How I Resonated with Fox News Anchor Shannon Bream’s Dry Eye Story

As I was driving home from my eye doctor’s office, a five-hour trip, I was listening to several episodes of "Dry Eye Coach," a podcast geared at educating eye doctors on how to incorporate dry eye treatment into their practices. I clicked on one in which the host interviewed Fox News anchor Shannon Bream because I had briefly read about her dry eye story before.

As I listened to her speak, I found myself nodding on more than one occasion and with tears in my eyes towards the end because I so deeply resonated with everything she was saying. I told my husband later that it was almost like she was in my head, illuminating all of the thoughts and feelings I have experienced during my dry eye journey.

How her experience mirrors some of mine

Like myself, she wore glasses in elementary school and started wearing contacts in middle school. In her late thirties, she started having problems with her contacts drying out. Getting close to her 40th birthday, she was having problems both in and out of her contacts. She was having corneal erosions, and she was really suffering.

She talked about how she felt disheartened in visiting her initial eye doctor, because he didn’t realize how greatly her condition was affecting her. I did as well in my initial visits with my local doctor. She described wanting to be perceived as a rational person, even when her condition was taking a serious toll on her life and her emotions. I could relate: at times I have thought that people might see me as fanatical, so I gauge how I should feel and speak about my dry eyes so that I do not appear too emotional.

She talked about barely hanging on until that appointment, and I can relate. Sometimes my eyes would be hurting so much that the only thing that gave me hope was my next doctor’s visit and the possibility of improvement.

Trying to navigate life

She went on about not being able to sleep and having to navigate work life while being tired and in pain. Similarly, in the early months of my condition, I was not sleeping and was waking up almost hourly to put in drops. That made my work as a teacher and mom difficult.

She talked about being a person of faith and learning to find the bright side of difficulties. My faith in God is what ultimately sustained me as well, and I too have learned to look at the positive side of this difficulty.

She talked about hearing other people’s stories online – even those who had considered taking their own lives – and she talked about understanding their feelings. I understood them, too! She ended by expressing how both her empathy for people and her gratitude for simple things have increased, and I have experienced the same phenomenon as a result of my condition.

Relating to feelings of hopelessness

During the podcast, she briefly mentioned her book "Finding the Bright Side," in which she details her story. As soon as I got home, I ordered a copy of the memoir. When I got it in the mail, I turned straight to the chapter about her eye issues, "Better Vision," and devoured it.

One poignant portion stood out to me, when she expresses her understanding of the despair and hopelessness people with dry eyes come to, and how it can suck the joy from the world.

I read that excerpt teary-eyed, because I had lived it. She worried about living the next 40 years with the condition – but more than that, even the next 40 seconds. I could relate to both scenarios. The idea of living the rest of my life in chronic pain was a scary thought, and there were months when I could barely make it through the day.

She recounts crying out to God and asking him to just let her go to sleep and wake up with him. And that jolted her into action: the fact that she no longer found the option of suicide as shocking. She goes on to describe how she finally broke down to her husband, and he promised her that they would find a doctor who could help her.

Validating my own feelings

She ended up learning that she had a genetic condition called Map-Dot-Fingerprint Dystrophy. As a result, while she was sleeping, the surface of her cornea would adhere to her eyelid and then rip away when her eyeball moved. She went through many other trials in finding healing for her incurable condition and eventually had surgery, and she says that she is 95-percent better today.1

Listening to the dry eye story of a highly respected and successful person like Shannon Bream does two things for me: First, it validates my own thoughts and feelings, and second, it gives me hope that my reality now doesn’t have to be my reality forever.

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