Susan Howell’s Story of Hope

Hope — such a tiny word that carries so much weight, especially for those of us who suffer from chronic Dry Eye.

Susan Howell with her puppy, Bindi.
Susan Howell with her puppy, Bindi.

Hope is what we turn to as we face each new day. While it doesn’t always come easily, hope can give us the strength to endure this miserable disease, and never stop searching for new or more effective treatments… and maybe even someday a cure. But navigating a world with red, swollen, and painful eyes, struggling with the simplest tasks, robbed of the quality of life we once knew, can destroy any hope of ever feeling better.

My name is Susan Howell and I know about hope. My story is probably like that of so many others struggling with Dry Eye. Before I got it, I led a very active and social life. It was filled with promise. I was independent and could do whatever I wanted. Then, suddenly, everything came to a screeching halt as I succumbed — both physically and mentally — to the disease.

I began my battle with chronic Dry Eye two years ago. Just one year later I thought my life was over. I was suddenly unable to drive even just four miles to the local grocery store. Over the course of those many painful and terrifying months, I was diagnosed with aqueous deficiencyevaporative Dry Eye, and meibomian gland dysfunction.

As my Dry Eye symptoms worsened, the revolving door of endless eye doctors left me angry, frustrated, and filled with disappointment. Hopelessness and despair became my new soul mates. Their emotional toll was steep. Anxiety, panic attacks, and massive depression rocked me to my core, leaving me unable to eat, sleep, or concentrate on anything. Emotionally depleted, with eyes in constant pain, and realizing I could not fight this alone, I took the advice of a friend who convinced me to surrender and seek medical help.

Susan Howell’s Hope Restored

Over the next six months, a wonderful primary care physician helped tame the crippling beast that raged inside me. While there was nothing he could do for my eyes, his treatment and compassion set me back on track emotionally. And with that, I was able to persevere and refocus on finding an eye doctor.

Susan Howell's Story of Hope
Susan Howell’s Story of Hope

After intense searching online, help came in an unexpected e-mail reply from Dr. Steven Maskin, an ophthalmologist in Tampa, Florida who specializes in the treatment of chronic Dry Eye disease. Dr. Maskin understood both my physical and mental pain, and aimed to bring comfort to my eyes. Over the course of five months under his care, my eye symptoms improved enough that my quality of life — something I thought was lost forever — was restored.

I realize hope can be hard to hang on to, and finding doctors who understand what a Dry Eye patient is going through is a task in itself. But recently I was able to travel alone to Virginia and New York to visit family and friends. Hope was with me then, securely tucked in my back pocket. And it’s still with me now.

As a community of Dry Eye sufferers, we must all remember that without hope — this little four letter word — we run the risk or losing ourselves and allowing the disease to rule our lives.

Hang on to hope.


Susan Howell, Chronic Dry Eye Patient

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