Goodlander Loren Seaman is a survivor. After a routine eye exam for contacts in 1998, the optometrist noticed a lesion on her eye and referred her to the Bascom Palmer Institute in Miami. She had a nevus, an eye freckle, which they closely monitored. Two years later, she discovered she had a rare form of cancer called Ocular Melanoma (OM). Thankfully, she caught it in time, before it metastasized. Loren underwent plaque radiation therapy and saved her eye and life. Others with this incurable disease have not been so fortunate. In fact, seven people have died from this disease in the last month.
OM is rare disease with 2,500 cases diagnosed in the US each year. Half of these cases will see their cancer spread to other organs during their lifetime. Currently, there is no cure once this happens. It is not clear why eye melanomas develop; however, people born with certain growths in or on the eye, as well as those with lighter colored eyes, are at a greater risk for ocular melanoma. Symptoms can include floaters, flashes of light and poor or blurry vision but for many, and this is important, no symptoms occur!
Typically one of three treatments is used for OM: 1) enucleation (removal of eye), 2) plaque radiation therapy- (plate on tumor radiation), 3) external proton beam therapy. Fortunately for us, two centers, the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami and Murray Ocular Oncology and Retina are world-renown for their treatments and only a short distance away.
Because of her eye-related health issues, Loren had to switch careers two years ago. She began volunteering and currently serves as the Volunteer Director of Advocacy for the program A Cure in Sight (ACIS), founded by survivors for survivors. ACIS is a nonprofit that raises money for OM patient care and research. ACIS provides services nationwide through building public awareness, educating patients and their caregivers, and by financially helping in-need OM patients find and pay for treatments. Just recently, ACIS provided the Bascom Palmer Institute in Miami with $100,000 for their research on genetic testing. However, more funding is greatly needed to continue their work.
Loren reflected on her current role. “As a result of my Ocular Melanoma, I have been led down another path. It’s funny how God puts you where you need to be. You don’t know who you are going to touch. One afternoon, through a chance encounter at the Marco Publix bakery, a man noticed that I was wearing an eye patch. I was able to provide him with vital information, as his wife recently lost her eye. And again, when making copies for ACIS in Kinko’s, I met the manager whose mother was just diagnosed with OM. I was able to leave my card with her, letting her know that I was there to help.”
May is Melanoma month and the weekend of May 17-19 is “Eye Patch Days” for OM. “Eye Patch Days,” similar to the wildly-popular “Ice Bucket Challenge,” are a fun way of encouraging everyone to get their eyes dilated and to have a comprehensive eye exam. “Challenge your friends and family to wear an eye patch for a day and see how those of us with OM see the world,” asks Loren. “Take a picture and put it on social media with the hashtag #ACureInSight, #EyePatchDay, #OcularMelanoma, and #EyeBelieveInACure. My goal is to save lives by encouraging people to visit an optometrist or ophthalmologist for their yearly comprehensive eye exam with dilation. What better time to do this than during Eye Patch Days! I believe together we can save a life,” Loren explains. Loren will be holding her own Eye Patch Parties on the east coast of Florida and in Naples, raising awareness while fundraising for ACIS.