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The Eye Saga: Part 2 – Choosing a procedure

January 2, 2014

More than likely, you’ve read Part 1 of my Eye Saga. If not, you may want to peruse it for the background to my story.

Going back a little, I had mentioned that I was a good candidate for almost all of the procedures but not an excellent one for any of them.

To put a little more detail around this:

Procedure Description Advantages Disadvantages
LASIK (with cross-linking) Traditional LASIK surgery (with the flap) with addition of cross-linking to help stabilize the results of the procedure Well-documented procedure, great results for most people, less costly than implants, my thick corneas made this procedure a good option My risk of having the procedure re-done was higher than most, flap may be difficult to lift/set down after a touch-up procedure
PRK (with cross-linking) Laser surgery in which they go through the cornea instead of creating the flap, again with the cross-linking procedure to stabilize results Less risky without needing to create the flap, less costly than implants With my prescription, would need the procedure repeated 2 or 3 times to attain 20/20 vision (higher risk), very long (3 week) healing period
Cachet implants A fairly new type of man-made lens that is implanted in front of the lens in your eye Reversible procedure, lowest risk, do not have to touch the cornea of the eye at all Costly procedure
ICL implants A procedure that has been in use for more than a decade, implants a man-made lens behind the lens in your eye Reversible procedure, moderate risk, do not have to touch the cornea of the eye at all Most costly option, slight risk of causing a cataract when implanting the lens due to proximity to lens in eye

The Cachet Game

In short, both myself and the optometrist believed LASIK with cross-linking and Cachet lenses to be my least risky, most-viable options. After much thought, and getting the opinion of Dr. Gimbel himself, at the beginning of January 2013 I chose Cachet lenses.

The lenses took 4 – 6 months to order in, so it became a waiting game. I called at the beginning of April to check in, but nothing had happened yet. I called again towards mid-June, and, to my surprise, the lenses had been pulled off the market in April. According to Gimbel’s file, I should have been contacted as soon as they knew, but was apparently missed from the process. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. But, looking back, the issue occurred mainly in Asian people and those with small eyes, and I definitely fall into the latter category. I would much rather put up with the disappointment than possibly irreversibly lose my vision in the future.

So, that was that.

The switch to LASIK

On June 21, 2013 (otherwise known in my brain as Flood Day), I went back to see the optometrist and she confirmed that LASIK with cross-linking was still a good option for me. We reviewed my charts and I made an appointment with the counsellor for mid-July to have the surgery. As the date approached, the excitement and trepidation grew. A week before the surgery, I had to try to cut down on Vitamin C as it makes the cross-linking more likely to work as intended – apparently Vitamin C strengthens the corneal layer but you want it to be more pliable for the procedure. Who knew bell peppers had so much Vitamin C? Between my not eating red meat, dairy sensitivity and cutting down on Vit C, I felt like there was nothing I could eat that week.

The day of, I went into the main part of the offices to have my tests re-done before the surgery, since it had been more than six months since my last set. As I was sitting in the optometrist’s office, I started to feel a bit uneasy as she had left for some time to speak to the surgeon. And (I felt like) my whole world fell apart when she came into the room and said that I could not have the LASIK procedure due to irregularities in my cornea.

Basically, the irregularities increased my chance of developing keratectasia, which is a bulging of the eye due to removing too much of the cornea or where weak spots appeared on the eye. The corneal thickness of my eye also varies greatly from top to bottom, especially on my left eye. In short, with the additional risks these tests uncovered, the surgeons decided against allowing me to do laser surgery of any kind.

I also know more about the composition and topography of my eyes than any other living person, I’m convinced.

To this day, we’re all still unsure as to why these irregularities didn’t show up in the first set of tests. I tend to blink, a lot, and they actually have to recruit someone to hold my eyelids open for some of the tests, so it’s possible I blinked at the wrong time. Dr. Gimbel thought that there was an outside chance it could be dry eyes, so I hydrated like there was no tomorrow over that weekend and went back for re-tests the following Monday, to no avail.

Ironically, the test that had seemed most risky in that chart above, and is most costly, is now my only option: ICL implants.

Luckily, the space in my eye they insert the lens into is normal-sized, which means my risk of developing a cataract is fairly small, no more or less than your average person.

And, thanks to the CP shares, cost in this decision has been less of a factor than it would be for most people.

Onto the ICL

So, here we are. At the end of August I went in for a final test during which they did an ultrasound on my eye (very odd procedure) so that they could do measurements for ordering of the implants.

