In My Mind’s Sight

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| This is the 208th story of Our Life Logs |


I spent the early part of my life dreaming. I was born in Mobile, Alabama in 1978 as the eldest of five kids. As an introverted girl who loved to read and write, I wanted to be successful and see the world that I had really only read about in the books I poured over. Growing up, my parents encouraged me to pursue all the dreams I could think of. I remember my dad’s words that have always stayed in my heart, “Everybody has a purpose and plan on Earth; you just have to find it.”

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I tried to find my purpose in my 20s. I was a college student for a while, then I worked as a department head in a clothing store and later as an account executive. I opened myself to new experiences, stayed happy, but never quite found my “true purpose.”  Still, I believed my dad. My purpose was real, and it was waiting for me.

I was just 23 years old when my dad passed away unexpectedly—it was as if the entire family lost our footing overnight. We turned to each other to heal, and in turn, I grew closer to my mom. As time allowed us to come back to the world, my mom motivated me to keep searching for my purpose—and if my mom could tell me to buck up while she was grieving, then I would make her proud.

Rashonda before she got sick
Me pre-2011.

Not long after I had my beautiful daughter in 2004 (things didn’t work out with her father), I began dating a guy across the country in California. It was all so exciting. After years of long distance, I moved to be with him in October of 2010 and we quickly got married.

With the change of scenery, I felt like I could finally put my thoughts into action. My “purpose” began to peek its head through the clouds when my husband and I started a clothing business. My entrepreneurial spirit sang! Everything was finally falling into place.

That was, until one summer morning in 2011.

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As I stretched out of my sleep, I found that my vision was a little blurry. Confused, I rubbed my eyes, then rubbed again. I tried to blink away the hazy film. But no matter what I tried, I saw nothing but a foggy room. Anxiety pulsed through my body. I began sweating and started screaming for my husband. What was happening to me?!

Together, we went to the eye doctor because something was NOT okay. After conducting the exam, the doctor told me he’d be back in a minute. His voice trailed away. Now, I had known that this type of exam wasn’t going to be quick and easy, but I remember thinking, man, he’s taking longer than usual. A few minutes turned into 10, then 20. I began to panic all over again. What’s going on? I know he saw something. What is he not telling me? What’s happening to me?

Finally, I heard the doctor’s footsteps enter the room. He had some diagnosis, but let me tell you, it wasn’t pretty.

“I don’t know how to tell you this, but based on the exam’s findings, it appears that you’ve lost 80% of your vision in one of your eyes, and it’s only going to get worse from here.”

Bricks. It felt like a weight of bricks had come crashing down on my chest. How was this possible? I had just had an eye exam before coming to California and there were no issues.

The doctor was right, because after that diagnosis, things didn’t get better. A few days later, I started having incapacitating migraines. I couldn’t sleep or stand up for any length of time, and there was nothing I could take to relieve my pain partly because I found out that I was pregnant. I began to panic, wondering if they were going to fix the problem, and if any of this would affect the pregnancy.

Months passed and the headaches got worse. I went back to the doctor to relay my symptoms and they decided to begin a daily laser treatment to try to restore my sight. But as the days crawled away, the pain in my eyes grew stronger and stronger, and my blurred vision grew worse and worse. I couldn’t eat, I was rapidly losing weight, and I’d spend the whole day sobbing just to cry myself into fitful bouts of sleep. The blindness made me feel so alone.

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Finally, I was sent to a specialist who told me my eyes were engorged and filled with fluid. She said they could conduct a surgery to help me feel better. In the operating room, the doctor told me to count back from 10 and by 8, I was out.

I woke up hours later with thick, gauzy bandages over my face, but I didn’t feel any pain. I waited eagerly for the day I could remove and change the bandages, hoping for my sight to come back into focus like an old Polaroid. At least, that’s what they told me would happen. But when they removed the stitches, my vision was worse! Give it time, the doctor said. So, I did.

Weeks went by and nothing changed. It got to a point where I couldn’t even see my eight-year-old daughter. Experiencing this made the reality of my future sink a lot deeper. I was going to have a little boy soon and what if I would never to be able to see him? How was I going to live without my sight? How could I still keep my business? I fell face first into a depression.

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In April 2012, I went into induced labor to have my son to avoid putting too much pressure on my eyes. When the doctor’s placed him in my arms, he felt so little and gave me so much happiness. Still, what did he look like?

Even with a new baby in the house, my appointments continued—they had to. The doctors assured me that I was going to get my sight back, and while I wanted to believe them, doubt crept in.

Then suddenly, I had a moment of clarity when my son was about six months old. I saw some of my son’s tiny face! It was a little blurry and distorted, but I could see it. There was hope! There had to be!

Rashonda and son
My son and me.

Unfortunately, my vision never became clearer, and the moment of clarity faded not long after it arrived. In 2013, about seven months after the moment of clarity, the doctor told me that the scar tissue was still built up, meaning that they were going to have to conduct another surgery to reattach the retinas. He claimed this surgery would be better than the many others I’d had because it wasn’t using lasers.

But it wasn’t better, and it didn’t restore my sight. Instead, it took it away completely. When I opened my eyes, instead of blurred masses, all I saw was deep enveloping blackness. The flash of hope was gone. I didn’t even want to be a mom anymore. I didn’t want to be at all.

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Coming to terms with total blindness was terrible at first. My daughter was so used to me taking her to places, and I couldn’t do that anymore. It was devastating for the both of us. My husband had to take over my business while I just answered the phone. Becoming blind was like starting over, as if I were a baby learning how to function again. I was so used to doing things on my own when I had my sight, but then I had to rely on others to do everything. What other choice did I have?

In the relearning, I came to realize that I still had a plan and a purpose on Earth. The fact of the matter was that I was still a mom, I still had an entrepreneurial spirit, and I would always be a dreamer. The blindness couldn’t take that away. I would keep going.

Through the support of my family, I learned how to live this new reality. I learned how to mop, wash dishes, cook, and clean without help. Over time, waking up and starting my day got easier. I even made the choice to go back to school to finish my degree in 2018. If I could conquer a sudden loss of vision, then there’s no doubt in my mind that I can—and that I will—get a degree behind me. I am still that powerful.

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Me and my children.

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The trauma of what I went through may never go away, but this experience has taught me a lot about life. I believe that life and its blessings should not be taken for granted. Each day you wake up alive, you have something to be thankful for. I may have lost my sight, but I haven’t lost the people who make life worth living. I’m happy with what I have instead of what I don’t have.

I believe that one day, I will see again. And if I don’t, I will be okay. Because in my mind’s sight, I can still see, and what I see is hope.

 

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 This is the story of Rashonda Allen

Rashonda currently lives in California with her two children, finishing up her degree. Growing up, Rashonda had big dreams that never truly got to come to fruition because she woke up one day and her eyesight was blurry. Since that day, she dealt with more than eight surgeries and eventually lost all of her sight. She has had to come to terms with the new reality, but she refuses to give up the fight to find the proper doctor to help restore her sight. Rashonda is now a single mom and is doing her best to raise her children with a hopeful spirit. She is seeing a doctor in December, 2018 to get a second opinion for a new procedure to explore to help get her sight back. Meanwhile, Rashonda started a new jewelry business. You can view her jewelry at: evolvingjewelsboutique.com

If you would like more information on how to help Rashonda’s recovery, please visit her GoFundMe page.

 

 

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This story first touched our hearts on October 29, 2018.

| Writer: Kristen Petronio | Editor: Colleen Walker |

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