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. After experiencing six months of improvement thanks to the stem cell surgery I underwent in China eighteen months ago, my central vision took a nose-dive and nothing I’ve tried so far has seemed to counteract that. 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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My Journey, My China Treatment Update — and Taking a Break

Written By: ingridricks - Jan• 08•18


I’ve realized I need to start at the beginning. So here goes.

Until two years ago – twenty-five and a half months to be precise – I was sitting on top of the world. My eyesight was doing amazing. Thanks to acupuncture and diet/lifestyle changes, I was seeing better than ever in my peripheral vision, and my central acuity was holding strong.

Then, during a routine physical the day before Thanksgiving 2015, my doctor discovered a lump in my left breast. Two weeks later, I was diagnosed with highly aggressive triple-negative breast cancer. I was told I would need immediate surgery and aggressive chemotherapy to increase my survival odds by 20 percent.

When I first met with my oncologist, I raised concerns that the chemo could have a negative impact on my eyesight. He had never heard of RP and couldn’t find anything substantial to suggest that the drug Taxotere he wanted to give me would do lasting harm. Given the dire situation I was presented with and my very strong desire to live, I went for it.

My oncologist and I now know otherwise. Though apparently those in the know already knew. My new retinal specialist at the Casey Eye Institute in Portland says that Taxotere is one of the worst chemotherapy drugs for the retina – which makes it particularly bad when the retina is already compromised.

By the completion of my third chemotherapy cycle, my central acuity – which had held firm for three years straight – dropped from 20/30 to 20/70 and my light perception also plummeted. By the time I completed my fourth cycle, the blurriness and light perception was so bad I was having a hard time recognizing faces. I was supposed to go six rounds. But after the fourth round, my oncologist and I both concluded that if I continued, I would have no eyesight left. So, we rolled the dice and stopped two cycles short.

I continued to undergo periodic acupuncture treatment. Though I think it helped in maintaining the eyesight I have left, it didn’t have the same impact as it did pre-chemotherapy. I also continued to live in serious fear – waiting for the next shoe to drop. Along the way, I became a whole-foods vegan (aside from occasional salmon and a cheese splurge every couple months), quit sugar, started meditating and getting back to my life. I managed to hold my central acuity at 20/70, but the donut of blindness I’ve had around my central core for a long time began to encroach on my right eye.

As some of you know, I write books for a living (it’s also my passion), and on Friday, June 9th while interviewing a client for a book project, I noticed that my computer screen seemed distorted and that I was seeing double vision. It scared me. I knew I needed to do something or I would have no eyesight.

I had seen a post fellow RPer Brian Smith had written in the Determined to See Facebook group the previous fall about his positive experience with the surgery and stem cell implants in China, and reached out to him to find out how his eyes were doing nine months later. His report was positive. I also reached out to Carol Gu through the treatment Website She wasn’t sure that she could help me, but I was impressed by her response and her honesty. She had me fill out a lengthy medical history form so she could review my case with the surgeons. I knew what was in store for me if I didn’t give it a try. But I didn’t see how it was possible.

My husband and I are both self-employed – which in the US means expensive health insurance with high deductibles. My cancer treatment spanned a two-year calendar period, and between our monthly premiums, the high deductibles, and the various out of pocket expenses that our insurance didn’t cover, we have accumulated a pile of medical bills that we are still paying off.

On Monday, June 12, I opened my computer and could no longer make out the letters on my screen because my vision was so distorted. I was in the middle of a chapter deadline for a client and spent the day going to computer stores with my husband looking for assistive technology to help me – all while trying to fight off panic attacks. That night, I sat at my kitchen table sobbing. I felt so alone and had reached my breaking point. Then my eighteen-year old daughter, Sydney, took charge. She took it upon herself to start a fundraiser to access the China surgeries and shared it with friends and strangers alike. Within two days – and thanks to some of you and your incredible kindness and generosity – we had the funding to go to China.

What I didn’t know until I arrived at the hospital in China was that Carol wasn’t sure about taking me on as a patient because of the advanced stage of my RP. But unbeknownst to me, Brian Smith, the amazing RPer I had reached out to, wrote her a lengthy email on my behalf, asking her to please do everything she could to help me.

