News & Press
#EyeGetDilated: Vikki McConnell
Guest blog by Vikki McConnell, OM survivor:
Everyone tells you about your 20s. How it’s full of fun, freedom and just living your best life. There is no preparing for hearing the words “you have cancer” at the age of 24. July of 2019 changed my life forever. I pretty regularly bragged to my loved ones about my 20/20 eyesight and how I must have super vision because I could see significantly farther than anyone else I knew. When I woke up in June, with a big black spot in my vision, flashing lights and poor eyesight in my right eye, I knew something was wrong. A few weeks went by and I just kept telling myself it would go away, or that it was a silent migraine. WebMD told me it was cancer; typical right? After I noticed this wasn’t going away, my boss convinced me to go get it checked out. I made an appointment with an eye doctor who told me I had a detached retina and referred me to a retina specialist. I remember crying in the car, worried because I didn’t want laser eye surgery to fix a detached retina. I was scared. I laugh about that now because I was so unaware of what was to come. Within the next 24 hours, after plenty of pictures and shining bright lights into my eye, an ocular oncologist told me I have ocular melanoma, a cancer diagnosed in roughly 6 in one million people that metastasizes in roughly half of all cases.
I found myself in the next month receiving radiation treatment called brachytherapy to zap the bugger away. Though it seems unfortunate to have been diagnosed with cancer, I am lucky. My tumor was just a few millimeters away from being too big for radiation treatment where removing my eye would have been the only other option. I am also so fortunate that I had experienced changes in my vision. Most of the time, ocular melanoma goes undiagnosed due to its lack of side effects. It’s sneaky, it’s quiet, but it’s deadly. People always tell you to go to the dentist, or get your yearly physical, but rarely do people warn you of the importance of getting dilated eye exams each year.
I am so thankful for the Melanoma Research Foundation for providing me resources and leading me to find an amazing crew of “OMies” in Denver (shoutout Katie, Lindsay, Liz, Carla and Carrie). Fighting cancer sucks, but man do you meet some incredible and inspiring people. I also would not be here thriving today if it weren’t for my amazing family, doctors and nurses.
Though my life these days consists of MRIs every 3 months, chest CTs every 6 months, finishing up a year of oral chemo as an adjuvant therapy and learning how to live with cancer, I will never stop advocating for the importance and seriousness of eye health. Live your life each day to the fullest, never stop indulging in the little things in life and go get your eyes checked. It could save your life.
If you want to read more about my journey, you can check out my blog at blondemeetsworld.blog.
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