In September 2014, Rachael was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer and began chemo treatments and by March 2015, Rachael had finished her fourth treatment. Rachael began noticing changes in her vision and “things were getting blurrier.” Rachael believed that her eyes were changing with age and waited until she was done with her chemo treatments to see an eye care professional.
Thinking she just needed glasses, she went to a big box optical center with her sister-in-law since she no longer felt safe to drive. During the visit, Rachael could not read anything below the first line of text on the eye chart. The optician began to write a prescription, not divulging that at her current vision, she was classified as legally blind. Until her sister-in-law asked the doctor when Rachael was told that she now legally blind.
Over the next year, Rachael was connected to several eye care professionals and had extensive testing. Rachael was eventually informed that she had bleeding in her retina and significant scarring in her eyes. She was eventually sent to a retina specialist, who later sent her to a neuro-ophthalmologist. After numerous hours of testing, Rachael still had no answers. At a loss, it was recommended that she see a low-vision specialist and prepare for a future without vision.
At this same time, Rachael went in for a routine check-up on her cancer and was informed she needed additional chemo treatments. As the treatments progressed, Rachael experienced a continual loss of vision, to the point that she could no longer see facial features and could only see silhouettes. Eventually, all central vision was lost, and peripheral vision slowly dwindled to nothing. By the beginning of 2017, Rachael had no vision left.
Her doctors encouraged her to see an eye doctor, but Rachel was resistant and did not see the point of seeing an eye doctor because she was blind. In May of 2020, Rachael was finally connected with someone who could give her some answers. Rachael was told she had cancer of the eye, and in June of 2020, her left eye was removed.
Rachael pulled back from all social activities, limited her interaction to only her family, and rarely left her home. She found herself slipping further into depression and felt vulnerable and alone. With the vision loss, she could no longer help others in her family, was angry, and felt so helpless because she needed so much assistance to complete tasks. “I felt like I no longer had control over my life.”
Rachael reached out to Outlook Enrichment in January 2022. She was at the end of her rope, and felt very distraught, lonely, and useless. “It was a very tear-filled conversion.” Rachael was emotionally at her breaking point. As she talked to staff who described services, Rachael started to see that there was hope after being told for so long that nothing could be done.
“I started to see there was hope and people genuinely cared about me. I never heard we can’t help you with that, all I heard was, you can do it. We just have to figure out the right way. I felt like someone had tossed me a life preserver and was told to hold on tight.”
Rachael initially started receiving training in Adaptive Technology and received an individualized adjustment to blindness services to assist with the changes she now faces and the emotional grieving process.
As Rachael became more confident, she started taking Moby transportation by herself. “It was a big day. I was so proud of myself.” Rachael had new freedom and confidence she had not experienced in a long time. Gradually she joined more Enrichment programs. Rachael is a regular participant in the Color Outside the Lines arts program and is an active member of the weekly support group sharing and empowering others through her Journey.