Hi my name is Chandler and I am 17 years old! I was born with bilateral congenital cataracts. The cataracts were so dense if they weren’t removed by the age of one, I would’ve been blind. I had my first surgery at 5 days old, and my second one at 12 days. As rare as it is, the cataracts began to grow back! I had a third eye surgery when I was 3 months old to remove those. As a young child, I was sent to vision therapy.
I wore glasses and was patched daily until I was in 6th grade, when I started wearing contacts.. My 8th grade year, I was told I needed glasses over my contacts to correct my vision even further. This was very hard on me, because I just tried out for our school’s dance team and made it. None of the other girls really understood how bad my eyesight was, even after running into the judges table due to lack of depth perception. However, I stuck with it and won my first regional title in February or my freshman year. I went on to win another regional, and even a national title.
January of my sophomore year of high school, we began looking at getting IOL implants. We were told by three different doctors that i didn’t have the structure in my eye to hold an implant on its own. it would have to sewn in. we travelled to Oklahoma City to see Dr. Cohen at Dean McGee Eye Institute where all our prayers were answered. He performed the three hour life changing surgery. July of that same year, he performed a second surgery on my left eye. Luckily they didn’t have to sew the lens in on this one!
Since my sophomore year I have been a member of the Union Varsity Highsteppers and have been a successful competitive dancer. With the Highsteppers, we have earned state and regional titles. I even travelled to New York City to be a part of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. This year, our team went to Nationals in Orlando Florida and placed third.
Recently, I have started expressing my feelings about my vision through writing. I have won several awards through this at the local and state levels. It helps me cope in a positive way. Eventually, I would like to write a book about my experiences as teenager growing up aphakic to help others see that they are not alone. This year I am a senior, and after High School I plan to attend Kilgore College in Kilgore Texas and tryout for the Rangerette dance team. When I grow up I want to be a psychologist for Doctors Without Borders and travel the world to help those in need.
I have always strived to be a good role model for those with the same condition. I like to think of myself as living proof that through determination, you can accomplish your goals, no matter how big.