Chemically Induced Retinal Cells Offer Vision Restoration Hope for RP

Written By: ingridricks - Apr• 15•21

Dr. Sai Chavala

I’ve been in hiatus for a couple of years because—between breast cancer and a sudden, dramatic drop in vision that now hovers around light perception—I felt like I had been smashed in the face with a two-by-four. But like all of you who are determined to see your family’s faces and the world around you, I’ve continued to believe that an answer will materialize. And the new chemically induced retinal cell therapy developed by ophthalmologist and researcher Dr. Sai Chavala and his team might just be the miraculous, vision-restoring breakthrough we’ve all been channeling.

Before I get to the remarkable story behind this potentially game-changing therapy, here’s what I know you all want to know: Through a combination of cutting-edge research, trial and error and unrelenting determination, Dr. Chavala and his team have managed to convert ordinary human skin cells into functioning retinal cells by applying a proprietary chemical cocktail that serves as a reprogramming mechanism. And, at least in mouse models, they have been able to restore some sort of vision in completely blind mice.

Though it’s still in the pre-clinical trial phase, what this scientific breakthrough means for those of us suffering from RP is potentially so holy-crap-amazing it has taken the scientific world by storm–with the research data first published in the premier scientific journal, Nature, last year.

Here is what makes it so astounding:

  1.  Easy, affordable access to cells. Unlike stem cells, which can be hard to access and controversial, this cell therapy relies on a person’s own skin cells that can be harvested through a quick five- to ten-minute biopsy.
  2.  Because the cells aren’t first being converted to stem cells—which in theory then mimic a retinal cell or any other kind of cell—there is no concern about the stem cell taking on the wrong, potentially harmful characteristics. There is also no need for a significant portion of photoreceptor cells to still be alive in order for the stem cells to take hold. This is because the cells being injected into the patient’s eye have already been converted to retinal cells.
  3. This potential vision-restoring therapy isn’t specific to a gene mutation and isn’t limited to a specific disease stage. In other words it’s application is for all of us.

The Backstory

Dr. Chavala started out as an ophthalmologist who planned to take over his dad’s eye practice in rural Missouri when he retired. But then he did a stint at the renowned Cleveland Clinic, where he was introduced to the research side of the equation, and was immediately intrigued. He realized he was in a unique position to merge his clinical expertise with breakthrough research that he hoped would result in vision-restoring therapies for patients suffering from blinding eye diseases.

“It was out of sheer frustration and helplessness that I pursued additional training in basic science,” he said. “The decision came from perpetually explaining to patients, some that had traveled from other countries to the world-renowned Cleveland clinic for a shred of hope, that there was simply nothing that could be done to improve their vision. The tears and dismay that ensued were heart breaking.

“As a trained physician, it was not appealing to take this unconventional departure from clinical training,” he added. “But I felt it was necessary to be able to have the skill set to create next generation medical therapies for eye disease.”

With the blessing of his boss at the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Chavala went for it.

That was in 2009, when all the top scientific minds were focused on embryonic stem cells. Dr. Chavala read a cover story about it in a Time magazine article and began contacting all the scientists featured in the story.

“I got no response,” he said. “I had no research training and they were at the top of their game. I was going to give up, but then I went to a lecture for a world-renowned oncologist who was conducting cutting-edge stem cell research.”

Dr. Chavala Googled the oncologist and found his phone number on the internet. When he called the number, the doctor picked up.

“I gave him my heartfelt speech on why he had to take me into his lab and he agreed. It changed my entire path.”

While it might sound weird that Dr. Chavala would work with an oncologist, that’s where all the research dollars were earmarked, and it turns out that the parallels between stem cell therapies to treat cancer and eye diseases were striking. Dr. Chavala began cherry-picking applications from the cancer research to apply to the retina. After receiving extensive research training in New York, he underwent surgical training at Duke and eventually landed at the University of North Texas, where he received an NIH grant to start his own research experiments. In the meantime, breakthroughs in cell therapies had advanced to the point that skin cells were now being used as a replacement for embryonic stem cells which was the game changer Dr. Chavala’s team was looking for.

He and his team at the University of North Texas Health Science Center scoured published research as a starting point and then began experimenting with what felt like countless variations of chemicals and growth factors.

