Imagination is a powerful thing. It can take you to great heights or take you into a downward spiral. I know. It’s done both to me. Thirty years ago I was diagnosed with keratoconus (KC) in both eyes. Then, I wasn’t sure what it was all about and my imagination took over spinning out all kinds of scenarios. Was I going to go totally blind? Would I be able to continue working? Would I still be able to drive? Was I scared then? Yes!
Imagination and KC
Over the years I’ve been through many of the ups and downs KC’ers face – uncomfortable lenses, vision changes, cornea abrasions, the piggyback system and pushing the limits of lens wear-time. The KC in my left eye deteriorated and a cornea transplant was the only option left. In the early 80s, my surgeon performed the transplant while listening to tracks from Michael Jackson’s album, Thriller. The transplant gave me the vision I needed stay in the workforce. I travelled for business, spent hours in front of a computer, belonged to a bowling league, walked on a glacier, climbed a fraction of the Great Wall, shed inhibitions in an acting class, answered crisis hotline calls, took “artsy” out-of-focus photos and gazed into the innocent, perfect eyes of my grandsons.
Everything wasn’t all rosy. There were highs and lows throughout those years because my other eye with KC kept going downhill before it stabilized. I still encountered all those difficulties KC contact lens wearers face when lenses are critical to functioning. But, I never let KC take over my life. Sometimes after I tried something new, I had to concede that vision challenges lessened the enjoyment and I labeled it “not for me” and moved on to something else.
I’m retired now and am sixty-nine. Now, my transplant cornea has filamentary keratitis and chronic dry eye so wearing a RGP lens is out. I’m at 20/200 in that eye but am still thankful for the good vision years. My other eye fluctuates between 20/50-60 with a RGP lens but comfortable wear-time is down to 3-4 hrs. Old anxieties have resurfaced. I live alone. Is driving my golf cart over? What am I going to do? “Explore your options,” my inner voiced commanded. So, I tackled the worst-case scenario first – what if I can’t wear any kind of lenses even scleral? I researched tools and services available to those with all kinds of vision problems. I visited the Southeastern Guide Dog Campus in Palmetto, FL in the US and learned all about Seeing Eye guide dogs. They’re amazing! My doctor started conversations about scleral lenses but that got put on hold.
Why? I was in the middle of a huge project. My imagination was taking me to great heights in this project. I was at the critical stages of writing a novel. It required my full attention. Fitting sessions and lens adjustment time would derail my momentum or even force me to take a detour off my route to my destination of having my novel catalogued in Books in Print. I didn’t need high functional vision to imagine scenes and characters. What I did need was a soft contact to act as a bandage to alleviate the pain of filamentary keratitis in my left eye. The soft lens worked! I published Juror 1389 – Dorsie Raines Renninger! Did vision challenges hinder me? Yes, at times. But, I pushed on and worked with what vision I had. I adapted – I bumped up MS Word font size way beyond 200%. I set an alarm clock to signal a stop after two hours of screen time. I removed my RGP lens and took eye-soothing breaks. I used various colors of paper for my research subjects so I could find notes easily. Thera® Tears were constant buddies. And, I asked for help! I formed a 1389 project team with good vision. They read. They highlighted mistakes to correct. I’m 100% certain any reader of Juror 1389 would never guess the author had vision challenges. Why would they? It’s of no importance to them. They’re only interested in what my imagination produced – a good story, a good read.
My message to all KCers is this – KC is a life altering condition not a life threatening condition. Don’t let keratoconus threaten your life or how you live it. Make these two words your mantra – Accept and Adapt. Make peace with what vision you have or will have. Accept it. Move on. Move towards being the best you can be in spite how out-of-focus the world looks to you. Life is not perfectly focused for anyone! Adapt – seek out tools and invent ways to change how you do things. Discover “what works” for you. Learn to ask for help. And remember, imagination is powerful. It has crisp, clear vision. It’s always there. Use it to visualize anything you want or what kind of life you want to live.
Author, web content and greeting card verse writer
She is now working on her next novel – learn more at: www.gttrickle.com