I know how politically incorrect that saying is but when I was a young girl it was prevalent and grated on my self-esteem like nails scratching on a blackboard. Reason being, from the tender age of 12 my eyes began their decent into a sea of blurry vision passed down by heredity.

At this very sensitive time in a girl's life, then as now, there's a burdensome emphasis placed on appearance. Unlike now, when glasses are a fashion statement, beautifully crafted using the finest technology for lens thinness and frames carrying designer names like Dior, Givenchy and Gucci, wearing glasses in the 1960's was anything but glamorous, stylish or trendy. One glance at photographs of people wearing glasses from that time is proof. My trauma was so deep that I would never allow myself to be photographed wearing glasses. I would rather not be able to see than have a historical record of my failing eyesight in those ghastly goggles for people to recollect my years as "four eyes". Marilyn Monroe's character in How to Marry a Millionaire humorously depicts the antics of the visually impaired pre-contact lens era woman's efforts to catch a man "sans spectacles". I was certainly not Marilyn Monroe but I could definitely relate to her plight!

I am not alone in the optically challenged logistics that became the necessary evil of my every waking moment. The age of contact lenses did liberate me during the normal course of a day, but at bedtime I had to have my glasses on the night table before I could even walk into our ensuite bathroom. If, by some negligence on my part, my glasses were not there, I would angrily fumble around feeling flat surfaces until I recovered them. I would also enlist the assistance of my husband in this self-imposed frustrating game of hide and seek.

During one of our wonderful "lady vacations", I terrified my dear friend Rusty and myself. While feeling my way back to my bed from the bathroom of our hotel room in pitch darkness, I was running my hands along what I thought was the side of my bed. In reality, I had brushed her arm while she slept in her bed, startling her awake. She instinctively grabbed my arm, holding me prisoner as I yelped with fright. We both laughed it off, but for me it was no joke. It only added to my growing shame of being blind as a bat.

Over the last 40 years of my visual impairment I have helped support several Toronto optometrists' families, not to mention paying a good portion of the high price of commercial real estate. I have gone the full gamut of ever-changing prescription glasses, sunglasses, transitionals, contact lenses (yearly, monthly, daily) and solutions along with the inevitable multifocal contact lenses and glasses.

Last November, all my optical trials and tribulations ended. I bravely entered the world of laser eye surgery ready to subject my eyes to their final technological adjustment to free myself from the paraphernalia of poor eyesight. I had two eye examinations prior to the treatment and was very pleased to hear that I was a perfect candidate. The doctor assured me that both my distance and reading vision were correctable. I placed myself in his capable skilled hands.

The treatment process was quick and painless. Several different types of drops went into my eyes, one being an anesthetic. I lay down on the table and within 15 minutes the treatment was complete. The laser was used on each eye painlessly for 40 seconds and effectively eradicated 40 years of my dependency on glasses and contact lenses. After the laser procedure, each eye was rinsed and I noticed the improvement immediately. My husband was amazed to see me walk out of the treatment area into the waiting room and sit down next to him without my glasses.

It has been four weeks since the treatment and my eyesight is improving daily. I can see when I wake up in the morning, put on my makeup at a normal distance from the mirror, use my computer and just do normal day-to-day activities unencumbered. I have caught myself on several evenings motioning to remove my "glasses" before falling asleep or thinking that I must be sure to remove my contact lenses. Old habits die hard. I can see clearly while swimming and I am going snorkeling in Eilat for the first in my life.

I have been reborn. If you are thinking about laser eye surgery I recommend going to a reputable laser eye clinic for an assessment to determine your candidacy and the procedure that is most applicable to your needs. A good doctor will address your questions and concerns and calm your fears.

Having the laser eye treatment is the best gift I have ever given myself. My only regret is that I did not do it sooner.

Merle Shewchuk is a new immigrant from Canada.



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