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#EyeGetDilated: Every Day is a Gift

Guest blog post by OM survivor and advocate, Ashley McCrary:

In July 2012, I was diagnosed with a ciliary body melanoma while living in Memphis, TN. My friend noticed a spot on my iris and pointed it out to me. I tried to make an appointment with an ophthalmologist, but it was going to be weeks. So I decided to go to a corner eye glass place called Visionworks where I had an eye exam by an optometrist. After she completed her exam I asked her about the spot on my eye, which she had not noticed. At that time my eyes were not dilated. However she was very influential with getting me into an ophthalmologist quickly. Upon completion of a comprehensive eye exam with dilation it was determined I had an ocular melanoma and I was sent to an ocular oncologist named Dr. Matt Wilson. It was then I learned the seriousness of my condition and how I was being diagnosed with a very rare type of eye cancer.

After getting a second opinion it was determined that the best course of treatment for me was to have my right eye enucleated. At first I was devastated. I was 42 years old, had four young children, and I had my daddy's eyes. But by the grace of God I knew two other people who also had this cancer and had an eye removed; I was able to reach out to them and gain the love and support I needed to go through this gracefully. I learned that the type of tumor I had was a Class 2 tumor and that the possibility of metastasis was high. However, 6 years later I have been metastasis-free.  I have scans every 4 months and consider myself blessed.

Although in hindsight I am thankful that I met the optometrist who got me in touch with the right doctors, had I only relied on that vision exam without dilation this cancer would never have been detected. My life has definitely changed, yet I recognize that every day is a gift and I am blessed beyond measure.

Ashley is a dedicated advocate for the ocular melanoma community who is committed to raising awareness and supporting the 2,000 men and women diagnosed each year in the United States. In addition to the #EyeGetDilated campaign, Ashley is an active member of the Auburn Ocular Melanoma Page on Facebook, bringing national attention to OM's impact on that community. Follow the Auburn Ocular Melanoma Page and CURE OM on Facebook for the latest OM news, research updates and more.