There have been tears shed. Excitement, hope, disappointment, nervousness, trepidation, resignation… these are all emotions I’ve felt during this process.

Two days before Christmas 2013, I had the procedure performed. The rest of the story to come.

Part 1 | Part 3

The Eye Saga: Part 1 – Choosing the provider

December 26, 2013

Only I could have a series of posts entitled the Eye Saga. But my journey to vision correction truly has been just that – an epic story.

It started off with the massive rise in price of Canadian Pacific’s stocks. What better use of the money than to (finally) correct my vision? I’ve worn glasses since I was seven, contacts since Grade 10, and I’m currently sitting at a -7, -6.5 for contact prescription (for those of you with perfect vision – ENVY – this means that I literally can’t see the hand in front of my face without corrective lenses). Needless to say, I’ve had enough.

It was also partially prompted by my optometrist’s proclamation, after viewing the pictures of my eyes during my last visit, that I’d be an excellent candidate for surgery because my vision has been consistent for years and I have a thick corneal layer (if talk of parts of the eye bothers you, it’s probably best to stop reading now).

I started my journey in December 2012, deciding to visit two vision centres for assessment of suitability for correction: Gimbel Eye Centre and LasikMD. I chose these two due to their reputation and recommendations from others.

Gimbel was first. The entire process was quite good. You wait and they bring you in to do a few tests in a couple of different rooms. Afterward, you’re taken to a second waiting room to wait for an optometrist/opthamologist. S/he discusses your options based on results. And then you are shuttled to a third waiting room where you then speak to a counsellor and, possibly, book your surgery.

While speaking to the optometrist, she confirmed that, indeed, I do have thick corneas. However, I also have poor vision and somewhat steep corneas, which are risk factors for laser surgery. In short, I was a good candidate for most of the corrective procedures but not an excellent candidate for any of them. Due to this fact, and because I knew I had an appointment the following day at LasikMD, I did not book a surgery that day with the counsellor.

My overall impression of Gimbel was that the staff were well-trained and professional, it was nice to speak to an actual doctor, and there was absolutely no pressure to book an appointment for a surgery (although they did caution that if I took more than six months to decide, the tests would have to be repeated so that they were up-to-date before any surgery).

The next day, I went to LasikMD. There was a bit of a kerfuffle when reception had to come retrieve a clipboard and papers from me in the waiting room because it hadn’t been clear that they wanted me to return them, but no harm done. The tests done were similar to Gimbel – not quite as comprehensive. I was disappointed to find out that you didn’t meet with an actual doctor, just a technician, to discuss surgery options. I was told that I was an excellent candidate for LASIK – however, no mention of my thick corneas, which I thought would be a point of discussion since it’s vital to someone with my high prescription when it comes to the surgery, or the risk factors that come with my high prescription.

The part that I least liked about LasikMD was meeting with their counsellor. While I plainly stated that I was still assessing options and did not want to book a surgery, she insisted on booking me a surgery date on the spot and told me I could cancel at any time afterward. Which I did: the next day. The tactic felt like one during high-pressure sales, and I do not believe a decision such as this should be subject to coersion.

In the end, I decided to go with Gimbel for my vision correction for several reasons:

  1. Better technologies and a more comprehensive exam
  2. More options for vision correction
  3. The ability to see a trained optometrist/opthamologist during my visists
  4. A softer, gentler approach to making decisions
  5. Overall, better experience and more professional employees
  6. Experiences of family and friends have been more than positive

Just wait – Part 2 is when this story really gets juicy. Stay tuned!

Part 2 | Part 3

Job Searching 202

September 3, 2013

Note: I’m not an HR specialist, nor do I work in the HR field, nor am I a recruiter. My advice comes from experience as a grad student trying to find a job after graduation (about four months of full-time searching) and a professional looking to move into a different position and field (a couple of years on-and-off before moving into my current job)

Courtesy Skampy/Flickr

There’s a lot out there when job searching – trust me, I know. And, unless you’re unemployed and have 24 hours a day to search, it can be very time-consuming. But when you’re unemployed it’s also generally more stressful. So, in short, job searching is always overwhelming. End statement.

This post is meant for those who know all the basics but are still struggling or want to hone job searching skills. I’ve seen and heard many requests for advice or sites to look for jobs; I just can’t fit this all in 140 characters (if you couldn’t tell) or keep re-typing my suggestions, so I thought I’d write a blog post instead.

