Saturday, September 17, 2016

This Ain't the Dress Rehearsal

Hitting that snooze alarm again thoughts flood my mind - a to-do list a mile long. 

I wake every morning, open my eyes and think to myself I can still see. I close my eyes again and am grateful to have another day of vision. It's an everyday reality for me. I'm an artist, a designer. I've won awards for my work. To be judged by your peers and to come out on top is an incredible feeling. Then one day a doctor tells you "You have open angle glaucoma. You need to start treatment immediately to keep your eyesight". 
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What? NO. NO. NO no no.....a clutching fear, a searing reality begins to fester and spread. My legs feel like someone filled them with Jell-O. "What? Maybe you're wrong!" my mind screamed silently.

Five years ago I was diagnosed with this horrible disease. I cried for two days. My eyes, my vision - my most prized possession - how could this be? My grandmother and uncle both had glaucoma. I was the lucky winner in my family genetic pool. I got the disease for which there is no cure. None. 

Everything went well for a few years. No issues, one eye drop a day. And out of nowhere Glaucoma decided to show me who she is. Pain, vision loss, uncontrollable pressure spikes, severe debilitating reactions to different drops. All at once I was hit with panic, struggle, anxiety attacks, loss of hope. Trying to work, drive - even just function was an astronomical task. And then surgery. A tube called a Baerveldt shunt was implanted in my left eye. Eight weeks recovery. I didn't believe the doctors. I thought I'd be up and running in two weeks. I was oh so very wrong. Complications and setbacks, fear and depression clouded every waking moment. Almost two years later my eye pressures are now stable - today. Yet that could change without warning. And I'm one of the lucky ones.

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From a Glaucoma Support site I've gotten to know so many that aren't so lucky. Inspiringly brave, strong people that have had numerous surgeries, have many different forms of this disease, loss of vision and independence. And yet we keep pushing to live our lives, hide our pain, find joy in seeing what others take for granted. When I was first diagnosed someone told me not to expose my "weak spot", my vulnerability, my condition. "Don't let the WOLVES know" she said "You'll never work again". Glibly I believed her. She was wrong. For in bringing awareness to this disease we shine a light of understanding on how misunderstood this disease is.

Glaucoma needs to be taken seriously. We can't wish it away. Our lost vision won't ever come back. The eye drops have side effects that we don't talk about much because those drops are our lifeline to sight. We accept what the drops bring because there is no other way. Those drops are our new religion.

If we begin to acknowledge it - it exists. We have hope. Hope of new treatment. Hope of a break through in research. Hope for maybe one day a cure.

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Yes. I'm working again. I'm designing beautiful spaces for some wonderful folks. I specialize in Universal Design - making a room fully functional for the client now and as they live and age in the space. Believe me, I understand limitations. Sometimes I shut my eyes when I'm walking my dog should blindness become a reality. And while my dog is on the end of that leash I pray he doesn't spot a squirrel!!!  I wear sunglasses at night at times when I'm out. Not just because the lights hurt my eyes but because I'm a rebel and you've got to deal with the hand you've been dealt. We get one day, one life. Make every moment count. As one of my favorite clients always says "This ain't the dress rehearsal". 

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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 ophthalmologist for a comprehensive 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 information on Glaucoma please visit, the Glaucoma Research Foundation's web site.

You can also find more information on the National Eye Institute's site
 It's your vision. Don't lose it.

All photos are property of Patricia L. Caulfield, LLC. Click on the photo to enlarge. See more of my work at

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