wolf berries!

IMG_3982Mom’s neighbor has a wolf berry bush. They said they’d be out of town and we could pick it clean. I’ve never eaten them fresh, nor did I think it grew here. They’re not as sweet. The strange, bitter soapy flavor that clings to the back of my throat is more pronounced. Maybe some of the dried berries are soaked in sugar? Hedy told me cheap suppliers soak the berries in red food dye.

IMG_3987They look like little chilies. Makes sense as they’re part of the nightshade family.

IMG_3984Commonly called goji berries. In my first experience, they were referred to as wolf berries. It was late May in 2006 after undergoing laser eye surgery. Hedy gave my brother a jar of berries and a jar of dried astragalus with instructions to steep and eat. I liked chewing on the astragalus dry.

IMG_4002I had Photorefractive Keratectomy surgery to correct my astigmatism and diopter prescription of -9.5 in each eye. I hadn’t known what it was like to see without glasses or contacts since I was six years old. When I turned eighteen I started to read up on the operation. Ten years later I was experiencing eye pain when I wore contacts. A check up told me my eyes were starved for oxygen and the veins were growing towards my iris causing the constant aching. I had to stop wearing contacts forever and my prescription had gone up so I needed new glasses as well. Prescriptive glasses in Canada are ridiculously expensive. I hated not having periphery vision. I tried wearing glasses under my snowboard goggles but they fogged up constantly. I had one option left.

The popular laser procedure is Lasik. They slice your cornea in half, peel it up like a grape, use the laser to reshape the eye and fold the cornea back down. The healing process is quicker, less painful and your eye sight it restored in a week, for some within days. I, however, was bat shit blind and they said my eyeballs were shaped like footballs. The good news was, I had abnormally thick corneas. The odds were favorable with PRK.

Photorefractive Keratectomy: they pump your body full of anesthetics and muscle relaxants, clamp open your eye like it’s Clockwork Orange, melt your cornea with some sort of drops, scrape it away with a tiny metal spatula and tell you not to flinch as they burn your eye -you can smell it- to the necessary shape so light can travel into your eyes and reflect back out as 20/20 vision. Then they gift you a close up video of your eye under going the operation. I’ve never watched it. The healing process is pain-fucking-ful as the cornea grows back but the results are generally better and more stable than Lasik. Most of the people working in the clinic had, had PRK.

I stayed at my parents place for the post-op. At the time I was living in my van and had a month off between theatre contracts. The craziest thing about it was signing a waver that states; you accept this procedure might not work and may result in permanent blindness. It took the whole month for my eyes to heal and adapt, progressively getting sharper day by day but it was like trying to function without glasses and trusting it was all going to work out.

The first four days were excruciating. Laying in a black room with my eyes shut, I thought there was a blinding light shining on me. I remember pressing my face into the corner of the dark room trying to get away from this white phantom. My eyes were swollen and bulging out of my sockets. Every time I sat up fluid would stream down and soak my shirt. In the consultation before the surgery, I held up the bag of post-op pain suppressants and smugly thought ‘I have a high pain threshold. I won’t subject my liver to this.’ I ended up taking every freaking one and asked the clinic for more. At one point, mom came in and did healing touch on my eyes to ease the tension. Instructing me to cup my eyes and visualize the pain shooting out through my elbows.

I slept a lot in the first few days.There was a regime of eye drops I had to meticulously track. I couldn’t read. I tried writing but without sight it was a mess. I started to stumble around the house. Outside was too bright even with sunglasses. Everything was a blur anyway.

My brother showed up with the wolf berries, astragalus and he’d filled mom’s ipod with HP Lovecraft radio plays; Edgar Allen Poe & Neil Gaiman audio books; Patton Oswalt and Mitch Hedberg. I drifted through surreal landscapes and laughed alone in dad’s blacked out library.

During check ups the optometrists marveled there was no scaring. That, if I hadn’t said I had laser surgery, they’d have never known. Over the course of six months my eyesight continued growing sharper and clearer. I had to wear sunglasses all the time to prevent scaring. I would still reach to the side of the bed like I was fumbling for my glasses, then lay there amazed I could just see the room without them. The bridge of my nose has a permanent imprint where my glasses sat.

Due to the original shape of my eyes my retina’s are thin and vulnerable to tearing. Only recently did an optometrist tell me because of this I need to avoid all contact sports, or blows to the head. If everyone has something they do unconsciously all the time mine is hitting my head. Walking into door frames, standing up under cross bars. If you might hit your head on it; I definitely will. Snowboarding, skateboarding, horseback-riding, mountain biking. I’ve racked up the concussions. There was also my twenty four hour coma but that’s a story for another day.

Thank you for asking me to join your roller derby/rugby league. I know this sounds like an excuse but doctors orders -high risk for retinal detachment.

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