“We failed many times, to the point that we were going to give up,” admitted Dr. Chavala. Then it happened. The cells they were reprogramming turned green, which meant they had converted into retinal cells. “I was in disbelief, but I was cautious,” he said.

The next step was to inject the new retinal cells into mice that had lost all photoreceptor cells due to RP and were completely blind to see if they could actually work as functioning retinal cells. At the two-week mark, Dr. Chavala said there was no improvement. But three weeks after the chemically induced retinal cells were injected, his team noticed that the pupil was responding. Buoyed on by this accomplishment, they ran other tests with the mice that demonstrated that, at the very least, the mice could now differentiate between light and dark. This continued through the twelve-week mark—illustrating that synaptic connections were being made to the retina and that these cells were continuing to survive.

“After three months, we wanted to prove to people that the cells were doing something,” noted Dr. Chavala. “We euthanized them and sectioned the eyes. Sure enough, the cells were still green. Even after the chemicals were gone, they were still retinal cells.”

Next Steps

CiRC Biosciences, which was started by Dr. Chavala in an effort to get the retinal cell therapy to market, was recently acquired by Paragon Biosciences, which focuses on advancing life-changing therapies.

Eric Bauer, Executive Director, Clinical Operations Tim Cunniff, PharmD, Executive Vice President, Research & Development  Steve Wanaski, PhD, Senior Vice President, Research & Exploratory Development  Kevin Scoby, Assistant Vice President, Portfolio Management

Eric Bauer | Executive Director, Clinical Operations
Tim Cunniff | PharmD, Executive Vice President, Research & Development
Steve Wanaski, PhD | Senior Vice President, Research & Exploratory Development
Kevin Scoby | Assistant Vice President, Portfolio Management

Tim Cunniff, Executive Vice President of Research and Development for Paragon, said the first step was achieving orphan drug designation from the FDA. This acknowledgement of the potential benefits of the retinal cell therapy for RP provides seven years of exclusivity (two years longer than other drug designations) so CiRC Biosciences has the necessary time to conduct the investigational research and clinical trials required to bring it to market. The next step, said Cunniff, is to conduct all the pre-clinical trial work required to establish safety and efficacy.

“We won’t just be replicating Dr. Chavala’s work,” noted Cunniff. “We will do experiments to determine if the order of chemicals added, the quantity of chemicals, or how long the chemicals are held in process improve results. It’s about optimizing everything.”

The investigational research is expected to take two years, with phase 1 and 2 clinical trials slated to begin in early 2023. That’s when we will begin to learn if this is, in fact, the key to reversing blindness and restoring sight in humans—regardless of how far our RP has advanced or what gene mutation we have.

There are still a lot of unknowns, such as how much vision can be restored and how long each dose of the chemically induced retinal cells will last. While there is still a ways to go before we’ll have the answers all of us are desperate to receive, the team at CiRC Biosciences, which will be conducting trials focused on both vision restoration and blindness prevention, are doing their best to fast track the process.

“We are very excited and hope to have this therapy on the market in seven years, which is very quick for these types of therapies” said Cunniff, noting that every person on his small team at Paragon—all of whom have deep expertise in the pharmaceutical and regulatory space—have put in personal funds to support CiRC Biosciences and will be intimately involved. “We know that reversing and preventing blindness is the holy grail and we are working as fast as we can. We are putting in the work on the front-end with the formulations and doing the robust studies necessary to save time in the long run.”

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How to Pull Yourself Up When Life Throws You Down

Written By: ingridricks - Dec• 13•19

This vision loss thing has knocked me down hard plenty of times over the past year. And I know I’m not alone when it comes to the pain of this and other knock-out blows that life occasionally delivers. The only real question is how to get back on our feet once we regain consciousness and realize that staying leveled is depressing and won’t help anything.

I used to think it was just a matter of making the decision. But now I know that choosing to stand back up is the easy part. The real challenge is the how-to part of this equation and it takes constant vigilance — especially if your challenge continues to volley punches your way. Though some mornings are harder than others, I now have a go-to strategy that I employ daily to proactively sidestep any surprise attacks, and to pull myself up when life throws me down. It takes about ten minutes, but the results have made all the difference for me — and I wanted to share them here in case you need some picking up too. 

Step 1: One Minute of Self-Love Talk.

