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Facing my Fears

It's hard, being human, to know how to deal with unexpected bad news. Randy's cancer has been hard to cope with emotionally and mentally. We live one day at a time. This week I was diagnosed with Glaucoma in both eyes, with damage to my left eye. It was shocking news. I haven't seen an eye doctor in 10 years and felt a check-up was needed while we have insurance to pay for it. As expected, my vision has barely changed. What was unexpected is that I am going blind at an early age. Blind..... It's my biggest fear. As an artist, I see so much color. I live for color. I love color. I can't imagine life without color. The Doctor was also surprised and took some pictures and ran extra tests. I'm young for this disease. And since it's usually genetic, and we have no knowledge of anyone in our family with it, it was that much more surprising. It was a huge blow for a few hours. At first I wanted to cry while the news was sinking in, while my irrational brain was taking the lead and thinking worst case scenario. Slowly, the rational, calm side of me came back around to tell me everything would be ok.

Glaucoma is very manageable in this day and age. A little science lesson on what it actually is, because I know I didn't really know how it works. All I knew is tunnel vision and you end up blind. And it's an old person disease. Glaucoma is caused by too much fluid build up in your eye leading to too much pressure. This leads to slowly squeezing the tiny nerve endings in your eye that allow you to see, and eventual death of these nerves. As they die, you lose more vision, starting with your peripheral vision, creating a tunnel effect. There is no fixing it. Once they're dead, they're dead. Everyone has a cup carved out of the center front of their eye. It varies in size from person to person. Mine happen to be big. The nerve endings end there. As they die, that cup starts to erode away and become bigger, a sign of glaucoma. My left eye is eroded along the bottom of the cup. I actually got to see the pictures! Because your brain flips everything you see, the bottom of my eye is actually the top of my peripheral vision. The least noticeable, which is why I didn't realize it. The first sign is the pressure in your eye. That's what that awful eye test is for that blows a blast of air into your eye. They are checking your eye pressure. Mine is considered high at 21. At 30 your heading for blindness and at 40 it's guaranteed in a hurry. Generally, older people in their 60's are diagnosed with glaucoma and it's the leading cause of blindness in the elderly. In your 60's they only have to manage the progression for 15-20 years. At my young age, we are talking 40 years. That's a long time.

Treatment is eye drops every day. Once or twice depending on the effectiveness. To relieve the pressure and build-up of fluid, they need to get the fluid out. This is done by drying up your eyes, (not ideal in my opinion) or by clearing the passage ways that have become clogged. There are 4 types of drugs that can work on different areas, with different effectiveness. They also come with typical side effects, like red, irritated eyes, droopy eyelids, dry eyes, change in eye color, depression.... just depends on the person. You have to do it every day for the drops to slow down the glaucoma, or it doesn't work. That's the key. So for the next few months, I will making many, many trips to the eye doctor to get it under control and stop any further damage hopefully. Sadly, because I haven't been to the doctor in so long, they don't have a baseline for where my eye pressure was normally. That adds quite a challenge. I have to go back in April for more testing and they will get me started on drops right away. There is no cure for Glaucoma, just treatment to slow down progression. I will continue to have vision loss over a long period of time. Only 15% of people, starting in their 60's, still go blind with treatment. The odds are still in my favor because you can bet, that I'm not going to miss a single day of eyedrops!

It's still scary for me think about, even 2 days later. I know it's manageable. Eye drops for me sounds awful because my eyes tend to be sensitive already, but I will do whatever it takes to keep from going blind. Every day I am going to wake up thankful that we caught it early and that I can still see. Still, I sit here thinking about how my eye is eroding away as I'm typing, the nerves are dying and I'm not treating it fast enough. One day at a time. That's how we have to get through the hard times. Have faith in God. He is in control and I guess He knows what He is doing with this!

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