The Eyes Don’t Lie

Living with keratoconus and the treatment I’ve sought.

Important things. Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt ©2021

I had my follow-up visit with the Duke Eye Center for my recent diagnosis of keratoconus on Friday, October 22, 2021. The news my ophthalmologist/corneal specialist shared was good. There is no scarring and no significant change in my eyes — no additional con-caving or coning of my corneas. This is good for multiple reasons, but I’ll just mention two of them. 1. Negative progression of the corneas is minimal. 2. It keeps me out of the tunnel with surgery (a cornea transplant for both eyes) as the light at the end. If you remember, I mentioned not wanting to even think about surgery, so I am ecstatic about this recent news.

My ophthalmologist wanted the same tests done as my previous visit, but two more had been recommended as well. One process required a numbing agent for my eyes. The nurse’s assignment was to assess the pressure of each eye. She announced her need to get near me in order to do this — as she rolled on her stool closer to me, my breathing halted. I am not a person who cares for people in my personal space, however; I recognize sometimes; it has to take place in certain situations. As she dropped the numbing agent in the first eye, I stopped breathing and she held her hand up to go to the other eye and said, “I need you to breathe, Tre. This doesn’t work if you don’t breathe.”

I instantly exhaled and inhaled as I normally would. I apologized — informing her it was simply my body’s natural defense and reaction to someone getting so close. She smiled and said, “It’s absolutely normal and expected, but you still have to breathe.” And breathe, I did. After the numbing agent had been applied, she said softly, “Blink. Blink. Blink.” I did as instructed. She announced coming closer to me again and this time, there was a device in her hand (it looked a lot like this, I failed to ask what it was and I beat myself up for it when I left the building) and she rubbed the tip of the device on my eyeball rotating it in small circles. She did the same thing for the other eye.

The look on my face caused her to giggle. She said, “Wasn’t expecting that, were you?” I most certainly was not! To have someone rub some type of device which captures the pressure of your eyes on your actual eyeballs was clearly not on my list of to-dos that morning when I awakened. Afterward, I saw little black dots for a few moments. It took a few more minutes before I could see clearly again without the little black dots and swirlies, and then we were off to yet another room where I would wait for the ophthalmologist.


I appreciate my ophthalmologist. His bedside manner is one I’d rank a 10 out of 10 and he’s also pretty funny. He entered the room as he did six months ago — ecstatic and noticeably happy to do his job. We elbow-bumped, and we were off to him asking me a few questions to which I had the answers. He began by telling me about the numbers collected at the most recent visit versus my previous one. He also showed me the slight change in my corneas by using the cornea model in the exam room. Just in case you’re wondering, a healthy cornea model looks like a huge contact lens and a cornea model deformed by keratoconus looks like that same huge contact lens bent bottom-up as if it were going to tear in half and come clean off the eyeball. *shudders*

He was pleased with the numbers, and images gathered from the testing. The reassurance I received from him about my current status eased my nervousness and worry as well. I am in a good place to still be a candidate for scleral contacts, however, no surgery is needed at this time. The scleral contacts are supposed to help sharpen the blurry images and my need to squint (natural reaction) to try to see small writing or images far away. To have a sharper vision will be a godsend and I await it like the day awaits nightfall.

Taking into consideration the fact I am severely near-sighted, have astigmatism in both eyes, and have also been slapped with keratoconus, and my vision has not changed drastically in the last six months, was paramount. The news was the best I had received all morning, and I could not contain my elation. Before leaving, they had advised me to continue with the changes I have made, keep up the Pataday regimen, and take as much time as I can away from devoting my eyes to the blue light of electronic devices.

Listen, I appreciate the $5.00 off coupon the center gives for the Pataday eye drops. That mess is expensive for a teeny tiny bottle. But, I digress. It is necessary, and it works.


As it stands, I have an appointment with my optometrist on Friday, February 25, 2022, for my annual eye exam and the fitting of the scleral contacts. I will follow up with my ophthalmologist/corneal specialist on Friday, May 20, 2022. He wants me to have at least a few months under my belt using the scleral contacts before coming back for additional testing. The flip in visits between the two of these doctors for my eyes will take place for as long as my ophthalmologist deems necessary. Keratoconus is lifelong and currently, there is no cure (outside of surgical procedures), so I’d better get rather comfortable with the entire process of it all.

I am thankful for decent vision insurance — I could not afford this level of care without it. By stating this, I am not flaunting the value of my healthcare coverage, but the truthfulness of the aspect to the level of care of which I am receiving. The care is not an inexpensive one and my pockets do not run deep. Take care of your eyes, beautiful people.


Originally published in soliloque via Medium.

Read more about this: The Beginning and The Follow-up.

A Cornered Gurl Has a New Look

ACG’s new logo. Created with Canva. Tremaine L. Loadholt

I had been meaning to switch up A Cornered Gurl’s look and feel for a few months now. I wanted something more permanent—something that spoke to who I am and what I have been experiencing of late. I am sure it’s no surprise to anyone reading. I am exhausted. Life is doing its best to sucker-punch me at every turn, but I live on. I fight on. There is still much more to be done. We are about to head into the year 2022, and we still have a raging pandemic at our heels. THERE IS STILL A PANDEMIC!!! When I look at those words, something in me crushes. My soul is in a constant state of unease. Why are we still here? How are we still here?

Several shifts in my mental state, my line of work, and my life overall led me to realize that the exploratory uses of artistic images from other incredible artists just aren’t enough for me. Sure, they all have given the site a fresh and sleek look with a great deal of appeal, but this new logo is me. It says it all. It gives you exactly who I am: “I am more than breath & bones. I am nectar in waiting.” And, it depicts an image of how I see myself these days with the woman created with digital line art. I am here—not here. I am living—not living. I am . . .

We are all struggling in some way of our own. Nothing about this situation has been easy. Loved ones are dead. Friends’ lives have been changed forever. Many of us are cabin fevered out, but it is for our own safety—our own health. But for how much longer? I am sick and tired. SICK AND TIRED! The audacity of the privileged or the ignorant or the arrogant or the people who have been “othered” a lot more because of this virus laughs heartily in our faces. We have the power to control this thing, however, we have chosen a different path.

A Cornered Gurl is my personal space in this humongous World Wide Web and if I cannot be comfortable anywhere else, I must be comfortable here. I have to be comfortable here. I am not ready to go or be anywhere else.

Peace and blessings

5 Things I Do Now While Grocery Shopping

Unhinged

Photo by Elizabeth McDaniel via Unsplash

Going to the store now for me is like . . . like playing tug of war or escaping the fiery keep of a dragon. I flit around the store, flailing my body about the square footage as quickly as possible. All the while, in my head, I sing, “Get in. Get out. Get in. Get out.” It is a test of my stamina. How fast can I retrieve the seven items I came in here for, hmm?

I am friendly, but from a distance. I watch the people around me — looking at what they’ve touched — avoiding it. My senses are enhanced — heightened, somehow. I am a supreme ninja jutting through tight spaces, maneuvering myself through the lines of an obstacle course made of rotating germs and aggravated naysayers.

I bolt through the self-checkout, tossing the receipt in the garbage can neatly placed by the lane. I see the doors . . . “EXIT” never looked so sexy as it does when I lunge my body toward it — craving the air outside of the building.

I make it back to my car and I slide inside and crank that baby up and I breathe. I breathe and breathe and breathe and thank God I was successful. I got in and I got out.

And although, I only go to the grocery store if I’ve failed to get some items I needed or if I want a few more things and decline happily to paying the additional delivery fee for so few items. Otherwise, Instacart and Door Dash (Walgreens) are my friends.

I do these five things when I have to make a quick run to my local grocery store.


Keeping my distance.

I was never really big on having someone (I don’t know) very close to me pre-pandemic, so maintaining six feet is easy. Hell, I usually increase that distance by three to four feet.

There’s no need for anyone to get near me unless they’re trying to tell me something or get my attention, and even then, I am shooting them Mr. Burns’ twitchy eye stares if they break the lining of my bubble.

Avoiding areas that are heavily crowded.

And by “heavily crowded,” I mean two to three people. “Sure, I really need to get some more cucumbers, but I’ll avoid that for now. Thelma is thumping on and sniffing the bell peppers and Louise is sampling the grapes. Hard pass.”

Sanitizing my hands.

I work in healthcare. I’m almost certain I bleed alcohol by now. While working at the facility, I would go through bottles of hand sanitizer within a week or just under two. I’d also wash my hands until they were nearly raw.

Suffice to say, I spent my days screening patients for Coronavirus symptoms and came in contact with enough people who were positive to make me want to drink cleaning products. I won’t, though. I haven’t. But give me my hand sanitizer, please.

That is a pre-requisite, henceforth and forevermore.

Using my own shopping bags.

Let’s be real. The plastic most stores are using now has been recycled so many times. A bag of flour, two packs of gum, and a gallon of water will rip one up in a matter of seconds. For convenience and because I know where they have been, I use my own shopping bags. Thank you very much.

And I don’t mind bagging them myself.

Avoiding aisles when others are on them.

This is connected to the second point. I will wait to go down an aisle if over two people are on that aisle. I’ll circle over to another section of the store, get what I need from there, and come back. Usually, I’m successful.

Most times, they’ve gotten what they needed and I can swing on through and grab what I need. No harm, no foul. Keep it moving, folks!


You could be saying to yourself, “These seem extreme,” or “ Hey! I do a few of these too!” Many of these things do not differ from what I did pre-pandemic, they are just upgraded.

The key factor for me is safety. Grocery stores can be death traps and while I treat every day as an opportunity to extend the life I have, I am aware this life could end at any moment.

I’d just rather it not be by contracting a deadly virus while I was examining the expiration dates on my favorite brand of yogurt.


Originally published in Hinged Press via Medium.

spent

a lamentation

the work comes — it goes
every call is torture to the bones.
we communicate with vigor, yet
with ease. 
patients want to know 
listeners can schedule their appointments
and offer empathy too.

a doctor’s office landed in
my teammate’s queue — their issue
crept in without cause.
a 3-month-old showing symptoms
of a virus meant for adults and the elders
in the early stages, but really
did they know who it 
would attack and who it
would leave alone?

when we start scanning babies
with machinery doling out
radiation because their lungs
are about to collapse, the world
is truly at its end.
I shout at the screen housing 
messaging tools and the software
we need to scan through 
thousands of accounts.

it doesn’t shout back.

I can tell my days are beginning
to blend — Monday is Friday.
Tuesday is Thursday. 
I don’t know what weekends are anymore.
and the lovers of this world continue
on, sampling pain in
little festive bags — afraid to share
their happiness.

who will appreciate it?

“I am spent,” I say this to 
my mom as she breathes on the
receiving end of the call.
she’s breathing . . . breathing. 
how often have we taken this for granted?
breathing . . .
she hears me — pauses for effect.
she tells me she is afraid to
go outside and I understand.

I understand.

I spend many of my days
arguing with God — telling him how
I really feel. he knows. I know he knows.
but, I tell him anyway.
I want to wade through waters
less choppy and with each
passing moment, the hardness comes
and my face has bruises I
no longer hide.

“I am spent,” I say to anyone
who will listen.

I am almost at my end.


Originally published in my new publication soliloque via Medium.