Three sources you may not have thought of

  1. Professional associations – your local professional association likely has a careers section. Sometimes it’s accessible to everyone, like the Canadian Public Relations Society, and sometimes not, like the International Association of Business Communicators. In the latter case, you may be able to find a friend or colleague who is a member who can pass on the info (if nothing else, a head’s up so that you can check out the hiring organization’s website). These jobs are like gold because they’re targeted to people just like you. And sometimes contain positions that aren’t posted widely. Other associations that may be of interest to PR professionals: Canadian Marketing Association, Health Care Public Relations Association and Public Affairs Association of Canada.
  2. LinkedIn – yes, I know. Everyone likes to lament about how LinkedIn sends 400 emails a day (I use unroll.me to manage my email subscriptions, by the way) and the endorsements are dubious at best, but the site has stepped up the game in the jobs section. I spend a bit of time on LinkedIn each week so I like to keep up with new features. Now LinkedIn is also sending emails with jobs I might be interested in and suggesting them right in my timeline. It’s interesting to see what’s out there, aside from the fact that most of what LinkedIn suggests is in Toronto. You can use the Jobs section to search by job category, field, location, keywords and level. There are also additional options, like salary, if you go for the paid version of LinkedIn, which I do not subscribe to so cannot in good conscience recommend.
  3. Networking – I know this one is in every job advice column since the beginning of time, but I think people still overlook it as important. While I don’t think it’s 100% who you know, when two people are about equal in skill and knowledge, it’s the one with the connections who’s going to get the job. Not sure how to network? Try looking up groups in your city that have similar interests to you, like Third Tuesday, NextStepYYC or Social Media Breakfast in my case, as well as events put on by local professional associations. Join in on the events, make friends. Once you’ve established a relationship (and this is important, because there’s nothing worse than the acquaintance who only ever makes contact with you when s/he wants something), drop the hint that you’re on the prowl for a job. You don’t have to be aggressive about it; just plant the seed so that next time a job comes across his/her desk that might be a fit for you, it’ll get passed along as an FYI.

That’s not to say that the same ol’, same ol’ Workopolis, Monster, Calgary Job Shop, Service Canada Job BankKijiji (ugh) aren’t worth checking out – they are! The suggestions above are just meant to expand your job search horizons… or something.

Have your resume AND cover letter looked over

The turning point in my search for a job that yielded me my past two positions was asking someone who works in recruiting to look over my resume and cover letter. I’d surfed all the Resume 101 websites and made changes here and there, and thought my resume was the bee’s knees. So, I was shocked when I got pages and pages of feedback on my application material; all starting with removing my middle name from my resume because my first and last names are hard enough to remember as it is. Could my full name be turning off prospective employers? Turns out, yes. After making the changes (and, really, it wasn’t that many; mostly to my cover letter) I started getting interviews like crazy. So I cannot stress enough that having a professional who works in the field look over your resume and cover letter is important. And not someone like me who likes to throw out advice and pretend to be an expert (just kidding – see my Note above). If you can find someone who specializes in recruiting specifically in your field, all the better. Looking for a job in the education field vs. information technology vs. public relations – resumes and cover letters are all going to look very different. There’s usually an office at your university or college that will do this for free or at a very reduced cost for current and past students. And if it means putting in a few dollars to have a professional at an agency do it, it may be worth your while.

I keep mentioning the cover letter – did you notice that? The cover letter is like the hobbled sibling of the resume, and a lot of people don’t bother putting much thought into it. Please do – it’s the “face” on your application and if your cover letter doesn’t POP then there’s a good chance your resume will get a quick once-over, at best. There’s debate about whether cover letters are still necessary. It’s my opinion that they are. Personalize them (put the company’s name in there at least twice) and make sure what you’re saying about yourself fits the position you’re applying for. Tell the company what you’ll bring to the table and why it should hire you. If you don’t know the recruiter’s name, just leave off “Dear…” altogether – “To Whom It May Concern” just looks bad.

Keep track of what you’re applying for and what you’re searching

When I first got out of grad school, I was applying for five to ten jobs a day, five days a week. That’s a LOT of jobs to keep track of. It only takes one phone interview where the recruiter asks “What prompted you to apply for this job?’ before you realize that saving every single job description you’ve applied for in offline mode (I just copy/pasted into Word docs and kept them categorized in a folder on my hard drive) is a great idea. Otherwise, you’re trying to answer a question about a job you don’t remember applying for. Or a company in which you’re not positive what they do. You may think this will never happen to you but, trust me, jobs start to blend together, especially after months of searching. Be diligent and do your homework.

