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#EyeGetDilated: Ryan Forgach

Guest blog from Ryan Forgach, OM survivor: 

RyanFor many, including my family, my journey into learning about ocular melanoma (OM) may seem like a unique situation. However, for those of us who are unfortunate enough to be diagnosed with it, our stories are all fairly similar in origin.  

On August 21, 2018 I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, OM, after a week-long ordeal of chairing my tail to try and figure out what was going on with my vision. About a week before, I finally pulled the trigger and visited an ophthalmologist to figure out why I was having some blurry vision. At 33 years old, I had never had an eye exam before, let alone had my eyes dilated at that point in my life. The original diagnosis given to me was that I had a detached retina and was sent to a retina specialist for an emergency surgery. This is where I learned that it was potentially something much more serious. 

I was lucky enough to find someone who had heard of OM, as the first couple of doctors I talked to had no idea what was going on. Luckily for me this retina specialist sent me to an emergency room where he knew a doctor in that hospital that specialized in said diseases, and I shortly learned later that afternoon how serious my situation was.

In that 24 hour period, I went from thinking I needed retina surgery, to having my eyes dilated four times, spending most of my day in the hospital, being diagnosed with cancer and having radiation surgery scheduled a few short weeks later.

Having radiation plaque surgery was not the end of my journey with this orphan disease. I learned a few short weeks after my surgery that my biopsy came back as a high-risk class 2 type, meaning I am at a high risk of metastasis. What this means for me is I have an MRI every three months, CT of my chest every six months, as well as regular follow ups with my oncologist, ophthalmologist and many other doctors.

In January of 2020, I finished up a clinical trial out of Thomas Jefferson University for an experimental drug called Sutent. I was lucky enough to qualify for said trial, in hopes of lowering my risk at metastasis, as this disease often spreads to other parts of the body. Even with being on an experimental chemo treatment for a year, I learned in September of 2020 that it appears my disease may have spread to my liver. 

Although my journey is about to take on its next phase, my point in writing this is the fact that awareness, regular eye exams and being diligent is the key to catching this early. I went 33 years of my life before I had my first true eye exam, and here I am two years later going down a journey I wish upon no one. This disease is so rare, I continually have to explain to some doctors the situation I’m in. Even my mother, who was a nurse office manager for a dermatology office for over 20 years of her life and worked around melanoma had very little, if any, knowledge of OM. Get your eyes check and dilated.

Behind every OM warrior are the family, friends and loved ones who support them. CURE OM is dedicated to offering whatever support is needed to all those who share in the fight against OM. In this season of giving thanks and giving back, please consider a tax-deductible gift to show your support: