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#EyeGetDilated: Lindsay Z.

Guest blog post by Lindsay Zubeck, MRF Courage Award recipient and #EyeGetDilated advocate:

It never occurred to me that I should see an eye doctor – I was blessed with 20/20 vision. You only see an eye doctor if you need glasses, right? At the age of 34 I was beyond naïve about eye health UNTIL March 20, 2017 when, in the same day, I had my very first dilated eye exam and was diagnosed with ocular melanoma – eye cancer.

I remember looking at the doctor that diagnosed me and asked if he was serious; you are looking in my eye and telling me I have melanoma? What? I thought he was crazy. I soon learned and continue to learn every day the power of this disease and how much your eye can share about your overall health.

Many ask what led me to get finally get my eyes dilated. I finally pulled the trigger when I felt something was off more than normal and I had this weird feeling. I had been experiencing blurry vision off and on for a while but always attributed it to stress, dehydration or just life being crazy.

So, at the age of 34, as a wife and mom of 3 small kids I started my ocular melanoma (OM) journey.  I traveled to California for proton beam radiation with hopes to save my sight. The tumor was radiated but due to the size and location no sight was regained. The biopsy of the tumor was categorized as class 2 – which meant a high chance of metastasis, qualifying me to participate in an adjuvant clinical trial by traveling monthly to NYC. Due to extreme side effects I was unable to complete the trial. Soon after I was put on another adjuvant clinical trial drug, again with hopes to prevent metastasis. In November 2018, I began to experience severe pain in my treated eye and soon underwent enucleation. That’s right – my eye was removed. After enucleation I developed an infection in my orbital implant and underwent another surgery to remove the implant and insert a skin graft implant. Since diagnosis, I keep telling myself that if all I lose is my natural eye due to OM, I am fortunate.

Through my OM journey and the high risk of metastasis, I have liver and orbital MRIs every 3 months and a chest CT every 6. With this new normal, I try to find a manageable work/life balance. I am a Senior Product Manager at ATI Nursing Education and my free time is spent traveling and cheering on my three kiddos in many activities.

In May, I was honored to stand on stage and be recognized by the Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF) as a courageous survivor. I have also shared my story in the ‘Be Brave’ Coolibar melanoma awareness campaign for early detection. Early detection is always so important.

My children’s lives are forever impacted while they live my journey firsthand (our journey together) but I am confident it will impact my children for the better. It has made them learn flexibility, to enjoy the moment and celebrate each win. Because of the love and support they have seen others give our family, I know they will give back to others in need. I am humbled by the support from so many and try my best to live in the moment and recently began blogging at mrscaptainron.com.

My journey would not have been or continue to be the same without my amazing care team. I am forever grateful for each of their guidance, expertise, and passion: Dr. Hovland and Amanda at Colorado Retina Associates, Dr. Rioth and Kristina, RN at UC Health, Dr. Carvajal and Shahnaz, RN at Columbia University, NYC and Dr. Hink at UC Health.

So – I pray you are not like me, one of the 2000 individuals diagnosed with ocular melanoma this year, BUT you must take care of yourself, your family and your loved ones. As I have learned over the past couple years – the eyes are not something to mess with. They share so much regarding your health and like other diseases early detection is key. Please schedule your appointment today, get blurry vision for just a little bit, maybe run into a wall and laugh about it. It’s a lot more fun to laugh knowing you are going to be healthy and OK tomorrow.

Lindsay is committed to raising awareness of OM and the importance of dilated eye exams, and a dedicated member of the CURE OM community. In honor of November being #EyeGetDilated OM Awareness Month, please consider a tax-deductible gift to support the MRF’s CURE OM initiative: