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Essay from brain cancer survivor and young adult cancer advocate, Emily Morrison.
Will it rain today? Will I get a bonus this year? To an extent, we all live our lives with a level of uncertainty. But some questions are unique and harder to answer. Will I wake up tomorrow and be blind?
People who meet me in public never know that I’m sick until they are told. Even at the hospital, I have wondered if those in the waiting room think I’m accompanying one of my parents. Not until they see the tape on my arm from the I.V. do they suspect that I might be the one who is sick.
It shocks people to learn that not only am I recently blind in the right eye but also that two years ago I was told I had an inoperable tumor that was more than 2 inches into the middle of my brain. “But you look so good—we would never have guessed,” they all say and shake their heads.
Most people do not shut their eyes wondering if it is the last time they will see. But for me, the doctor’s aren’t able to estimate the probability that I could go blind at any moment. A new tumor is growing on my optic nerve that has already stolen all vision in my right eye and threatens my left eye with every passing day. More than likely, the optic nerve tumor came from a loose tumor cell from the original brain tumor. Even the most recent Gamma Knife treatment, which has the ability to stop the tumor, could also result in vision loss.
How do you live your life? I live mine with both eyes open—even if only one takes in the pictures.
My right eye still responds when I move it; looking different directions and at people and scenery, but drawing nothing in. It still looks perfectly green.
How do you live your life? I live mine with both eyes open—even if only one takes in the pictures. I eat dessert whenever I want. I take my 6-month-old puppy for a walk each day. I close my eyes at night knowing that I was blessed to really see what I saw that day—the flowers and herbs that my mom and I potted outside; the TV show my dad and I stayed up late to watch; the card a friend sent.
In the past two years, I’ve made adjustments to living. I’ve become an advocate for young adults living with cancer through an organization called Stupid Cancer, and I have been the largest individual donor. I’ve raised more than $65,000 for the National Brain Tumor Society. I also serve on the board of its NY Walk Event because I truly believe that research saves lives and every dollar makes a difference.
With this most recent loss of vision, I’ve adjusted to walking with my right side against subway walls so I won’t be startled. I’ve moved to corners of the table so that I can take everyone in. But I’ve never stopped living. This summer I went skydiving and spent a week with my family and friends at the beach. There were no guarantees that I wouldn’t lose my vision before I had the chance to do those things. But even if I did, I knew I could still feel the salt water on my skin and the rush of jumping and flying through the air.
Sometimes you don’t need your eyes to look at your blessings. How do you live your life? Do you see what I see?
Editor's Note: Emily Morrison died at home on March 1, 2014. CURE is proud to honor her memory.