a really bad headache.

"I felt like I’d been hit over the head with a brick."

Don Watts and his family

Don Watts and his family

Don was taken to A&E at Sir John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, where he was initially treated for suspected meningitis, as his 11-year-old son was having treatment at the hospital for the condition.

After a lumbar puncture and a few days in hospital, he was discharged.

But, only a couple of weeks later, his piercing headaches returned.

As a result, Don underwent an MRI scan, which showed he had a tumour.

"The consultant told me they’d found a glioblastoma in my brain the size of a pear – and that it was terminal cancer.

"I was devastated. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know what to say.

"I’d suffered almost no symptoms whatsoever aside from my sudden headaches, so I was entirely blindsided by the news."

Don Watts with his daughter

Don Watts with his daughter

Don was told that glioblastomas typically leave patients with an average life expectancy of 15 months, but to have more specific information he would need invasive brain surgery.

This was to both confirm his diagnosis and remove as much of the tumour as possible, if his diagnosis was correct.

However, this would come with its own risks, such as a very high chance of paralysis, blindness, or even death, among others.

The month before his surgery, which was scheduled for early October, he also quickly arranged to get married to his partner of four years in just 48 hours - a day he says was "beautiful" and he "wouldn’t have changed a thing about it."

Don went on to have a craniotomy where 97 per cent of his tumour was removed.

However, during his next scan, the results showed his tumour had already started growing back and in November he began a six-week treatment course of radiotherapy and chemotherapy to stop the growth.

Don Watts at his wedding

Don Watts at his wedding

Don has continued to receive chemotherapy this year. However, following the resurgence of some persistent headaches, Don was taken for another emergency scan where it was found his tumour had grown back once again, even larger.

Don and his family are now hoping to secure a more experimental form of immunotherapy in Germany that’s shown to help many patients, costing approximately £60,000. He is now using his GoFundMe to help raise funds for the treatment.

But despite all he has been through Don is still able to see the positives in his life. "I’m really, really lucky," he said.

"So many people have lost loved ones through sudden accidents, and they’ve just been snatched away in the blink of an eye.

"I’ve got these few months to actually settle things, sort things out and that makes me a lot more fortunate than other people.

"It’s about enjoying the time I’ve got left and making memories – and I want my kids at any moment to be able to shut their eyes and remember me saying: I love you."

Don Watts after brain surgery

Don Watts after brain surgery

Don said he was also incredibly grateful for his Specsavers family.

"The kindness, the strength, the generosity, the feeling of family they all have for each other," he added.

"I first experienced it during the first lockdown.

"We have customers up to 60 miles away from our store on Reading Broad Street, but my team were still making sure they were all properly looked after – driving to their homes to deliver food to vulnerable people, or administering essential eye care services on their doorsteps.

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"We got through that whole period together, but it’s that same spirit that’s helping me get through my circumstances now too.

"The team have been incredible with their support and I can’t thank them enough.

"They’ve done nothing but lift my spirits – sending me gifts, messages, donations. It’s truly amazing."

Don is now hoping to share his experiences in the hope that no one else goes through the same thing.

He said: "The most important thing I think to take-away from this is – if you have a headache, don’t ignore it.

"Go and speak to someone – a doctor, your optician, anyone with the medical expertise to identify these things.

"It’s so vital and this is how things get diagnosed."

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