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Eyeball Look-and-See.

I expected the traffic.

That’s a given, driving from southern Rhode Island up to Boston.  Even in the middle of the day, there’s traffic.  Aiming to make it for a 3.30 pm eye dilation appointment at the Joslin eye clinic means leaving at 1.15 pm in order to take the insane drive into account.

But we made it on time, with a whole 15 minutes to spare.  Insurance card provided, copay paid, husband waiting patiently in the waiting room while wife goes inside to have eyeballs dilated and examined.

The eye clinic scares me.  Always has.  There’s a feeling that washes over me every time I step into the waiting room, a sort of empty feeling of being left behind.  The walls are beige and the room they sit patients in while the dilation drops do their job is awash with muted colors and videos from National Geographic that play on repeat with subtitles, even though no one is watching.  Most people are staring in increasingly strange manners at magazines, reading becoming more difficult as the drops take effect.

I looked at my phone until the words became too blurry to read.  Before tucking the phone back into my purse, I tried to check my Dexcom result, but couldn’t read the actual number.  I went by the color – gray, which means “in range,” – thinking briefly about what it would be like if the world looked like this all the time, all blurry and weird.

It was a scary thought.  Sometimes the fear of “finding out” keeps me from making appointments on time.

This particular appointment was two months late.

I thought about complications and how we don’t often talk about them, how they’re dangled in front of us like a threat, a manifestation of our (in)abilities to take care of ourselves.  “If you don’t take care of yourself,” with the sentence always ending in a severed limb or a clouded eye.  Discussing complications in this way doesn’t help me follow through on the appointments that are required to screen for different issues, or to track existing ones.  They remain a secret, a whisper, a scarlet letter, something I’m supposed to give in to instead of fight back against.  It’s easy, at times, to reschedule these appointments.

I felt ashamed.  But I expected that, too. I hold my breath sometimes when the doctor is shining that bright light into my eye, blinding me briefly in a moment of irony.

I thought about my diabetes management over the last few months, with corners cut in some places in order to make strides in others.  I hoped my eyeballs reflected my effort.  Or at least that they held steady.

I did not expect improvement.  I didn’t expect the doctor to come in with a big grin on her face after reviewing the scans of my eyes, words like “Nice job,” and “Keep doing what you’re doing,” being issued.  I didn’t expect to see the leaking reversed or the swelling down. I didn’t expect to be grinning after my appointment.

But that’s what happened.

I thought about the things that have gone terribly wrong this year, and the things I wish I could change.  The stress of moments.  The impact that stress has on my blood sugars and my overall health.  The fact that diabetes and I have spent a lot of time together over these past 29 years.  So many variables, so much time, so many opportunities for things to go south.

“See you in a few months.  Your eyes look great.”

I didn’t expect to feel that kind of relief.  I expected to be moody and sullen on the ride home.  Instead, it felt okay to smile.  And to wear sunglasses in the dark, eliciting odd looks from Longwood medical district pedestrians.


22 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dan #

    Hi Kerri,

    Keep up the great work and as always have a great day!

    12/9/15; 9:20 am
  2. Deb #

    Great news after all that (unavoidable) anxiety. I had my own last week and was very happy with my results as well. (37 years T1) It translates into a much larger and signifigant victory in my mind than when I am happily proclaiming the news to family. Not that they aren’t very glad for me, but they can’t have a feel for the nerves and worries that come before these exams, as you so well put. Meanwhile, I will trudge along with the daily regime and try to let myself bask in this victory until the next one….here’s hoping!

    12/9/15; 10:29 am
  3. Jenni #

    So happy for you! This is my annual appointment that brings about the most anxiety. Fleeting thoughts of “Is my warranty up?” A huge mental celebration when you get a good report! Especially, like myself, after 29 years, knowing you try your hardest every day but maybe that won’t be enough. Awesome news!

    12/9/15; 11:16 am
  4. Cheers to you, Kerri. Happy to hear it worked out this way, unexpectedly. Helps nudge me to make a long overdue appt with a brand new eye doc. I’m scared too and have been procrastinating. Thank you for the smile… and hope. Best your way, my friend.

    12/9/15; 1:00 pm
  5. This makes my week. Thanks for sharing. I hope this news makes the holiday season even better for you.

    12/9/15; 3:53 pm
  6. Yay! Yay! Yay!

    12/9/15; 5:07 pm
  7. karend1 #

    Goosebumps, I go in two weeks, after I found out I had diabetic retinopathy 2 years ago ,I am praying for no change

    12/9/15; 6:55 pm
  8. Laddie #

    So glad to know that you had a good appointment and a good result.

