At 17, my thoughts should be of freedom. Of choices. Of prom gowns and graduation. Of anticipating my next steps in life. Of laughing out loud with friends, contemplating college adventures and having the world at my feet.
The words hit me. Hard. They were not for me. Was someone else in the room? I'm 17. I was diagnosed with advanced stage open angle glaucoma in my left eye, resulting in 80% vision loss. I couldn’t believe my ears. I have no family history, no eye injuries, no infection - nothing to suspect I would have this disease. I had just completed a two year Biomedical Science course where I learned every body system inside out. I am knowledgeable about disease; infectious and hereditary. I understand the complexity in the human genome and what occurs at the cellular level. The most complicated medical facts make complete sense to me.
My ophthalmologist sent me home with an abundant amount of medications ranging from eye drops to pills. My pressures continued to rise. Why is there no cure for this disease? I found myself isolated from the world. At 17. Fear embodied every portion of my mind, my bones beat raw, how could this happen to me this young? I felt so alone as individuals my age didn’t have to worry about their vision being stolen before they had the opportunity to drive, acquire a degree and even build a family. These feelings of defeat and disappointment only drove me to persevere and fight for a stable pressure. I want my life back.
A month later, I met with a Glaucoma Specialist who implanted a Baerveldt Shunt in my left eye. Right after surgery, groggy from anesthesia, I couldn’t resist shedding a tear that this is what I’ve been waiting for. Finally, I am approaching a positive direction in my diagnosis.
My name is Julia. I'm only 17.
My fight against glaucoma does not control my hopes, dreams and faith in what I have to offer for my future. Day by day, I learn to embrace the beauty of life and the emotional strength I’ve built for myself. I love running free through the trails on a damp day or wandering the beach with the ocean's salt in my hair. I adore experimenting with beautiful colors in a makeup palette, expressing myself through clothing. I want to advocate, to teach, that this can happen to anybody, above or below 60 years of age. In spite of my disease, I continue to use my compassion and knowledge to assist in my career goal as a nurse. I have also learned to enjoy life while I can, to see the beauty and joy that surrounds me in my youth. Once recovered I plan to put
myself first. To focus and listen to who I truly am.
Glaucoma isn't picky. It can strike anyone at any stage of life. There is no cure. Vision that is lost cannot be regained. Get the facts. Schedule an appointment with an opthamologist for a compdrehensive exam today. Glaucoma can happen to anyone, anytime. A high risk group includes having a family history of glaucoma, being very nearsighted or diabetic. African Americans, Hispanics, also being over the age of 60 increases the risk. You can be born with glaucoma. There is treatment - lifelong treatment - once you are diagnosed. But you must be first diagnosed.
For more information please visit www.glaucoma.org, the Glaucoma Research Foundation's web site. It's your vision. Don't lose it.
This blog has been published with Julia's permission. She is living through this now. Find a cure. Please.
If you'd like to share your story to help create glaucoma awareness please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And, if you will, share this blog. Thank you.