My inner voice has been known to barrage me with cruel, demeaning comments — especially as it relates to my vision loss. Now I start every day with a self-love mantra. It usually goes something like this: I am powerful and beautiful and limitless. I am infinite and healthy and whole and have a message the world needs to hear. Our thoughts and inner dialogue drive our external reality, so choose words that ignite your inner power.

Step 2: 5-Minute Deep Breathing Exercise.

I never bought into the deep breathing hoopla until I tried it out for myself. And it’s amazing the difference it makes. I can actually feel the oxygen moving through my body; feel a burst of energy while calm washes over me. And I know it’s good for my overall health. The key is to imagine yourself like a balloon. Inhale through your nose as though you are blowing up your entire body, then exhale through your nose until your body balloon is deflated. I do this morning and night — at least five minutes each time.

Step 3: Do a Happy Dance

I crank up whatever feel-good song I’m in the mood for and jump around my living room. Just the act itself makes me laugh. And the upbeat music combined with blood-pumping movement gets my endorphins hopping and immediately elevates my mood. Pick whatever music makes you dance. And then start moving.

Step 4: Practice Gratitude.

Each morning I announce out loud three things I am grateful for in my life — and I try to change it up each day. It sounds so simple, but focusing on what’s right in our lives sets the stage for a positive day. It’s proven science that what we focus on, we energize. And what we energize, we expand. So if you want to draw more abundance and blessings into your life, make it a habit to express gratitude for all that you have.

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It Starts With Self-Love

Written By: ingridricks - Sep• 26•19


I’ve been mean to myself before. But I didn’t realize just how self-bullying, belittling and cruel I could be until my eyesight took a nose-dive last year. Suddenly I could no longer see my family’s faces or the world around me. And I hated myself for it.

I have always been an optimist and a doer, and have always believed I could control my own destiny. I was convinced that if I wanted something with every part of my being and pursued it with everything I had, I could achieve it. Yet despite fighting tooth and nail to save my eyesight from the blinding eye disease Retinitis Pigmentosa, I had failed. And I hadn’t just failed myself. I had failed my family, the hundreds of friends and strangers who had supported me and  rooted me on, and everyone struggling with RP who had followed my lead. Or at least that’s what I told myself.

I was gripped with despair and drowning in grief. The life I knew had been stripped away from me and I was so shattered by the loss I wasn’t sure how to pick up the pieces and move on. It didn’t help that the people I had reached out to for technology training so I could at least keep working ignored my request and instead admonished me to prepare for “stigma” and “social isolation”. But it was the abusive voices inside of me that were doing the most harm. They were cutting and relentless and began seeping into my consciousness.

It was a never ending volley of hate talk: You are helpless, you are weak, you are a burden.

I began questioning my self worth. How was I going to write if I couldn’t make out the words on my computer screen? And who wanted to hire me for writing workshops or personal coaching if they knew I couldn’t see? What good was I to my family and friends if they had to help me all the time? And if I couldn’t see myself in the mirror, did I even exist?

Some days I huddled in a corner on the floor sobbing. Other days I wanted to punch or kick anything or anyone I came across. Most of all, I wanted to punch myself.

This is where I should point out that I’ve been blessed with an amazing family and close friends who were there by my side, providing me with constant love and support. But it wasn’t until I decided I was done with my inner bully that things began to change. I threw myself back into self-help books and daily meditation, and scheduled an emergency session with Behnaz, a psychologist-turned-intuitive-healer who emanates love and kindness.

She wasted no time putting that love to work on me. “Why are you telling yourself this story  that now I’m weak and a burden?” She prodded. “Why are you telling yourself this story that now I can’t write or have an impact on peoples’ lives and have lost my identity?

I don’t know why it took Behnaz to make me see what I was doing to myself. But her words hit me at the core. I knew deep down that I was more than my eyesight. So why was I feeding myself such soul-destroying garbage?

I decided to return to my investigative journalist roots and carefully examine every story I had told myself to determine if there was any validity to them.

Story #1. Was it really true that without my eyesight, I could no longer write? This story did hold some truth in the first few weeks following my vision loss. But it changed as soon as I purchased an iPad and began learning the built-in assistive technology that enables me to write and edit via voice and sound. So that story is now false.