As a side note, while the number is getting smaller and smaller, there’s a subset of companies that doesn’t advertise jobs externally. I recommend making a list of your “dream” companies, going to the websites manually, signing up for job alerts and/or checking for jobs on a regular basis. I developed a spreadsheet after grad school that indicated the company, whether I had a job alert set up and the last time I’d checked for positions on its website (I may be able to find this and pass it along if anyone is interested). This is especially important for organizations that are in your Top 10 to work for. Why leave it to chance that you’ll happen upon available jobs in your searches? Sign up directly and make sure you’re in the know.

Good luck!

What’s your favourite job searching resource? Is there anything I’ve missed?

Where’ve I been?

July 15, 2013

Many different places, mostly in my mind!

Here’s a post I did for the Calgary Stampede this year

Look for more posts to come – going to make this a more regular visiting spot.

Pennies for PALS

February 6, 2013

As most know, the penny was officially retired as currency this week. Enterprising charities and not-for-profits have jumped on the chance to empty peoples’ pockets, drawers and jars of these coins. One such organization, which hits close to home for me in several ways, is Pawsitively Natural, which is collecting pennies (and anything else you’d like to donate) for PALS. PALS is a non-profit organization that provides pet therapy to people who would not ordinarily be able to benefit from such a service, such as seniors in long-term care facilities or terminally ill children in hospitals or care centres.

20130206-192606.jpgAs most of you probably know, Miki and I volunteer with PALS since 2010. Not only do we visit a seniors’ home twice a month, but I also interview prospective volunteers, manage the social media strategy and am helping to redevelop the website and branding for the organization. Lesser known is that Miki also visits Pawsitively Natural Daycare and Training Academy once a week as a break to being home alone all day. She loves going and their staff is incredibly engaged. Eric and his team are experienced and full of energy, and I could recommend them as a daycare to anyone.

Want to donate your pennies to PALS?

  1. Visit Pawsitively Natural – 1313 16 Ave SW
  2. Drop your pennies in the jar!

Can’t get to Pawsitively Natural? Donations can also be made online through Paypal. Sure, it won’t help you get rid of your pennies, but it’ll still make you feel good – and you can get a tax receipt!

P.S. I think I’m one of the few who will actually miss the penny. I use my change – and, by that, I mean I enjoy throwing all my change down the chute on the self-checkout machines at Safeway every so often.

 

My 2013

December 5, 2012

For me, 2012 was a transitional year. I started a new job after over four years at my previous company. New job, new role, new industry. I’ve learned a lot and met incredible people – I am excited for what’s coming around the corner. I also learned a little bit about my health – namely that I’m dairy-sensitive. This has resulted in a new approach to how I eat and plan meals. And a new blog. And, finally, I’ve focused a lot of time and effort into my relationship, especially in a support role, and shaping my life to include a new person.

One thing that strikes me about the past year is that I’ve let it happen to me. Everything has come at me; there’s  been little that I’ve sought out myself. I believe that everyone has years like this and, honestly, they’re needed. When you create a cluster of change in your life there has to be a period of finding a new normal. And that’s what I’ve done.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about what my goals will be for 2013. While I’ve never really formalized or written it down in the past, what I want the next year to look like is speaking to me, which makes it easier. It’s a fairly important year (in my opinion) in that almost exactly halfway through 2013 I’ll turn 30. It’s not quite 40 but it also means that I’ll need to start thinking about making important life decisions that I may have been putting off.

Back to 2013. While I still reserve the right to add, modify or remove from this list, I can sum my plan up in three overall goals:

  • Revisit my commitments
  • Make inroads to optimal health
  • Get back into the networking scene

Revisit my commitments

I love giving back to my city. I enjoy helping my friends and family. I have absolutely no issues giving my time to many different events and causes to make my community a better place. But towards the end of this year I’m starting to wonder whether splitting my time between so many organizations is the best idea. Not only for myself, but the causes I’m trying to help. I want to ensure that not only am I learning and growing from my experiences, but also that I am lending my talents and skills to these organizations so that my contributions are valuable. By the end of 2013, I’d like to scale down my larger commitments to three and make a better effort to meld my interests and volunteer roles.

