Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Damn My Eyes!

I haven't posted in a while. I have been getting acquainted with my new GVHD friend: Chronic Dry Eye.

I'm fairly certain that my body thinks I'm a dead Egyptian pharaoh. With my dry mouth, dry eyes (and other possible dryness), I'm all the more closer to becoming a dry, shriveled up mummy. 

Dry eye, as the name suggests, is a condition where your lacrimal glands (ie: tear ducts, think of any Goth song that involves the word "lacrimosa") no longer function properly, producing little or no moisture for the eyes. It occurs in 60-90% of BMT recipients, so unfortunately this does not make me special. It just makes me 60-90% miserable. It's like the Dust Bowl, but for your eyes!

As a result, my eyes experience all kinds of dryness throughout the day.

There's the Desert Eye, dry and desolate, pretty self-explanatory:

And the Sandy Eye, similar to the Desert Eye, but with more gritty, grainy feeling, like someone's kicked sand in my eyes: 

Then there's the Glass Eye, my personal favorite, when it feels like I have ground-up shards of glass in my eye:

And of course the Lazy Eye, where my eyelids start to stick to my eyeball and blinking takes more effort than normal:

And what I like to call the Eye of Sauron, in which my eyes are wheels of fire (unfortunately, I have not yet gained the ability to see great distances or spot Hobbits wearing Rings of Power):

With all this (and new levels of pain each day!), I have also discovered that I can no longer cry. That's right. My eyes can no longer physically shed tears.

I did a medical experiment on myself. I watched the saddest movies I have ever seen, movies that have historically proved to utterly reduce me to a sobbing mess curled up on the floor. 

(Tears of the Sun and Hotel Rawanda if you're wondering. I would have also watched Life is Beautiful but at that point I had concrete proof that I could no longer cry, and watching a cry-movie when you can't cry is like trying to take a shit when your constipated. It's unpleasant.) 

If I did not cry while watching these movies, I would know that I am either (a) a heartless flesh-beast or (b) no longer capable of expressing common human emotions.

Immediately I knew it was not option (a), as within moments of the movies starting I began sniffling, with my breath catching in my throat, getting all red-faced. Alas, the only thing I was missing was the tears.

There is something very cathartic about the feel of warm, salty tears rolling down your cheek.  It is a feeling I probably won't ever have again (unless they invent robotic implants for people like me.) My eyes are constipated.

Oh! Speaking of implants, I now have plugs in my tear ducts to help keep what little moisture I do get on my eyes from draining away too quickly. They are little sticks smaller than a grain of rice, and they just shove 'em right down into the tear ducts. Did you know the human eye has a tear duct in the upper lid, too? I sure didn't, until the doctor started shoving sticks up there. Fascinating. 
(I was too lazy to draw this myself)

The punctal plugs (as they are officially called) don't seem to be working, but I limp through the day with eye gel, prescription eye drops and warm compresses. Fortunately, my eyes only hurt when I use my eyes, so there's that.

I guess I shouldn't complain. I could be blind. However, that silver lining only gets me so far, and after an hour of Glass Eye getting my eyes gouged out seems pretty enticing. 

Anyway, if I don't cry at your funeral, this is the reason why. (Or maybe I just wasn't that into you.) 


  1. Hi. I'm a transplant physician and came across your blog when I was looking for resources to help laymen understand GVHD. I think your cartoons are hilarious and it's really cool you are using humor to cope in your fight against leukemia and with the transplant journey. Wld it be OK if I recommend your blog as a resource to patients?

    1. Hi! Sorry for the late response. Please spread the word. I hope other fellow cancerites enjoy this blog!

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