A retired cover teacher/supervisor from Eccles has penned his unique take on beating cancer and overcoming his fear of cataract surgery – in a newly launched book of poems raising money for charity.
Philip Baldwin, aged 66, shared his verse describing successful cataract treatment he had at SpaMedica in Manchester in November.
Entitled ‘I can see clearly now’, it describes how Philip put off the surgery for years due to fear of the procedure, which was fuelled by myths around use of needles and intrusive treatment.
He emailed the poems to the SpaMedica team in a note of thanks for the outstanding care he received. He recalls: “I was scared about having my eye surgery. I thought it involved a scalpel. I was intending to make an appointment before lockdown, then I was diagnosed with bladder cancer, which was a huge thing to deal with. At the end of the treatment my sister, who’d had cataract surgery herself said ‘after going through all that, having your cataracts done is nothing’.
“I thought it would be a year’s wait to actually get the surgery, but I had both eyes done and had new glasses for reading, all within four months. I was amazed. The difference was incredible.”
Despite dreading English lessons – and particularly poetry – in his job providing cover for teachers, Philip found a passion for it following his bladder cancer diagnosis in 2020. He used poetry as an outlet to chart his treatment, with rhymes dedicated to his stoma, which he affectionately calls Homer.
Once in remission earlier this year, Philip decided to address his ailing vision, explaining: “I used to like watching Pointless, but I couldn’t see any of the questions because my vision was blurred, so my sister had to read them out.
“Simple things were a problem, like going to the supermarket. I couldn’t read what was in what aisle. It meant I was constantly asking where the bread was. They’d say, it’s aisle 17, but I couldn’t read the numbers.
“I retired in April and the one thing I seemed to be given was jigsaws, which I wasn’t able to do. Now with my cataracts sorted I can pick up doing those.”
Joanne Keegan, hospital manager at SpaMedica Manchester said: “We were so impressed with Philip’s poems, we thought they deserved a wider audience. It’s great that Philip’s work can help demystify what it’s like to have cataracts, and the difference the surgery makes.
“Philip isn’t alone in fearing the procedure, but with 450,000 cataract surgeries performed every year in the UK, it is a simple and pain-free operation that has a significant impact on quality of life.
“We’re so pleased Philip can now get back to doing the things he loves, and we wish him a happy and healthy 2022.”
Philip’s poems are featured in a book, priced at £5 and in aid of Fight Bladder Cancer called ‘Odes to Willy and Homer, and other poems’. Donations to Philip’s cause can be made via his JustGiving page.
One of Philip’s fantastic poems about life after cataract surgery – ‘I can see clearly now’ – is featured below:
There’s a problem I had for many a year
All was a blur, nothing was clear
I knew all along the reason for this
But was too scared to act, got in a right tizz
I was told years ago, cataracts were the trouble
They were the reason I could see double
But as I have said, I was living in fear
After all I have been through, I know that sounds queer
After much nagging from big sister Lea
I finally went to my optician to see
As I suspected I was promptly referred
And told that action should not be deferred
Expecting to wait for maybe a year
I was very surprised when so soon did I hear
An appointment for me for a pre-op was arranged
In a couple of weeks – it couldn’t be changed
So off I did go to keep my appointment
And just two weeks later, there’s no disappointment
My first eye is done and I’m over the moon
I hope my other eye will be done very soon
I noticed the difference immediately
I could see colours I couldn’t previously
Now watching Pointless I can read all the questions
As for the answers, I can make some suggestions
Today to the supermarket I went
I didn’t need food, no pennies were spent
I just wanted to look at the things in the aisle
I’ve not been able to see them for quite a while
Then back to my home to look at the scene
Through my lounge window, as clear as I’ve seen
There is just one problem, I have to admit
I can now see the dust on the chair where I sit
There’s spots on the carpet I’ve not seen before
And marks on the kitchen and bathroom floor
So I’ve spent the day vacuuming and scrubbing the floors
Cleaning the skirting boards and wiping the doors
Now my flat’s spotless and sparkling clean
Fit for a visit from our gracious Queen
So there I will leave it – there’s just one more thing to say
If you’re putting something off, then just do it TODAY!
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