It was like a team of angels – more than 140 in all – had stepped in to lift me up at the moment I hit bottom.

That’s how I landed in China. What I found was a very professional, skilled, caring medical staff who have been treating RP patients for twenty years (all Chinese RP patients until Carol stepped in and opened up the treatment to the international community).

Here’s what everyone needs to know about it:

1) it is NOT a cure. The focus is to increase blood flow and circulation and then incorporate embryotic stem cells that can help restore a little eyesight and, hopefully, stabilize vision.

2) The results are different for everyone. Because RP is an umbrella term for numerous eye diseases, it’s impossible to find a treatment that works across the board. What’s more, environmental factors such as diet, lifestyle, attitude and stress have a significant impact.

3) Like any other disease, the earlier the intervention, the better the results.

Fast forward five months. My eyesight continues to be a struggle but I’ve seen some noticeable improvements.

  1. My optical nerve in my right eye was nearly non-functional when I arrived in China on July 23rd and showed triple the function at the end of my two weeks there. Testing on August 28th with a double vision specialist revealed that it had lost some of its color and functioning – but was operational. When I underwent comprehensive testing at the Casey Eye Institute on October 25, I was told both optic nerves are healthy.
  2. I underwent a comprehensive eye exam in late September and was prescribed far sighted glasses that brought my central acuity to 20/50 in my left eye and 20/60 in my right eye (through the slit I see out of). At that October 25th Casey Eye Institute appointment, I could see 20/40 with the same glasses.
  3. At that same late September eye exam, I was prescribed reading glasses that brought my vision to 20/40 in my left eye (it’s tough in my right eye). At the October 25th Casey Eye Institute appointment, I could see 20/25 in my left eye with the same glasses.
  4. My central visual field expanded in my left eye as well. I don’t know the exact measurements but when I look in the mirror (though blurry) I can see my entire face with my left eye instead of just the top quarter of my face. My outer periphery in both eyes has expanded. I can look in the mirror, hold out both of my arms, and see my entire arm length. And that vision is clear – even though when I look at my face it’s blurry. I can also make out detail such as the necklace featuring a small silver letter “I” that I always wear.

Light Perception/Colors. As mentioned, my light perception decreased considerably after the chemo and I need more light to see. My color perception also dimmed. After the China surgery and stemcell implant, I noticed a significant improvement in light perception and color contrast. The light perception has since dimmed. Though my colors continue to stay brighter. I can see vivid colors (in the right light), and white is so bright it almost comes at me like a bright flash light.

A month ago, I went to my two-year oncology appointment – a major milestone for triple negative breast cancer. For the first time in two years, I wasn’t terrified. I knew I was going to be okay. And I am.

I decided to leave health issues and fear behind me and start 2018 as a healthy, whole person. And to make my health – physical and mental – a priority.

That’s where I’m at right now. I can work on my computer, though I have to patch my right eye to do it because the vision in that eye is currently too restricted to function in conjunction with my left eye. I’ve been told to avoid screen time but my work requires it. So, I’m avoiding all other screen time (this blog and Facebook), as much as possible.

I‘m as Determined as EVER to SEE and I continue to search out ways I can improve my eyesight. Recently, I had a phone consultation with Meir Schneider, a man who reversed his blindness (not from RP), using breathing, cupping, movements, and various eye/brain exercises. He now runs a self-healing center in California. Following his guidance, I’ve been doing daily deep breathing and cupping and it’s definitely helping with blood flow and circulation.

I’ve also been meditating a lot and focusing on energy and mind/body connections. What I know for certain is that positive energy is key, and that it’s up to us to take charge of our health – and to keep taking action.

I’ve been writing this blog for nearly five years now and need to take a break. I think my fellow blogger, Jeanne Aufmuth feels the same. But if you want to stay connected, please join the Determined to See Facebook group. Fellow RPer and rock star Yvette Fox has offered to take over the role of admin.

I wish you all a happy, healthy wonderful 2018. Thank you for joining me on this journey – and for all the love and support you’ve provided over the years. What I’ve learned above all is that we are stronger together than alone.



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China Surgeries – the Back Story

Written By: ingridricks - Aug• 18•17

CAROlWhen I first contacted Carol Gu regarding the RP surgeries in China, I thought her primary role was that of a patient coordinator. It wasn’t until I arrived at the treatment center and began talking with Carol that I discovered she is the visionary and lynch pin behind the entire international treatment program.