    12/9/15; 7:38 pm
  9. That’s wonderful news Kerri, congratulations! You have something additional to celebrate now! I can only hope that my annual retinal exam next month will also end with good news.

    12/9/15; 8:28 pm
  10. Barbara #

    Great news! Always a dreaded appointment for many of us. Merry Christmas!!

    12/9/15; 9:55 pm
  11. Lisa #

    So happy for your good news. As a mom of a 7 year old with T1D I want to thank you for your blog. Each post gives me insight into the possible emotions and experiences that she’ll have as an adult. Hoping that this will give me greater ability to prepare her for the future, as well as greater empathy and compassion.

    12/9/15; 10:01 pm
  12. Hi, Kerri,

    We haven’t met, but I’m Sean’s dad (and an ophthalmologist). I think I can understand the anxiety that dilated eye exams induce, but hopefully your ophthalmologist communicates whether he (or she) is particularly worried about you or not. I don’t know how long the recommended interval between visits was recommended (even if you were two months overdue), but I suspect that it would’ve been the same number of months even if months were 35 or 40 days long. Of course, I know no details, but you must’ve been having good control or whatever problem was found the first time would’ve been unlikely to clear without it. Anyway, I’m glad it went well. And, by the way, it’s easy to look up convenient ophthalmologists (for your other readers) at the American Academy of Ophthalmology website ( And thanks for your blog–Sean’s told me lots of good things about you.

    12/9/15; 10:47 pm
  13. John #

    Your intro paragraphs about the drive to Boston are exactly what I go through to see my endo in Seattle. I always get an 8am or 9am appointment. Depending on if I hit the right or wrong traffic window, I can be 45 minutes early sitting in a Starbucks, or 15 minutes late apologizing.

    Glad your appointment was a smiler!

    12/10/15; 12:40 am
  14. YAY!!!! And yeah, I agree 100% that these appointments are scary.

    12/10/15; 1:51 pm
  15. Martha #

    Yeah, hate that moment when the ophthalmologist pulls back on the wheeled chair after looking at my eyes and it’s always nice to hear that all is stable. Good job!

    This isn’t quite the right fit, but speaking of complications I’m wanting to shout from the rooftops that all of us longterm dabetics need to get coronary calcium scoring done to determine our level of risk for heart attack and stroke. My endo (who I’ve loved until now) never told me to go to a cardio despite my repeated questioning to him whether I should and now that I’ve been and know that I have very-high-for-my-age plaque development and have done some research I have two words: Go to a cardiologist! Diabetics develop plaque earlier and if you have significant arterial calcium you will be told to take any and all measures to drive down your LDL cholesterol and BP as much as is safe to do. In my case I also have family history but diabetes alone, according to my cardio, is reason to do this testing. Don’t take no for an answer. Some endos are too blasé about the value of doing more than the standard lipid panel and BP screening.

    12/10/15; 4:56 pm
    • Lisa #

      Martha, funny that you mention this because I just got tested for peripheral artery disease (PAD). I’m 38 and T1 for 7 years. I had no idea this could be a “complication” from diabetes. And mine has been relatively controlled (under 7). I went to see a preventative cardiologist because I have a big family history of heart disease. I second your plea for diabetics to see a cardiologist. My endo said there was no need. I’m glad I didn’t listen to him!!! Take care of your self!

      12/14/15; 8:35 am
      • Martha #

        Good for you for being a bit more ahead of the game than me! I am kicking myself for not being more insistent because my dad was 40 (!) when he had his triple bypass and I’ve had diabetes for super long and I’m 49, so a lot older than he was and he was not a diabetic. I am usually a very strong advocate for myself but I dropped the ball on this one. And I do wish the issue got more attention in general because obviously it’s kind of important.

        12/14/15; 1:13 pm
  16. That’s awesome! I’m exactly the same at check up time, reflecting on all the bad decisions and things I could have done differently. Easier said in hindsight, though!

    12/11/15; 2:13 am
  17. Kathleen #

    Good news at the eye doctor and time off for yourself ALL GOOD! After years in the awful dilation room I now listen to my music on low with my ear phones great stress reliever and passes the time. Also I always plan any appointment with potential unpleasant surprises away from holidays, birthdays, vacations just in case….

    12/22/15; 9:50 am
  18. Great news for you!!! What was wrong with your eyes? I had my annual appointment last week and the doc informed me that it’s the first time he has seen diabetes in my eyes, and that I have some type of (I can’t remember the name) aneurysm in my left eye…he actually said “don’t lose any sleep over this”…but when I went home and googled, I most. def. did lose sleep! With a 6.2 A1C…how can I get better?

    03/10/16; 11:12 am

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