Les Cottam’s Moorfields story
14 June 2023
We want to pay tribute to Les Cottam, who passed away recently aged 96. Les was a patient at Moorfields for 25 years. His daughter believes the care he received at Moorfields meant he could enjoy his later years with his family including 6 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.
Les’ favourite place was Norfolk, in his early life he drove people on mystery coach tours of the county. Having brought up his three children in London, Norfolk is where he retired to with his wife Molly, enjoyed gardening, and where the family spent time together in a holiday caravan later in his life.
His family provided an account of Les’ experiences from looking through his medical records as well as listening to his memories.
I have come to realise how much Moorfields has had a huge impact and been part of his long life, and provided support and treatment for over 25 years. We are all extremely grateful for the excellent work and support given by Moorfields.
Diagnosis and treatment
Les attended a routine eye examination in his local opticians in 1997. A young optometrist noticed an abnormality at the very back of his eye and referred him for further investigations. It was discovered that he had a very rare eye tumour in his right eye - choroidal melanoma.
Les had successful proton beam treatment on one eye. He has had various other operations and procedures over the years.
His other eye - with very little vision was managed by the Moorfields glaucoma clinic in Potters Bar. Les attended a yearly check at Moorfields for the rest of his life.
A cataract was discovered in his right eye in 2008 and in 2010 ocular rosacea which were both treated at Moorfields.
The advanced glaucoma developed in the left good eye over time. He had a trabulectomy in his right eye in 2011 – primary open-angle glaucoma – an operation to lower the pressure in the eye. Draining of the aqueous humor prevented further loss of vision.
He took medication regularly for this for the rest of his life, administering eye drops. He also had laser treatment for glaucoma in 2013.
Helping advance research
In 2011, Les agreed to take part in research into choroidal melanoma which included giving regular blood samples. In 2019, he was part of a life-long surveillance and study by the Moorfields NIHR Biomedical Research Centre for metastasis.
I wanted to make a contribution to science and research and the future of the NHS.
Les received treatment following his retirement from the Metropolitan Police where he was chief superintendent. He was on duty on the Queen’s coronation day in 1953 as a young police constable. He was proud of his son and daughter-in-law who were in the police and he watched King Charles III’s coronation over 70 years later where his grandson was on duty.
Until his diagnosis, he had no symptoms and wore glasses just for reading. His main hobby for many years was competing in car rallies and he won numerous trophies. He was sad when he had to give up his driving licence. However, he got an electric powered bicycle which he used daily around his Norfolk village.
I was a keen gardener – both flowers and vegetables, out every day, and created a wonderful garden from scratch with my wife Molly.
Les took lessons in computing after retirement to learn how to use the internet and has been a competent silver surfer for many years. He has managed to use computers and phones with failing eyesight almost daily.
Eye pressure continued to be monitored and required medication to maintain pressure. In the last few years of Les’ life he had no sight in one eye and minimal sight in the other.
Having travelled backwards and forward from Norfolk to London, after his wife passed away - Les moved to Enfield London to be near his family.
From 2016, Les had gradual loss of peripheral vision. His family helped him out, escorting him to the shops and appointments at Moorfields, and helping to administer his medication.
He flew to Italy five years ago to attend his grandson’s wedding. He was able to read a poem in the ceremony. His fear was that as he aged he would go completely blind (like his grandfather).
In the last few years of his life, Les spent a lot of time on the phone catching up with family and friends. He had to refrain from strenuous activity including gardening - in the past he did gardening in the community and won gold, silver and bronze awards in his local area.
He remained quite independent with people close by ‘keeping an eye’! He had a very positive outlook on life – never complained and always asked about others before himself.
He went on regular trips to the caravan in Norfolk, various holidays including cruises to Norway and Venice. He enjoyed nothing more though than spending time in his beloved Norfolk surrounded by his family.
His daughter believes he was able to still live his best life up to the end, because of the skill and dedication of Moorfields.
My dad kept celebrating the time and life he had. It was a very long and happy life - mainly because of Moorfields - their diligence, interest and investment in maintaining his eye health and treatment.
Les supported the charity during his life and one of the charities at his funeral is Moorfields Eye Charity.