At the age of 36, I’m fighting to save my eyesight. For me, vision problems are a complication related to living with type 1 diabetes (T1D), which I was diagnosed with at age 7. People with T1D are at risk of developing serious eye problems, as well as kidney, heart and nerve diseases.
My symptoms began two years ago, when I saw dark spots in my field of vision, and a subsequent eye exam revealed damage to my eyes. Since June 2018, I’ve had five surgeries to repair a recurring detached retina in my left eye. But there are no guarantees for the future of either eye.
As I recovered, I would often close my eyes for 15-20 minutes to visualize what losing my vision would be like. I thought of the activities that bring me joy: baking, photography, sports and taking my dog to the park. What challenges would I have to overcome to keep doing these things? I also found myself taking mental pictures of the people I love, trying to commit their faces to my memory—just in case.
These past years have been one of fear and challenges, but also one of hope for the future. I’m sharing my story now because May is Healthy Vision Month and I want to encourage people to protect their vision as much as possible, regardless of age or health status, and get regular vision check-ups, especially to those at risk of losing their eyesight. I want to support the researchers working to protect and reverse vision loss—and to call for more focus on eye research.
The past two years have brought about a lot of changes for me, but by far the most important is that I no longer take my vision for granted. I came dangerously close to learning how quickly something like eyesight can be taken from you. I’m so grateful that much of my vision has been saved for now and I have a new appreciation for being able to do even the most simple, boring, everyday tasks. I’m also proud to work for JDRF, an organization that is driving research into the treatments that helped save my vision.
Because right now, I can see, and I live every day cherishing the beauty around me.