I was diagnosed with Keratoconus in 2015. Well, technically the doctors tried to diagnose me in 2012, but I confidently told them, “I know what your machine says, but no, I don’t have it – and plus, I’m only 21. My Dad has it, so that’s the only reason why you all think I do too.” Following my declaration, I grabbed my new glasses, my soft contacts and walked out the office.
Flash forward to age 25 and I nearly broke down in the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) after I failed the vision test associated with the driver’s license renewal procedure. The lady behind the counter asked me repeatedly (three times if I remember correctly) to read the letters on the right side of the binoculars.
My response: “What letters?”
For the first time I felt shock go through my body and truly felt handicapped. You see, I had been able to cheat my way through my slowly deteriorating vision for the past few years. I overcame the astigmatism by switching contacts and even bypassed the initial keratoconus diagnosis by relying on the strength of my other eye. But this time, I couldn’t hide it. I couldn’t pretend. I couldn’t pass.
I finally came out and told the representative, “Okay look, I have an eye disease called Keratoconus in my right eye,” I stumbled, “My cornea is starting to slope, so I can’t see those letters.” Immediately after the words left my mouth, I felt numb. It was as if everyone could see straight through me. She gave me some form and told me to come back after it was signed by my Optometrist. I fought back tears on the way back to my car, but as soon as the door closed on my driver’s side, I broke down. I needed to get this license renewed so I could go vote. I needed to get this licensed renewed so it wouldn’t expire. I needed to get this licensed renewed, period.
I called my sister crying hysterically and just repeatedly stated, “I don’t want a cornea transplant, I don’t want a cornea transplant!” She talked me off whatever cliff I was on and I then called my Mom (as if the first reenactment wasn’t enough). I didn’t care about who could see me through the windows of the DMV, I didn’t care about what people could hear me on the phone; I just knew that for the first time since I accepted this diagnosis, I felt that this disease hindered me; and that was a hard pill to swallow.
Since then, I set a new eye appointment and got everything taken care of. I got new contacts and actually passed the same vision test at the DMV. But, the lesson is DON’T BE IN DENIAL. Use my vision test as a way to check yourself. If you feel that anything is not one hundred percent correct with your vision, go check it out. Wear your sunglasses, enlarge the text on your phone, back away from the computer screen, turn the brightness down on your tablet; do all the things they tell you to do. Take care of yourself and realize that you may have this disease, but it doesn’t have to have you!
I found there are plenty of support groups, foundations, and conferences for people just like us. I also found there were plenty of other people who had it as well – friends who never said anything but who dealt with it for at least a year. They all are living completely normal lives with modest modifications.
Your experience is not going to be like anyone else’s experience, but we all share one thing: we have Keratoconus. Just make sure you learn to accept it before you need to go get your license renewed, trust me!
Continue to walk by faith and not by sight, you’re not alone.
The above story was shared by Vannesia Darby (Instagram: @ispeaklife3).