Already full of an unstoppable passion, this artist found additional support from the *National Keratoconus Foundation.
Rishi Parmar has packed a lot of living into 26 years, not all of it positive. The New Jersey native began to suffer from mood swings at age 14. He lost his father two years later during the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. And he started binge drinking in college. It was also as a student at Fairleigh Dickinson University that he began to have problems seeing the blackboard during class. He was soon diagnosed with keratoconus (KC).
An innately positive person, Parmar has overcome his struggles partly by channeling his painful experiences into music. He independently released his first rap album as Rishi P, Take a Look Inside, earlier this year. From the time he was a child taking piano lessons and learning guitar from his father, he'd always enjoyed music, but he developed a propensity for "freestyle" rapping in college. "I was able to keep a decent flow and rhyme words," he says. "My music is self-therapy. Putting all my experiences into my songs was very therapeutic; it was a way of letting go and getting things off my chest."
While rapping is his hobby, Parmar's job in finance fills his days. When he started in the field in 2007, he had difficulty seeing the computer screens. "That's when I knew I was in trouble," he says. A series of doctors and RGP contact lenses brought little relief, until a cornea specialist told him his KC was progressing rapidly and recommended corneal cross-linking (CXL) on his left eye. It has helped tremendously, and he hopes to undergo CXL on his right eye soon.
RGP lenses were still causing him irritation and discomfort until he learned about the "piggybacking" method of combining hard and soft lenses on the *National Keratoconus Foundation (NKCF) website. NKCF also provided him with a referral to a new lens fitter, as well as an online community of resources.
"I try to explain to people how I see, but the pictures on the NKCF website let me show them what things look like for me," he says. "I didn't know anyone else with keratoconus. KC Forum gave me other people to talk to online. I never would have known there were other types of lenses. I ask other people how they deal with things. I connected with another guy who had gone through cross-linking. He talked me through it and told me what to expect."
It's the kind of help he'd like to give to others: "It doesn't matter if you have KC; you can still pursue your passion," he says. "I have KC, but I was still able to put out an album. I had to make sure the lighting in the recording booth didn't hurt my eyes and make sure the lyrics were printed in a big-enough font. Make modifications, but don't let it stop you. Don't blame it on KC if you can't do something. Deal with it. Fight through it."
Visit Rishi P's YouTube page.
Posted September 2011
*The National Keratoconus Foundation became a program of the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute, UC Irvine in 2016.