Make inroads to optimal health

As I mentioned, I found out in the second half of this year that I’m extremely sensitive to dairy. Not just milk but any product derived from milk. As well as goat’s and sheep’s milk. This has severely changed how and what I eat. Here’s a list of things you may not have known contain milk or milk derivatives:

  • Most broths & bouillon powders
  • Protein shakes (whey)
  • Any sort of chips except plain (in the seasoning)
  • Many french fries (in the beef flavouring)
  • Breaded chicken strips (they dip the chicken in milk before breading)
  • Many caramel-coloured sauces

Oddly, Oreos do not contain dairy (what in the heck are they made of??)

My point is that much of what I used to eat is now off-limits. And the issue with going to food courts is that quite often the people serving you have no idea what is in the products, unfortunately. I’ve done a lot of work and research into how to modify my eating habits. Cooking is more of an adventure now when the original recipe calls for dairy products. But I could do better. I won’t say I haven’t slipped a few times. I have also “patched” the situation by finding a few foods I can eat at the food court, which does not necessarily mean healthier eating.

Plus, I’ve learned in the past few weeks that my lower back pain is a little more serious than I had anticipated. I’ve been seeing a chiropractor for years but the pain has been more persistent and severe the past year – I visited a physiotherapist for the first time and she’s let me know what I somewhat expected: the muscles in my core are very weak and the compensation is creating the pain in my back. I’ve been barred from any exercise except swimming and biking, and am doing stretches/exercises in addition to physio.

So, what’s the point? I’d like to do a better job of taking control of my eating habits and exercising. My goal by the end of 2013 is to be in the best shape of my life, physically and health-wise.

Get back into the networking scene

Thanks to all the changes in my life my networking has been minimal this year. There’s just no better way to put it. At first it was work: a lot of energy and time goes into any new position, which is as it should be. I’ve also been spending more time at home because there’s someone else in my life. I’ve been feeling under the weather a lot this year and not sleeping well, thanks to my dairy sensitivity. It’s only in the last two months that I’ve managed to start sleeping through the night again. And part of it is just me. Let’s face it, I can’t excuse my absence at every single event.

I miss networking. I miss chatting with people in my field. I miss the insights, the conversations, the nuggets of knowledge. Networking makes me a better professional; really, a better person. In 2013, I will endeavour to attend at least a couple of events a month. Naturally, I won’t make it to every single event, life happens, but I will be more of a presence in the Calgary digital media & communications scene again. You’ve been warned!


Enough about myself – anyone else have goals for 2013 they’d like to share?

Gnocchi with roasted cauliflower and turkey bacon in balsamic sauce

October 20, 2012

Matt and I discovered this recipe a while ago, probably close to a year. We’ve made it a few times since then and absolutely love it. The original was with pancetta but since I don’t eat red meat, we’ve always substituted turkey bacon with no issue.

My goal was to re-create this in my new dairy-free diet so that it was just as awesome. I succeeded.

Gnocchi with roasted cauliflower and turkey in balsamic sauce

Adapted from dansgoodside.com

Serves 4 – Cook time ~ 40 mins

2 1/2 cups cauliflower florets (loosely chopped)

1/2 cup turkey bacon (thinly sliced)

1/2 red onion (chopped)

1 tsp lemon juice

2 tsp sugar

salt and pepper

olive oil

1 tbsp dairy-free margarine or shortening

1 tbsp flour

2 cups rice milk

2 tbsp vegan cream cheese

1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes

2 tsp tomato paste

2 cups red swiss chard (chopped and blanched)

4 cups (500g package) cooked gnocchi (make sure it doesn’t contain lactic acid)

2 tsp balsamic vinegar

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Place the first five ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil and toss to combine. Put the cauliflower mixture into a prepared baking dish and let bake in oven, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven, give the dish a quick stir, turn heat to high broil, and let cook for another 10 minutes or until the cauliflower and bacon start to caramelize and crisp up. Remove from oven and set aside for now.

For the sauce, melt the margarine in a large pan on medium-high heat. Add in the flour and whisk to form a rue. Pour in the milk and cream cheese; whisk until smooth. Once the liquid begins to simmer and thicken, stir in the sun dried tomatoes and tomato paste. Reduce to medium heat and let cook for 10 minutes.

Now you can add the cauliflower/bacon mixture to the pan as well as the chard and cooked gnocchi. Toss a few times to coat everything in the sauce. Finally, add the balsamic vinegar and give the pan one last, solid toss.

Enjoy!