Story #2. Would my vision loss interfere with my writing workshops or personal coaching? It certainly hadn’t so far. In fact, both workshop attendees and coaching clients had started commenting on what seemed to now be my photographic memory and my ability to listen more deeply. Several of them also noted that they felt heard and understood by me because of the adversity I have faced.

Story #3. Was I now weak and a burden to my family and friends? No. True I had to ask for help occasionally — but that didn’t make me weak or a burden. It made me human. As I contemplated this particular story, I realized that we all need help on occasion, and that asking for help actually takes a lot of strength. I also realized that I have come a long way in terms of self-empowerment — from learning assistive technology so I can effectively do my work, to employing a purple mobility cane (which I’ve dubbed Purple Power) and some great GPS apps that enable me to navigate both familiar and unfamiliar places on my own.

Story #4. Was I still me if I couldn’t see myself? I didn’t have to think about this one. Yes! I was the same stubborn, feisty, driven, passionate me — and if anything, my determination has only kicked up a notch.

Story #5. Does losing my eyesight mean I’ve failed myself and others? This is a story I had replayed continuously, even though deep down I knew it was complete B.S. I had done everything in my power to save my eyesight. How could that be viewed as failure? The only way I could fail is if I didn’t try or quit. And quitting isn’t in my DNA. I know there is an answer out there for me, and I’ll continue my quest to see until I find that answer. The only difference is that I’m letting go of the control or timelines and just believing that if I continue to do my part, the Universe will take care of the rest.

Story #6. Does my current inability to see hurt? If I focus on the loss than yes, it hurts a lot. In fact, it can send me spiraling. But what’s interesting is that when I focus on all that is right in my life, or am immersed in my work — whether it’s teaching a workshop, giving a talk or helping clients write the personal stories they need to tell— I forget that I even have an eyesight challenge.

Since that pivotal day, I have done a 180 on the stories I tell myself and have banned my inner bully altogether. Instead of telling myself that I am now limited, I remind myself of the powerful, passionate person I am, and think about all of the ways I can defy limits and use my adversity as an asset. I think about how healthy and whole and vibrant I am, and about how fortunate I am to live in such a beautiful city, have the best family and friends imaginable, and have a dream work life that involves doing everything I am passionate about.

I know my self-love journey is a continual one that takes constant vigilance and will last the rest of my life. Though the self-hate I exhibited around my eyesight challenge was extreme, it’s clear it didn’t come out of nowhere. That inner executioner was already there, or it wouldn’t have wielded so much power. And I know I’m not alone in this.

It seems to be our natural default to beat ourselves up for every perceived lack in our lives — whether it’s our work, our relationships, our appearance, our bank accounts, or our health. We also seem to have mastered the art of repeatedly punishing ourselves for every perceived   failure, mistake or inadequacy.

But what if we all decided to test the validity of the stories we tell ourselves? What if we chose to toss out the ones we don’t want and start filling ourselves with the positive stories we know are true or want to create for ourselves? And what if, instead of punishing ourselves for being human, we treated ourselves with the love, kindness and understanding we all deserve?

What I know for myself is that shifting my focus from self-hate to self-love has made all the difference in my life. It has returned me to my happy, positive, determined, passionate self—the self I want to be for myself and those I love.

Some days are still hard. And there are times when the negative stories or thoughts still manage to slip through. But when they do, I don’t punish myself for falling short. Instead I gently replace that negative thought with a positive one—such as the I Am the Power, I Am the Light mantra my friend, Libby, lives by. Then I envision giving myself a huge hug.

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Harnessing Our Adversity—Before It Harnesses Us

Written By: ingridricks - Jun• 25•19

IMG_3653The meaning of these words hit me a couple of months ago when I was in the depths of despair over my eyesight challenges. It came after a trip to San Francisco to try out a new technology that I was convinced would help me navigate my neighborhood. Instead, it was a complete bust and I was handed a white cane—the universal symbol for blindness that has traumatized me ever since I was diagnosed with RP fifteen years ago.

The white cane represented everything I stood to lose and was so terrifying that I had nightmares over it and vowed I would never get to the point that I would have to touch one.  Yet there I was, fumbling through downtown San Francisco with a mobility trainer calling out instructions from behind me, and a long white cane swiping the sidewalk in front of me––all while fighting back tears and the urge to smash that cane into whatever obstacle I encountered.

