Getting ready to go to work one morning at the court where I was a judge, I was finishing my makeup. When I closed my right eye to put eyeliner on it, my face disappeared from the mirror.
I opened my right eye and my face came back.
It took a few seconds for the truth to sink in: I had suddenly gone blind in my left eye.
All I could think of was brain cancer. As soon as I could calm the panic creeping from my gut to my throat, I called my doctor. “Come in right away,” he said.
Nothing hurt. My optic nerve looked normal. I reported I’d experienced some dizziness lately. Nothing else seemed awry.
“It could be MS,” he said. “Optic neuritis is often a presenting symptom of multiple sclerosis. But MS usually shows up in people in their twenties.” I was in my fifties. “Let me try to get you an appointment today with an ophthalmologist.” After calling around, he found someone who could see me right away.
The eye specialist confirmed no damage to the optic nerve and gave me a battery of vision tests. With my right eye covered I could only tell light from dark and see some points of light on the outer edge of my vision range. If a large object (like a desk or sofa) was in front of me, I could tell something was there, but it could have been a cow or a car. I could tell if a TV set was on or off, but not what was on the screen.
The second doctor also mentioned MS. Had I recently been to Cuba or Ireland, places where optic neuritis is fairly common? No. Then he delivered this chilling message: “We don’t know what causes it. There’s no known treatment or preventative. Loss of vision is permanent in fifty percent of cases.”
As for the MS: “Wait and see.”
Another terror joined the thoughts of MS and brain cancer. If this could happen so suddenly and without explanation, maybe the other eye would go as well. I could wake up one morning completely blind.
Next, I went to a specialist at Georgetown Hospital, who saw me the same day, gave me tests, and confirmed what the other two doctors had said. He prescribed a steroid, with five days of decreasing doses. “This won’t cure it. But it will tell you within a couple of weeks whether the blindness will be permanent or you’ll get your vision back.”
As happens to me frequently, in the face of something really bad, I find it hard to pray for myself. I can pray for others, but not for myself. I’m not sure why. Maybe it seems selfish, when so many others are suffering worse things. Maybe I’m afraid God won’t answer and I’ll lose my faith. Sometimes it’s easier for me not to ask than to beg and hear silence. If that happens, how can I continue to believe that God loves me?
I shared with my prayer group what was happening. When I said, “I can’t pray for myself,” Tony Cauterucci said, “You don’t have to. We’ll pray for you.”
Me: “I can pray to be able to bear whatever comes.”
Tony: “Well. I’M going to pray YOU GET HEALED!!!”
Then he added, more gently, “You can pray for those who are praying for you.”
Yes, I could do that. Lord, I believe (sorta). Help my unbelief.
After a couple of weeks my vision started to return, a little at a time. I was colorblind in my left eye for a while, but that too is healed. I’m thankful to God and to my praying friends.
But when an unexpected challenge looms in my path, I still have trouble praying for myself. That’s why I need praying friends.
Thank God for praying friends – yes!
Your title grabbed me because I suffer from macular degeneration, a threat to sight as well. I’m grateful there is treatment for it, but at great cost.
Perhaps no sense is more precious to a writer than her eyesight. Thank you for this moving essay. And that I can read it with my one good eye. 🙂
Thank you, Marian, for adding your experience. May your good eye continue to hold out!
Blindness! What a terrible, precious season of profound vulnerability and dependence.
And then to have God carry you through with praying friends?How could one ever be the same?
Thanks, Carolyn. Harrowing and comforting.
Thank you, Cheryl. Yes, praying friends are God’s gifts to us!