In Constant Escape.

Eye ExamEvery year that goes by with diabetes that you don’t have a complications it feels like you escaped something. Like you’ve been running away from this awful specter of the dreaded, faceless “complications,” but you know that statistics say it will eventually catch up with you. But you always keep running, trying to outpace them. And every year when I get my eye exam, I’m always thinking Is this it? Is this the year that I get put in the category of “diabetes, with complications?”

Two years ago, my eye exam showed a tiny spot of retinopathy on the right side. It was so small it could barely be detected. The next year, the ophthalmologist could not see any issues in either eyes. The initial spot had seemingly disappeared. But now, just 14 months after that last “all clear” exam, its back. And in both eyes.

Yes, its minimal. Yes I have had diabetes for 21 years and I know odds are this was going to happen at some point. Yes I know that the best course of action right now is to get even tighter control and stall this issue out as much as I can. Yes I know that there are surgical options further down the road but I don’t want to even have to think about that. What I want is to have outpaced it for another year, and I didn’t.

When you get that diagnosis, you can’t help but feel guilty. My control was compromised last year because we decided to travel for three months in Asia. I made a choice to go back to MDI, travel the world, eat every last noodle dish this side of the planet had to offer, and change times zones as often as I changed socks. And it cost my A1c dearly, climbing up into the eights and then taking me a full year to get back under seven. I can’t help but feel like the resurgence of this retinopathy is completely and utterly my fault. Walking out of the eye appointment, I felt that heavy, suffocating, crushing blanket of Diabetes Guilt layer on to me.

But I also felt determined. The doctor had said that he really wanted to see my A1c under 6.5% and I agreed with him completely. I told him that’s where I’m used to being and that I’m committed to getting there. If the prescription for my eye complications is to tighten control even more, then I’m game. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again. I’ll keep running. Even if diabetes is right behind me, trying to pass me, or trip me before the finish line, I won’t quit. That is all you can do with this disease. Just keep trying.

 

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Comments

Damnit, I’m sorry Lexie!! My optometrist found small hemorrhages in both of my eyes last year, some of which have no resolved, so I feel your pain. The first time he saw them, I cried the entire way home on the bus. And then later that night when I had to tell Dev.
The guilt is utterly crippling for a bit, but I know you will use this as further motivation! Let’s get our A1c’s lower so those damn hemorrhages either stay the same size or GO THE HELL AWAY!!! :)

I’m sorry to hear that. I had a similar experience last week at my eye appointment — 24 years with diabetes and last Friday for the first time, the dr found a small spot on the very outer part of the left eye. So small he said it’s nothing to worry about and could just go away on its own. Now I feel like, in addition to my usual diabetes care, I’m on a mission to get rid of that spot. I’ve been trying to outrun the eye complications ever since I went to Joslin when I was first diagnosed in 1990 and the eye dr told me “We usually don’t see any complications for the first five years.” That five years turned into 15, then 20, and almost 25. Then last week, I took a tumble. But I’m getting back up. I’ll see you at the finish line, where we’ll both arrive ahead of the diabetes!

WTF, a couple of bowls of ramen and now this?!?! Now that you’re back home, on track with your workouts, diet and life stressors, hopefully this too shall remiss. And knowing you and how much effort you put into managing this roller-coaster D-life, you have no reason to feel guilty – you’ve done your best effort, and aren’t responsible for all the outcomes. “Fall down 3 times, stand up 4.”

No need to worry just yet. I’ve had those little spots in my eyes on and off for the better part of 10 years. I’ve got the advantage of having the eye-docs in my family, so they usually ended up describing the location very precisely and taking pictures.

And so far – none have stayed around. Those spots can come and go (it would appear), and even larger calcium-deposits (is that translated right from eye-doctor-German to English?) can disappear again. It’s only worrying if they grow larger. And even then, they can be treated.

So .. keep up your eye doc appointments. Don’t worry too much about it. Your mere 21 years of diabetes mean you’re still good for a few more :)

Thank you so much for all the support you guys, it always helps to know that I’m not the only one going through this stuff. This whole diabetes thing is a marathon, not a sprint! Thanks for helping me pick back up.

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