I’ve always believed I could create my own destiny and that if I put enough energy and focus into something I wanted, it would materialize. But despite doing everything in my power to save my eyesight, my efforts—at least for now—haven’t been enough.

I returned from San Francisco so devastated by my current reality it was hard to pull myself off the floor. Losing eyesight isn’t fun and it has flattened me plenty of times over the past year. But the white cane made my inability to see the faces of my husband and two daughters seem  so final. And the pain that thought generated was so crushing I wasn’t sure how to go on. At the same time, I have always been a glass half (or even mostly) full kind of person and somewhere amid my despair, I remembered the words my Dad has always lived by: You never know what you can accomplish as long as you keep on going; As soon as you quit, you have your answer. It hit me that the darkness—both literal and emotional— was only final if I allowed it to be. I realized that I, like anyone struggling with adversity, had a choice: I could keep wallowing in my cocktail of grief, fear, anger and loss, or pull myself together, stand back up and harness the enormous amount of energy I was exerting into something powerful.

That’s when I asked my daughter, Sydney, to order a purple mobility cane for me—white will never be my color—and dubbed it Purple Power. The day after it arrived, I forced myself to hit the streets in my Seattle neighborhood. It took a few blocks to get the hang of it. But between Purple Power and the GPS apps on my iPhone, I was able to walk the mile to the office I share with my husband alone for the first time in months. 

I don’t want to have to use a cane to navigate my world—even if it is a hip shade of purple. But I realize that I can let that stick take my energy and power or use it to empower me. And until my eyesight is restored, I’m putting it to work.

To me, harnessing adversity means shifting our attention from fear and loss to passion and joy. It means replacing the word “weakness” with “strength”. It means shedding limits and thinking big. As my favorite inspirational author, Dr. Joe Dispenza says, “Bless our challenges that they initiate us into greatness”.

I recently shared my journey with my eyesight struggles and the ways I am working to harness my adversity in a talk I gave to educators. I wanted to share it here in hopes that it gives you a boost and ideas for how you can harness your eyesight struggles. 

I know that if we all turn our adversity on its head, we can create magic. 

To listen to my Harnessing Adversity talk, click on the media player below.

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I Choose To See

Written By: ingridricks - Feb• 07•19

Mom's Birthday Ice Skating Pic 2

I want to start this post by shouting my intention to the world: I CHOOSE TO SEE!

It’s been both interesting and infuriating to discover how many well-meaning people think that these words should be removed from my vocabulary. They tell me those words aren’t rooted in reality and that my only way forward is to accept a world of darkness. I don’t even know where to start with this mindset.

I did have a tough year last year as it relates to my eyesight. It’s meant that I’ve had to start exploring alternative ways of working and getting around. But my focus will always be on seeing every beautiful thing there is to see—whether it’s my daughters’ faces, a new city, a sunset, the ocean or even the barista at my favorite coffee shop.

What I know for certain is that there is so much we don’t know when it comes to epigenetics and how the mind and body work together to heal. I also know that there is plenty each of us can do to help preserve and even restore our vision because I’ve experienced it for myself.

The aggressive chemo I underwent for breast cancer three years ago took a hit on my retinas and my immune system but I’m working to repair both through diet, exercise, meditation, positive thoughts and gratitude, deep breathing and even cold showers. I know that blood flow, circulation, and low inflammation are key to overall health so that is where I’m focusing. I’m also using my color therapy lamp and micro current stimulation unit to stimulate my eyes.

Beyond all of this, there is a lot happening on the Western medical front and several exciting breakthroughs on the way—even for those RPers like me who don’t have a known gene association. A researcher at Casey Eye Institute recently told me about a tiny chip now being tested in Europe that is expected to bring vision back to 20/100 when surgically implanted, and he expects this technology to be approved by the FDA in the U.S. in as little as seven years. He also told me about stage one clinical trials now underway that are focused on turning regular cells into light-sensitive cells that could replace photoreceptor cells that had died. In addition, he says more trials are in the works for stem cells—with the key focus centered on how to keep implanted cells alive long term.

I say all of this to remind everyone who is reading this blog that being Determined to See, regardless of the progression of our eye disease, is our right. It’s also our destiny if we choose to go this route and continue to say NO to NO HOPE.

