Overcoming Obstacles: Becky's Story

Overcoming Obstacles: Becky's Story

Like everyone else, Rebecca Goga values her sight and appreciates how lucky she is — even though, since birth, she has seen her world through only one eye. But what an amazing world it is, filled with many interests, hobbies and books. And, for Becky, reading has always been a serious passion.

When Becky began her fourth year of university studies (2010-2011) at King’s University College (UWO), her world was not only exciting but also full of promise. Majoring in Sociology with a minor in Criminology, she loved her studies as well as being a student at King’s.

This adventure was really a most remarkable feat, as Becky had already overcome incredible obstacles to reach this goal (to learn about some of these past obstacles, visit wirejeweler.com).

Understandably, Becky was horrified when she began to lose her sight in mid-December, 2010. She even denied it was happening and tried to hide this from her family. And, though her sight was blurry, she managed to write final exams for two half-credit courses — and passed both. Having had an excellent eye exam on October 20, she was back to her specialist at the Ivey Eye Institute on December 20. This time, her eye test showed a marked loss in sight — but there was no obvious reason for it. By January 1, 2011 she had lost even more of her sight and was not able to read her textbooks.

Her world was quickly becoming one of poorly defined shapes, shadows and blurs — one where she would no longer be able to sign her name. The independence she had worked so hard to achieve was swiftly slipping away. Becky, however, was determined to continue with her studies. While an appointment was set up for a CT Scan, Becky went through a huge learning curve, adjusting to her world as she now saw it. Volunteers stepped forward to read her textbooks to her and the university made concessions for her to ‘write’ her mid-terms and exams.

The CT Scan and subsequent MRI revealed a massive meningioma — a brain tumour. On March 3 Becky met with Dr. Hebb, a neurosurgeon, who gave her the bad news. Not only were the optic nerves affected but the pituitary gland was not visible and the carotid arteries (blood supply to the brain) were either engulfed within the tumour or pushed out of the way. On May 12,Becky had  70-80% of the tumour removed (during an amazing all-day surgery) and she is now being followed by a radiation oncologist as well as an endocrinologist.

When Becky was losing her sight, she experienced seeing flashes of light (some that were zig-zag, others that were flashes of dots and occasionally a flash of red). She also lost the ability to see colours correctly. Her primary colours were mixed up (where others saw red, she saw blue, etc.). On June 28, a visit to her eye specialist revealed that her sight was returning — back to what it was last January. Although this sight was limited-low vision, it was a whole lot better than seeing everything blurry and only in vague shapes and forms.

Though not sure whether her sight had stabilized, Becky was ready to ‘do’ things and she desperately wanted to read. A Low Vision Specialist at CNIB, evaluated Becky’s sight in order to determine what devices would be helpful. These tests revealed that Becky could read (with concentration) 9pt type (magazine print) but found 18pt the most comfortable. And, to everyone’s delight, her primary colours were back even though she was still having trouble distinguishing shades. However, with the computer work she was doing, she knew her preference was for a black background with white text.

At the end of the appointment (July 7), Becky went home with a borrowed closed-circuit device — where you place a book or magazine beneath the camera and it magnifies the text, changes the colour of the background and text and adjusts the focus. Surprisingly, Becky still preferred to view things a little out of focus — what looked grainy and blurry to us looked clear to her. Even though she couldn’t use her computer or the closed-circuit device for long periods of time (as she tired easily), Becky looked forward to reading again.

By August 11, she had adjusted the font size of the text on her computer from fist-size to 36pt — headline font used in newspapers — and she was able to read a book again — 10 pt type. She admitted the smaller font size was more work because she really had to concentrate, and that reading a book took a lot more time than normal. But it felt satisfying to be able to return the device to CNIB!

A follow-up appointment at CNIB on Aug 24 revealed further improvements in Becky’s sight. With concentration, she was able to read 6pt type (used in phone books and on the back of medication bottles), could see further in distance and recognized more shades of colour.

Without a doubt, Becky considers herself lucky and is immensely grateful. She regards each day as a special gift and tries hard not to think about the portion of the tumour that remains. But when she does, she knows she’d best get busy and really live her life, filling it with laughter, love and as many new sights and adventures as she can. And, should you be wondering, Becky has returned to university, taking two half-credit courses — one this fall and the next one in the New Year.

Becky is also an inspired artist who creates beautiful bracelets and chains from the links of jump rings. She started this many years ago after watching another jump-ring artist transform a straight piece of wire into an intricate design. Today she is a skilled jeweller and she spends many happy hours on these projects.

This skill has led to the creation of a book, Chains by Becky. With this book Becky supports Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada in a unique way. In 2011, the book went into its second printing and for every book now sold; a portion of the proceeds are donated to Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. They also offer customers the opportunity to match their donations, which increases the important funds raised as well as awareness about brain tumours.

Becky is pictured left wearing chain maille of her own creation. 


Read more about Becky here (scroll down). Learn more about the book, Chains by Becky that helps support Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada here (scroll down).

Story posted: October 2011

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