Life-chang­ing di­ag­no­sis

Shan­nyn’s sight loss won’t stop her liv­ing

Maroochy Weekly - - NEWS - Danielle Ford [email protected]­news.com.au

A SHOCK di­ag­no­sis 12 weeks ago com­pletely changed the course of Shan­nyn Biggs’ life.

The Ma­roochy­dore mother was told she was 80 per cent blind due to a con­di­tion called re­tini­tis pig­men­tosa, a ge­netic eye con­di­tion that caused cells in the light-sen­si­tive retina to de­gen­er­ate slowly and pro­gres­sively.

“If you make a cir­cle with your fin­gers and put them around your eyes like glasses, this is ap­prox­i­mately what I can see,” Ms Biggs said.

“I hadn’t no­ticed how much I’d lost sight be­cause it was so grad­ual un­til the months just be­fore my di­ag­no­sis when I no­ticed I was bump­ing into things quite a bit.”

Be­cause of her di­ag­no­sis Ms Biggs has had to hand in her driver’s li­cence and leave her job as a driver but the thing that’s hit her the hard­est is the thought of not see­ing her chil­dren’s faces again and how it has im­pacted their lives.

“Even­tu­ally this con­di­tion will progress and I’ll be com­pletely blind,” she said.

“My son has a two-year job con­tract in Canada so he wants me to go over there so I can see his face again be­cause we don’t know if I’ll still have any sight when he comes back.

“My old­est daugh­ter (Rachel) has moved back home with her daugh­ter to help out and Truth is start­ing high school next year and I’m not able to drive her to school or ac­tiv­i­ties.”

Hav­ing com­pleted an eight-week qual­ity liv­ing pro­gram with Vi­sion Aus­tralia, Ms Biggs said she couldn’t be­gin to ex­plain how help­ful the or­gan­i­sa­tion had been.

“I’ve learnt mo­bil­ity train­ing with my cane and I use it quite reg­u­larly, even around the house,” she said.

“I’ve started learn­ing Braille and tac­tile sign­ing, which is sign­ing into some­one’s hand to com­mu­ni­cate, and they’ve been teach­ing me about tech­nol­ogy and as­sis­tive aids that are avail­able.”

Ms Biggs hoped her story could help bring aware­ness to how peo­ple with low or no vi­sion ex­pe­ri­enced life.

“I’ve learned that ev­ery­one has their own ex­pe­ri­ences and things can change from day to day,” she said.

“I can have days were I am able to see well enough to get around the house without my cane and other days where I have such se­vere eye pain I can’t see at all.”

PHOTO: WAR­REN LYNAM

SHOCK AD­JUST­MENT: Shan­nyn Biggs was di­ag­nosed with vi­sion loss 12 weeks ago and is adapt­ing to liv­ing with the con­di­tion.

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