There is now so much scientific evidence illustrating the power of our thoughts when it comes to fostering sickness or health. Remember that what we focus on we energize; and what we energize, we expand.

We all have our challenges to deal with but we can address them while still keeping our focus on our end goal. They don’t have to be exclusive. I can walk and chew gum at the same time. And I’m guessing that all of you can too.

In her powerful book, E-Squared, Pam Grout stresses the importance of keeping your focus on what you want, not where you are. She likens this to being in Baton Rouge but wanting to get to New Orleans — which represents everything you desire.

“Just keep on walking towards New Orleans and don’t look back,” she advises.

That’s what I’m doing. Some days I only make it a few steps. Other days I cover fifty miles. What’s important is that I keep on moving forward.

As my dad always says, “You never know what you can accomplish as long as you keep on going. As soon as you quit, you have your answer.”

You can be sure I’m just getting started. I don’t care how long it takes or what form it takes. I CHOOSE TO SEE.

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Join my Health, Happiness and Passion Movement

Written By: ingridricks - Jan• 16•18


After spending a lot of time dwelling on the negative, I’ve switched my focus to all of the positives in my life and it’s been making such a huge difference that I’ve decided to kick off a Health, Happiness and Passion blog.

My new blog, which focuses on daily Health, Happiness or Passion actions, has nothing to do with RP. But it has everything to do with living a Healthy, happy, Passion-Driven life, and expanding energy in that direction.

Want to join me? CLICK HERE.

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Healing from the Inside Out

Written By: ingridricks - May• 03•17

After spending four years fighting my RP like I’m in the fight of my life, I’ve started undergoing a major shift.

Thanks to Behnaz Esfehani, N.D., PhD, an intuitive and holistic healer who holds graduate degrees in education, psychology, and naturopathy, I’m realizing that I need to love my eyes – not fight against them, and that I need to stop viewing what I do for my vision as a chore or punishment.

Above all, she’s helped me to understand that I’ve been focusing way too much energy on my eyesight and that many of the things I’ve done to try to “fix” my eyesight have been driven by fear.

There is now a lot of scientific research around the mind/body connection and the power of the thoughts, emotions and energy we all carry inside us as it relates to our health.

Here’s what Behnaz has to say about it:

IMAG0202On the Energy Power of Diagnosis: When I was in graduate school working on my psychology degree, we studied this diagnostic manual—a very thick book that’s all about all the different types of diseases. The more I read and focused on it, the more I started experiencing symptoms and believing something was really wrong with me. There is energy that comes with a diagnosis. If I say, “Don’t think about a lemon,” we start thinking about it. The more we focus on the diagnosis and the things we don’t want, the more we energize them. A lot of people know the enormous power around thoughts and energy, but it comes down to putting it into practice

On Disease Fighting vs. Health Seeking: Disease fighting comes from the same energy as disease. It is this duality that there is something I need to fight. It’s that outside orientation–the metaphor of our bodies as machines. We are much more complex. And as I mentioned above, the more we focus on diagnosis or disease and things we don’t want, the more we are gong to energize them. Health seeking is very different. From the perspective of naturopathy our bodies are intelligent and engage in self-healing. It’s a matter of looking at habits – nutritional, emotional, relationships, and going deeper with that. Medical doctors deal with emergencies and mechanical aspects of our body very well. But when it comes to healing overall – there’s so much more to it. People come to me and say ‘What can I take for this or that?’ I can suggest supplements or some sort of remedy, but that’s only a partial story. I’m interested in working with the totality of you. It’s not just about fixing your knee – because ultimately your knee is attached to your heart, your mind and how you feel about your life.

On Diet: We have such a vastness of information available to us that it’s easy to be overwhelmed. From what I understand, it comes down to taking an inside out approach and listening to what our body is telling us. We need to get quiet with it, experiment and experience firsthand what works for us. It’s all the little inklings we get—such as how we feel when we eat certain foods. A lot of times people think they are using intuition, but they are still processing through filters acquired outside. They think, ‘I should be feeling this way’ or their decision is based on fear or obligation. We’ve got to get quiet upon quiet upon quiet. What is going on right this moment within?
Personally I advocate for a plant-based diet. The research around it resonates with me. But I don’t dis people who think differently. It’s about listening to my body and my values, and figuring out what works for me. I used to get cravings for dairy, but I know I do better without it. I also know my body does better with less sugar. I think it all depends on intentions. What are you trying to do? If I’m trying to do cleansing, I go one route, for day-to-day I go another. I tend to shy away from telling people you should dothis or that. It’s about helping individuals to connect with inner resources and knowingness: healing inside out.

