Have you ever stopped to look at a tree and notice each individual leaf? And how intricate and detailed a tree is from its bark to the branches and every little twig in between?
I can say I’ve spent the majority of my life unaware to this beauty before May of this year.
Next to an unsteady gait and having trouble walking, my eyes provide another challenge that I have to face. To begin with, poor vision and nearsightedness has always run in my family. However, being overdosed with radiation did not help this cause but rather make it worse. When I first started to experience side effects from radiation, a number of different things went wrong but one area specifically that was affected were my eyes. At first, my eyes became permanently crossed, although I did not have double vision. (yeah, that was odd how it worked out) Because I was so self-conscious about my appearance, my doctor actually injected Botox in the muscle between my eyes in order to straighten them out. Walking around with crossed eyes all my life just wasn’t something I wanted to deal with.
My eyes also became extremely dry because my eyelids no longer would close completely and unlike most people, my eyes stopped blinking automatically. So in order for me to blink now, I have to think about it.
Because of this unexpected dryness in my eyes, they started to become very irritated and after experiencing a corneal abrasion followed by a corneal erosion in my right eye, I am now legally blind in one eye. To put it simply, the erosion caused a scar to form on my right pupil and there is almost a film-like covering over my eye. As a result of this, my doctor stitched the corner of my right eye shut with the hope that would help hold moisture in the eye. His idea worked but my eye still gets red every now and then and it looks like I have a mis-shapened eye.
However, probably the worst part is that the radiation intensified my nearsightedness so along with becoming legally blind in my right eye, unless you were standing directly in front of me or in my line of vision, it was hard to see anything else with my left eye.
My eye doctor, who has been with me since I was 7 years old, is probably one of my favorite doctors ever. He always makes the time to see me and treats me as though I am a high priority patient. One of my first appointments with him, keep in mind that I was really young, the show ER was popular and George Clooney was starting to become more well known. I thought Dr. Repka looked somewhat like George Clooney so in my sweet, innocent child mind, I figured I should tell him this and so I did at my next appointment. Needless to say, my eye doctor is always willing to go out of his way to help me.
But anyways, for most of my life my vision has been awful. My glasses are like microscopes to most people but with them on though, my vision is at 20/70 which is a drastic improvement from what I see without them And although I am thankful for my glasses and being able too see this well, I have never wanted to settle for 20/70 vision. So for years and years, I have begged/nagged my doctor about possibly getting laser surgery or trying contacts.
During my yearly checkup in this past March, I once again asked him about improving my sight. Expecting him to say no to both options as he had done in the past, instead my doctor seemed to pause and think about my question. He said laser surgery was not the best option for me but that I could try a contact. My mom and I left that appointment ecstatic! After years of hearing no, this was a nice unexpected surprise. Within the next month, I was fitted with a hard-lens contact for my left eye that took my vision from 20/70 to 20/40!
Since getting my contact in May, I feel as though I’m looking at a whole new world. Trees are so beautiful! No one ever bothered to tell me that before. Every tiny leaf is incredible. And the colors of nature and in the sky are stunning! Everything is so much more beautiful and gorgeous!
I usually try to go to mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore and even though I had been there a million times before, the first time I went to mass with my contact in, I was just blown away! The entire mass I found myself staring at the incredible architecture, the intricate little designs, and the beautiful paintings. I could not stop smiling at that mass, I probably looked like a fool but oh well; it was the perfect place to show thanks for what I now could see. After the mass, I just sat in the pew with my mom, admiring the beauty that I have been blind to for so long. It is amazing what we truly take for granted but I hope I never take my vision for granted.
There is a clock on the wall in my bathroom that I use as my thing to look at in order to make sure the contact is on correctly. Without the contact, I’m unable to see the numbers on the clock but with the contact, I can clearly see them! (and sometimes I can see how much I need to clean too) That moment though when I can finally see the numbers is always an awesome moment. It makes all of the struggle of trying to get the contact in and poking my eye totally worth it.
This past summer, I saw The Lion King on stage with my sister-in-law and her family. It was phenomenal, I’m so glad I had my contact for that! The costumes and the colors were incredible!
It really is the little things in life that make it worth it. My dog has always had beautiful brown eyes but with my contact, they become so much more vibrant. Before when people used to wave across the room at me, I wouldn’t even notice them but now I can wave right back at them. Or when my friend points out a really cute guy across the room, instead of pretending like I see him, now I actually can!
So I apologize for the long post but I wanted to share my story of how I am thankful for my vision. And maybe it is not perfect 20/20 vision and there are still things I struggle to see but at least I am able to see the world and those I care about. And thank goodness for smart people who are able to constantly improve contacts, medicine, and the world we live in.
So today, on your crazy day, stop and take a moment to enjoy the simple things.
“It’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary.”