The Other Shoe, My Journey: Part 1 by Cathy Meggs

This has got to be some kind of mistake.

It was March 2008, I was 38 years old, married with an 8-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son. I had just started a new career as an insurance agent. My calendar was FULL! On top of my regular schedule with a busy young family – Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, gymnastics, shooting club, & band concerts – I also had Chamber of Commerce meetings, Optimist meetings, and insurance training. So when I realized that I was about to run out of contact lenses, I hastily made an appointment at JC Penney Optical. I had a coupon for a free exam and discounted glasses.

When the day of my appointment came, I had scheduled a lunch with a client that afternoon, figuring an hour at the most for my optical exam. The optician at JC Penney was an older guy, kind of slow and deliberate. Why was he taking so long to look in my eyes with the magnifying eyepiece thingy? “C’mon dude, not another look!” He left the room and came back, looked into my eyes again! Then, he handed me a grid and said “Close one eye and look at the center. Can you see any wavy lines? Are all the grid lines visible?” “What the heck kind of test is this??” I reported that yes, all the lines were visible and straight. Now can I get my prescription and go? Then he stops me cold – he tells me he thinks I have macular degeneration. He sees drusen. He wants to refer me to a specialist and sends me on my way with an Amsler Grid. These are words I had never heard before – macular, drusen, Amsler Grid. ­­­­­ I had to reschedule my lunch, then back to the office. Where I Googled ‘macular degeneration’.

Well, that JC Penney doctor must be confused. Or maybe I heard him wrong. Macular degeneration is something that elderly people have to deal with. I’m sure this is all a mistake, but I made the appointment with the specialist anyway.

Two weeks later, I had my husband drive me to the specialist (RS#1). When I made the appointment, they told me to bring a driver because I would be dilated and unable to drive. So now my husband has to take off work, I have to take off work. What an inconvenience!! We get there, and the waiting room is full of canes, walkers, wheelchairs (and the grey haired people attached to them). “Oh whoa…this is definitely a mistake. I should not be here.”

But the doctor confirms that I do indeed have early dry macular degeneration, and explains what drusen means. He tells me to look at my Amsler Grid every day. If there are any changes, call him immediately. “Ok, bye-bye, see you in a year and go to Walmart to get AREDS vitamins”. Except he didn’t actually talk to me, he spoke to my husband only. So we left there with no intention of ever returning.

I had made a connection through the Chamber of Commerce of a local Optometrist who I really liked. I made an appointment with him to get a 2nd opinion – or 3rd opinion actually. Dr. Murphy would explain that macular degeneration was related to myopia (I was -7 and -7.5 at the time). He ran all the tests I would soon become so familiar with. He gave me the same advice – check the Amsler Grid daily and report any changes, take AREDS daily and fish oil pills.

And I did check it daily. And read horror stories on the internet of blindness, lacquer cracks, bleeds, wet AMD, dry AMD. I read so much, I overloaded myself. I had none of the risk factors – I have a slim build, never smoked a day in my life, no family history, general good health.

This has got to be some kind of mistake. I really don’t have time to go blind.


Cathy Meggs is 47 years old, married with 2 children – ages 17 and 19. She lives in a small rural town in southern Illinois, population 1900. Cathy is an insurance agent, School Board Secretary, President of the local newsletter, and involved in many different organizations in town. Her husband is amazingly supportive, but temporarily living in South Korea for a job assignment. Cathy’s children are well-balanced, achievement driven, considerate and kind. She and her family love to travel the world. Her daughter has been to Belize, Korea, Japan, Spain and Portugal. Her son spent his senior high school year in Japan, and currently attends University of Mississippi. Her hobbies include planning the ‘next trip’, writing, and community service work. She currently has wet myopic macular degeneration in remission (left eye) and advanced dry in the right eye.

Next: The Other Shoe, My Journey: Part 2

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