In 2017, Christine DiSomma was diagnosed with glaucoma. This is her story.
I had never been to an optometrist/ophthalmologist before. What drew me to go see the doctor was trouble reading, and I was experiencing red eyes. Honestly, I just thought I needed reading glasses.
When the doctor did my eye exam, he noticed I had a hemorrhage in the back of my left eye. He then performed an OCT scan and that is when he told me that I had severe optic nerve damage. Then he said,
“You will go blind.”
He was awful. He said that to me point-blank, with no remorse. Earlier that year, I had a hysterectomy due to cancer, something that he was aware of. He then proceeded to tell me I was having a “real bad year.” I remember leaving his office scared and upset, crying the entire way home.
My father has glaucoma, so I knew a little bit about the disease, but I was never that concerned about having it. It was never something that was discussed.
My husband’s friend Dr. Brian Rosenblatt is an optometrist, so we went to see him the next day for a second opinion. He was wonderful. He spent a good 2 hours with us explaining everything he had discovered and the next steps I needed to take.
I left him feeling a bit more optimistic.
Dr. Rosenblatt recommended that I see Dr. Robert Ritch for treatment. I see him every 3 months. We found a combination of eye drops that work for my pressures. I also take oral supplements that Dr. Ritch has recommended. I had SLT surgery in both eyes.
In the beginning, there was an adjustment period, but it has now become my routine.
I am not going to lie, when I first met Dr, Ritch, I was a bit intimidated. I realized shortly after, he wants the absolute best for his patients and does not accept anything less than 110% from anyone who works with him, and I respect that. It is something you want to see as a patient.
Dr. Ritch has taught me so much.
He taught me that I can control this disease.
He has never once made me feel that I would spend a day alive without seeing.
On March 7, Christine’s daughter Claudia launched a campaign in her mother’s honor to raise awareness about glaucoma. “I personally think family is one, if not the most, valuable and important part of a person’s life. Your family loves you unconditionally, and without having that support and backing, you truly will never get through the hard times in life. I want to be there for my mom, no different than she had been there for me these past 25 years of my life. I also think, after finding this diagnosis, it was important to my mom that my brothers and I all got checked by the doctor. This was a different kind of support she needed, knowing we all have healthy eyes.” You can read more about Claudia’s beautiful tribute to her mother by clicking here.
Claudia is without a doubt the best daughter a mother could ever ask for. When she told me that she was fundraising for The Glaucoma Foundation, I couldn’t help but cry. I was just so overwhelmed with gratitude and pure amazement. I was just so unbelievably touched. She is caring, kind, and an extremely ambitious young lady. I could not be more proud of the person she has become. Claudia is my best friend!
My husband Carmine has been my rock. Claudia meets me at all my eye appts and is always there for me. Both my sons, Frankie and Nick. have constantly checked up on me and have been there through tough times. Nick is helping Claudia’s fundraising efforts with different athletic challenges each week. Having their support and knowing they are working towards a larger initiative makes me so proud to be their Mom.
My advice is, go to the eye doctor regularly. Do not wait until you think something is wrong.
If I had started earlier in my life, I would have been diagnosed sooner, and would not have lost so much of my vision. Listen to your body and what you think is right.
Robert Ritch, MD is the founder and medical director of The Glaucoma Foundation. He is the Shelley and Steven Einhorn Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology, Chief of Glaucoma Service, and Surgeon Director at The New York Eye & Ear Infirmary.