When I was in seventh grade, I went on a winter camping trip with my Girl Scout troop. We stayed in a lodge that was less than ideal, and when I returned home, I noticed several bumps had formed on my hands. They itched terribly, and started to blister after a few days. I started to hide my hands, unsure of what was happening and both ashamed and scared. But then, my parents started getting itchy bumps, too. So, I confessed that I was experiencing it as well, and we went to a dermatologist who told us we had contracted scabies. Furious, I went home and tore my clothes out of my dresser so I could wash everything. I had to coat my entire body in this terrible smelling pink stuff and wait for it to kill the bugs. I felt dirty and ashamed, but most of all, I wanted my hands back. I realized for the first time in my life that I was taking my body for granted.
I tell you this little story, because I think we all have things we take for granted about our bodies, and as we age these things become blazingly apparent. For me, though, my hands weren’t the worst occasion of this. It was my eyes.
We use our eyes all day every day and don’t think much of it. Now, I have worn glasses since I was about eight. I tried contacts for two weeks in high school and decided they weren’t for me. But I have always been damn near blind without my glasses, so I definitely took those for granted…how lucky am I to be able to afford a pair in the first place. And if they break? Just get another. Thank you, God, for insurance and decent copays.
But then, about six years ago, something happened. I started seeing floaters in my eyes…little spots or lines of red that obscured my vision. I went to a retina specialist who told me I have retinopathy, a common ailment of the diabetic. He did laser surgery in my left eye and sent me on my way to see. Then, about three weeks later, something happened…a small purple thing appeared, and as days went on, it moved closer to the center of my eye. Then one day, I was watching Friends on TV, and I closed my right eye and focused on Phoebes’ face. It was like looking at her in a funhouse mirror, all skewed and out of proportion. I called my doc immediately…after an exam, it was determined that I had scar tissue in my eye which had attached to my retina and was tugging it out.
So, I had my first eye surgery. I spent a week lying face down, because they put a gas bubble in my eye to hold everything in place. It was months before I could see out of my left eye. I remember driving down the street one night with dad and closing my right eye to see how the left was doing…and I saw headlights. Nothing else, but there was light in the dark, and that excited me.
In the end, I do not have full vision in my left eye…there is no peripheral. But it is certainly better than no sight at all.
Now, the right eye also had some floaters, but due to the mishap with the left I was reluctant to get surgery. So instead my doc gave me a shot in my right eyeball every two months for about four years. The floaters remained, but the shot kept them under control. Then, one day, my parents and Mark and I went to Canalside for the day. I was furious the whole time. It was very bright, and my eyes were sensitive to the light. Everything was blurry and blocked by floaters. I decided then that something needed to be done, but it took a lot of courage and time before I brought it up to my doc. “Are you sure you want the surgery? I know the last one was hard. We can always keep up the shots,” he said. No. I was done with needles in my eyeball.
So, he set it up. The plan was to vacuum out the blood and then laser it so it didn’t progress. I would fortunately be knocked out during this. Everything went well, though there was a slight tug on the retina so he put a bubble in just in case. I ended up spending a week on my side, this time. But the bubble was gone in about a month.
I was at the park with the kids when I realized it. I looked up at the sky…it was blue. It was clear. And I could see all of it.
I went home and opened a book. I read two chapters before my eyes got tired, at least three times more than I could read before.
I drove at night-not my favorite thing to do so I try to avoid it, but I know I can if I need to.
For the first couple decades of my life, I took my sight for granted, even though it was already terrible. Then, for nearly seven years I struggled with not being able to see clearly. Never mind the fact that I couldn’t even get a new glasses prescription, so I am still wearing my script from seven years ago.
Well, until today. I have an appointment at Americas Best for an eye exam and new glasses. I am irrationally excited, because I will be able to see even clearer then. Maybe I can make it to three chapters at a time in my book. Maybe I can see the stars in the sky after, or the birds flying overhead on sunny days, or the fish in the water that Mark keeps trying to point out to me.
I have a lot of family that is aging, and as they do, I wonder what obstacles they are facing with their bodies, and how much they have taken simple things for granted. I have learned though my battle with my eyes to never assume it’s all going to keep working, because it’s not. Our bodies are like cars…sometimes they break down. It’s why we have doctors. Yes, sometimes we have to graciously accept the changes we face. But other times we can do something about it…and if that’s an option for you, take it. So many people have no choice…I feel like we owe it to them to do the best we can, and keep hope alive.