For more information about Behnaz and her intuitive and holistic healing practice, visit her web site.


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Healing Our Eyesight – A Total TCM Approach

Written By: ingridricks - Apr• 10•17


Lately I’ve been concentrating on healing myself from the inside out—with an emphasis on self-love and healthy lifestyle choices. And Lee Huang, my Seattle acupuncturist, is focused on the same thing.

Lee, who worked as an eye surgeon in China before moving to the U.S. and immersing herself in Traditional Chinese Medicine, is passionate about helping patients suffering from RP, MD, and other serious eye conditions and has been seeking specialized training and answers for the past several years. As part of her ongoing quest to learn everything she can about treating eye diseases from the TCM perspective, Lee recently traveled to China to learn from Dr Wei Qi-ping, a renowned practitioner whose family has been treating RP for four generations. The approach in China is very different from the U.S.. It involves comprehensive inpatient treatment for as long as a month at a time, as well as ongoing herbal injections. All of the herbs are customized specifically to the individual patient, with a focus on addressing the underlying cause of the eye disease.

Lee has always incorporated constitutional acupuncture into her treatment protocol – which includes micro acupuncture and electro acupuncture. But this time around, she increased her focus on my liver (my weak point) and the blood stagnation that is limiting oxygen flow and the removal of toxins— which in turn impacts my body’s ability to heal.

Lee told me that the liver, kidney and spleen are all focal points for people dealing with RP. Some of it, says Lee, comes down to genetics. The other comes from environmental factors. And that’s where we can intervene.

As a person who needs to focus on strengthening my liver, here’s what Lee has to say.

  1.  Reduce Stress. I know this is an ongoing issue for me and I’m continuing to work on it. One thing I’ve just incorporated is a daily dance to Abba music with my daughter, Hannah. It takes five minutes and when I’m done, I’m happy and the stress I was feeling is gone.
    2. Take breaks. Lee recommends that I take power nap breaks during the day to provide more balance. She says I also need to take it easier on myself. For example, if I’m tired after a long day, she says I need to rest rather than force my body into mandatory exercise (though exercise is important for circulation and stress reduction).
    3. Diet and Lifestyle Choices. Okay- I already know this, but I continually slip up on the alcohol part (I’m back on track though).
    4. Self Love, which incorporates all of the above.

Here are some great foods for the liver:

  • • Celery
    • Tomatoes
    • Radishes
    • Orange
    • Grape ruit
    • Green beans
    • Cabbage
    • Napa cabbage
    • Goji berries
    • Rose Tea

Here are foods, lifestyle Choics to AVOID

  •  Fatty foods
    • Deep fried foods
    • Spicy foods
    • Alcohol
    • Smoking

Along with these diet and lifestyle recommendations, Lee has customized an herb formula for me that she says should help strengthen my liver (in conjunction with everything I do personally.)

She also stresses the importance of doing daily eye acupressure, and walked me (and Tanya, a fellow RPer who was in for treatment last week), through the key eye acupressure points. (I used to do eye exercises but slacked off and am now back on it.)

Below is a video Lee has made that walks you through the acupressure exercises. It’s worth watching and starting them. According to Lee, school children in China do these acupressure points in class every day. She says they are essential to eye health.

Okay – I’m signing off to do my eye acupressure points. And then maybe I’ll take a quick power nap.

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Tricks of the Trade: Chapter 2

Written By: Jeanne Aufmuth - Mar• 30•17

March post pic

In a perfect world I’d be driving. Picking up at a moment’s notice and taking myself wherever I need to be. In a perfect world I could see my granddaughter’s sweet little face without having to squint.

But this world is not perfect, it’s just our world. And, as I am sight impaired, I have to craft a realm that works to support my deficiencies as well as my strengths.

