Last month was the 29th anniversary of my Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis. As each year goes by my feelings about “celebrating” or just acknowledging this anniversary changes. It used to be a source of pride, as in “Look how well I’ve lived with diabetes for 15 years… 20 years… etc.” But, as I’ve been dealing with my first diabetes complication for the past couple years, the reality of longevity with this disease feels more daunting.
About a month ago my doctor examined my eyes and indicated that more laser treatment was needed, particularly in my left eye. He discovered more vessels in my retinas that were starting to or would likely bleed. Based on my prior experience, the treatment wasn’t urgent so I confirmed with my doctor that it was okay to schedule the laser treatment after we returned from vacation.
Well, turns out that wasn’t the best decision.
On the evening of July 5th I started to notice some floaters in my left eye. It was late and I was hopeful they’d improve overnight. Instead, the next morning my vision was very blurry due to a large amoeba shaped floater just in my left eye. We had a beautiful hike planned in Fern Canyon that day, so we headed out there as I awaited a response from my doctor regarding the urgency of examining my eye. It seemed obvious that one of the vessels had bleed, but I was 800 miles away from my doctor and didn’t know the severity of the situation.
When we got back to cell phone range around 4:00 p.m., I was able to schedule an appointment for 2:00 p.m. the next day. Fortunately, we’d packed up the kids for their stay with my mom that morning. So, everything they needed was in McKinleyville, whereas Dennis and my things were still at the ranch. We huddled as a family and decided Dennis and I would drive home right then, while the kids remained with our family in Humboldt. We’d coordinate a plan to retrieve them later.
When challenges arise in life, it’s so comforting to have the support and care of people who love you. Dennis had a wonderful attitude as we embraced the 10 hour drive that night, arriving just north of the Grapevine (along Interstate 5, for the uninitiated), at 2:45 a.m. We listened to classic rock and enjoyed the drive, just the two of us. After five hours in the hotel we were back on the road to San Diego, in plenty of time for my appointment.
I fully expected the doctor to do the laser treatment after he examined my eyes. So, I was really, really disappointed when he explained that the blood in my left eye was blocking the retina, making it impossible to laser the vessels accurately. I’d have to wait for the blood to reabsorb or dissipate before treating the left eye. We’d go ahead and treat the right eye fully, as planned.
“What do you do for exercise?” the doctor asked. “Oh, run. I’m a runner.” I replied.
“You shouldn’t run until we can treat the left eye. Those vessels are fragile and the pounding from running could cause more bleeds.”
“Okay,” I replied. Internally my mind said, “No!!! Don’t take my running from me!”
Many, many tears were cried that afternoon. As I sobbed into Dennis’s shoulder in the waiting room and again, later at home, I mourned the loss of running and anticipated weeks or months of this annoying obstructed vision. How would I get all my summer reading and school prep done? Why did this have to cut our vacation short? What would I do without my weekly long run? How would coaching cross country this fall work if I couldn’t run by then?
It’s been five weeks since that day. Today is my follow-up appointment. Originally, I expected we’d be able to do the laser treatment today. However, as I’ve done some research and lived with diabetic macular edema (that’s the technical term) for over a month, I don’t anticipate he’ll be able to treat it yet. The floater has moved up in my vision, which means it’s moving down in my eye, and it’s gotten a bit fainter. But, it doesn’t seem to have changed enough to be out of the way for the laser treatment. I’m praying I’m wrong, but not having high expectations for a resolution today.
Instead, I’m marveling at the gift of acceptance.
I’ve prayed a lot about this situation and God had faithfully come alongside to remind me that freedom comes from surrendering. Instead of saying “this is driving me crazy!” as I did the first couple days, I’ve had to accept that there’s a weird amoeba shaped image floating around in my left eye. I’m able to read, study, drive, watch TV, and basically do everything I’m used to doing. Well, except run. We rejoined the YMCA so I’ve been swimming and using the machines at the gym. They have a cool elliptical machine where you can vary your stride length and actually mimic running really well. I love it!
Each day my eye bothers me less and less. It’s been like a mindfulness exercise. My accepting it’s there but recognizing I don’t need to pay attention to it, I am able to basically ignore it for long periods of time. When I become conscious of it again, I just think, “Oh, there’s that floater” and put my attention back on what I’m doing in the moment.
I’ve figured out little coping strategies. For example, bright lights make it worse, so I’ve been wearing my sunglasses inside brightly lit places. We went to the Giants/Padres game this week with my Dad and Moni, so I kept my sunglasses on for most of the game, until it got hard to see!
Dennis and I were home for a few days after the eye appointment. As I realized that my eye condition wasn’t going to improve anytime soon, it seemed silly to miss the fun with our family up in Humboldt. So, our amazing dog sitter agreed to come back and we made the return trip in 13 hours of driving, starting early on a Tuesday morning. It was a lot of extra driving for only five days, but they were very fun and special days! Dennis and I enjoyed some sunshine and swimming at the ranch, celebrated our nephew’s 12th birthday with a big family party, and got to connect with our sweet family who took wonderful care of Sienna and Mateo.
Even though our summer trip didn’t turn out as expected, in some ways it was better. In our original plan, Dennis was going to fly home early to relieve the dog sitter so the two of us enjoyed time alone together, which is always precious. I came to be “in the moment” more deeply after surrendering and accepting my vision issues. It’s amazing how much more present and connected I feel when I stop striving to control my feelings. Letting myself really mourn the situation and feel the disappointment of it was so important. I had a session with my counselor on the Monday afternoon before we drove back to Humboldt. She helped me sit with the sadness and truly feel it.
Life is hard. It throws us curveballs all the time. I feel like God is working to deepen my acceptance of all emotions. There’s such grace and peace in surrendering and allowing yourself to feel what you feel.