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  • When Cancer Treatment Caused Cataracts, Surgery Helped Her See Again

    May. 06, 2016

    Judy Borger has faced many treatment-related challenges since being diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia nearly eight years ago. Among them was the development of cataracts and worsening vision.

    Borger’s cancer treatment included a bone marrow transplant, steroids and radiation. She was warned the steroids and radiation could cause cataracts, or clouding of the eye’s natural lens. Cataracts are most often associated with advancing age and can also be exacerbated by other health issues. Not being able to see clearly on top of her other health challenges left Borger feeling depressed at times.

    “I started noticing I could no longer read the newspaper or my favorite books without a bright light and magnifying glass,” said Borger, 55, of Mount Laurel, N.J. “Finally I had to start listening to audio books.

    "I couldn’t even see street signs when we drove at night,” Judy Borger

    “My vision became so bad, I couldn’t even see street signs when we drove at night,” she added. “One day my son took me to the zoo, which is one of my favorite places. He kept pointing out things the animals were doing, but I couldn’t see anything.”

    Cataract Vision Simulator
    Cataract simulator: what you might see if you have cataracts.

    Realizing she might have cataracts, Borger scheduled a visit with her ophthalmologist, Ravi D. Goel, MD. Dr. Goel confirmed the diagnosis and discussed treatment options, including cataract surgery. During this procedure, the cataracts are removed and the natural lens is replaced with a thin, permanent artificial lens, called an intraocular lens. There are several types of IOLs, each of which have different benefits and costs.

    “In most patients, it’s an elective surgery, but for Judy it was necessary for her overall quality of life,” said Dr. Goel. “In her case, I recommended a lens that provides ‘distance and casual vision,’ which is a combination of distance and intermediate vision. The distance is near perfect and the functional vision is often superb.”

    Shortly before Christmas, 2015, Dr. Goel performed the surgery. Borger received monofocal IOLs. With a monofocal lens, the patient can choose the distance he or she prefers to see best, whether near, far or middle distance.

    Read more about cataract surgery and IOL options.

    “Since the procedure her overall spirits have improved significantly. I think the visual rehabilitation was a big plus in the healing process,” said Dr. Goel.

    Borger agrees that her world opened back up. She can read again, including to her 11-month-old grandson, Lucas.

    “I can’t even tell you how wonderful it is to see my grandson once a week and play and read to him," Judy Borger

    “The surgery made a huge difference,” said Borger, who has three adult children. “I can’t even tell you how wonderful it is to see my grandson once a week and play and read to him. And my daughter is always sending me videos of him which I would not be able to see well without the surgery.”

    She enjoys reading again (using reading glasses) as well as cooking and baking. Recently she and her husband took their first trip to the zoo since she had the surgery.

    “It was wonderful – what a difference!” said Borger. “This time, I was the one pointing things out.”