The RP-minded brain is always in protection mode – I notice this most keenly as I walk the streets of New York. In NYC a red light is merely a suggestion; the masses are fleet of foot when it comes to crossing their busy streets. I myself have one ironclad rule; crossing a street – either red light or green – means putting another body between me and oncoming traffic. Way to throw someone else under the bus (I hope not literally!) but this is my mindset and it’s called survival.

IMG_3885It’s also just one of many survival tools we’ve all learned to utilize in order to cope with our vision. I’ve written about these before – tricks of the trade as it were – but they are essential to managing visual impairment in a sighted environment and worth revisiting. Here are a few of my favorites.

The handicap placard. Boy was this a hard sell. I have an absolute horror of people cheating the system to catch a break, and thus could not wrap my head around applying for handicap status. But a conversation with a wise RP friend turned me around – she not only uses the placard for parking (especially critical at night) but also to board a plane with those who need extra assistance. Canes can confuse people who label you as “blind” and don’t understand when you flip out your book or your iPhone. The handicap placard is a universal symbol saying something is wrong and none of your damn business.

The flashlight. I’ve written about this before but I can’t say enough about this handy little lifesaver. A tiny one in your bag for reading a menu in dark restaurants. Placed in the nightstand for those wee hour trips to the loo. Shining one into the closet to make out one pair of dark jeans from another. Darkened stairs would be impossible without a steady beam to make out their rigid contours. I would be well and truly lost without this perpetually handy helper.

ipad0The iPad. I have an edema that clouds my vision and, more specifically, wipes out my contrast and color perception. Words on paper are hard to make out and thus I read electronically. The Kindle app allows for white writing on a black background which not only aids in contrast but diminishes the blue light problems that plague virtually everyone who uses an electronic device. In addition to the reading I use my trusty Pad to draw, paint, check scores, text, send email and receive calls. I Face Time with my family and I take photos. My iPad is a second set of eyes; I’m grateful to be living with RP in an age where electronic support is readily available.

Sharpies. Color me crazy but I’ve loved them for as long as I can remember. I will not admit to the number of unopened and freshly pointed packs in my desk drawer, but suffice it to say I could open a pop up shop on the fly. Other kids liked crayons, I did Sharpies. Lo and behold they’re still the perfect tool for our waning vision; among other tips I Sharpie my pants labels to distinguish navy from black. You can actually SEE something written in Sharpie – big, bold and bright in an array of magnificent colors. Sharpies are like an old friend who has stood by through thick and thin.

To all my RP brethren I say kudos to making it through each and every day with your own effective moves and relentless fast fixes. Please share some special tricks that may help someone else navigate this constant course!


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Who Are You REALLY?

Written By: ingridricks - Feb• 28•17

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We all have those days where our eyesight struggles do us in. And I know from personal experience how easy it is to let the dark take over.

I’m not talking about lack of light. I’m referring to the dark emotions and energy that can consume us—those inner voices that tell us we are worthless, less than, weak and imperfect.

I was having one of those days when I met with an energy healer last week. And the perspective she gave me was powerful. She reminded me of the healing power of positive energy, and the destruction that comes from dark energy. She talked about the importance of meditation and daily gratitude, and about the need to connect with a higher energy source.

Then she talked about the stories we tell ourselves and said this: “Remember that there is perfection in imperfection. So stop judging yourself. And be careful not to view receivership as a form of weakness.”

Her words were so wise and on point that I’ve been reflecting on them ever since. And I’ve been conscious about my thoughts and about the stories I tell myself.

This is the real story of me and it has nothing to do with my eyesight.

I’m strong and passionate, and a big believer in going after dreams and turning them into reality. I’m a memoir author, ghostwriter and narrative writing coach who helps people find healing and empowerment by writing the deeply personal stories they need to tell.

I’m also a wife and partner to my amazing husband, John, a mother and friend to my two beautiful teenager daughters and a supportive friend to my circle of soul sisters. I love impromptu disco dance parties (think Abba), walks on the beach, soaking up sunshine, and a steaming cup of dark roast coffee. I also love traveling and exploring new countries.

We are NOT our eyesight. Our eyesight is just one aspect that makes us the beautiful, unique, perfect individuals we are.

I’ve told you who I am. Now I’d love to here from you. Who are you? What are your dreams? What do you want people to know about you?

Please share your thoughts in our Determined to See Facebook Group so we can all enjoy YOU.


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