Carol told me that she developed her passion for helping RP patients while earning her nursing degree in Heidelberg, Germany. While there, she worked at a nursing home and developed a close friendship with an elderly woman who suffered from RP. Carol was familiar with the blinding eye disease because it is a relatively common condition in China, and she knew that it was treated with acupuncture, Chinese herbs and other elements of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). But when she looked for similar treatments in Germany for her friend, she discovered that there was none.

“I searched the internet for every solution I could find but all I came across were eye exercises and vitamin supplements,” Carol explains. “It broke my heart that I wasn’t able to help her. But when I returned to China in 2009, I was determined to help other RP patients around the world.”

Carol began researching treatment options for RP, and discovered that along with TCM, surgeons were performing vascular shunt surgeries and stem cell implantations that were restoring some vision for patients and helping to prevent further degeneration. She became obsessed with finding the best treatment for international patients and began contacting doctors, asking to interview them and follow their patients’ progress. In 2013, after three years of research, Carol put together a team of the top RP surgeons and launched the China RP Treatment Center for international patients.

Because affordability and service quality are both critical elements of the treatment program, Carol says she has been careful about expanding it too quickly. She has also been very selective in the patients she accepts, because she realizes the surgeries aren’t a fit for everyone. “There is no cure for RP. And as much as I wish we could help everyone, it’s difficult to help patients who are in the very late stages of the disease,” explains Carol. “And because there are so many variations of RP, results vary greatly from patient to patient. Our goal is to help as many patients as we can to improve some vision and halt or greatly slow down the progression of the disease.”

The treatment center in Changchun (where I underwent my surgeries) was the first phase of Carol’s vision. The next phase involves a more integrative treatment center that opens mid-September in the heart of Beijing. Along with the surgeries, IV infusions and eye injections, comprehensive TCM—including both traditional and electro-acupuncture—will be included in the treatment package.

“Having a world-class RP treatment center in Beijing that integrates the best of western and TCM medicine has been my dream since moving back to China in 2009,” notes Carol. “In Beijing, we will be able to access even more top RP specialists. And because of its location, it will be much easier for our international patients to make the journey. And we are able to do this while still keeping prices affordable.”

For Carol, helping RP patients is more than a passion—it’s her calling.

“My patients often become lifelong friends and I want to continue to do everything I can to help them,” says Carol. “It’s my dream to one day travel the world to visit all the RP patients I’ve had the honor of working with over the years. I want to see them in person again and have them see me.”

For more information, visit



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China Surgeries – My Experience

Written By: ingridricks - Aug• 07•17

As some of you know, and even helped make possible (thank you so much), I’ve spent the last fifteen days in China—undergoing vascular shunt surgeries and stem cell implantation. I made the decision after hearing positive feedback from fellow RPers Brian Smith and Jodi Parr—who underwent the surgeries nearly a year ago—and extensive communication with Carol Gu, the coordinator and visionary behind the China RP International Treatment program. Acupuncture had held my eyesight steady for several years. But my eyesight took a big hit during the aggressive chemotherapy I underwent last year, and I knew I needed to do something before it was too late. The principals behind the surgeries made a lot of sense to me. The vascular shunt surgeries help increase blood flow and circulation to the retina, which I know is severely lacking in RP patients and the whole focus of the acupuncture I have been receiving for the past four years. And the stem cell surgery both stimulates dormant cells and grows new blood vessels that are critical for healthy visual function. I’ve been actively pursuing stem cell treatments for five years now, most recently in California—where in April I qualified for the second phase of their stem cell trial, and have heard nothing since. The first step was filling out an extensive patient evaluation form to ensure I qualified for the surgeries. From there, I had lengthy conversations with Carol to ensure their safety and efficacy. Once I was convinced that there was no downside, I decided to go for it.

Though hopeful, I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I found has been so remarkable from my perspective that I feel the backstory deserves a blog post of its own, which I will share with all of you next week. But here, in a nutshell, is my treatment experience.


Day 1: My daughter, Sydney and I landed at the Longjia International Airport at 3:30 in the morning, Tuesday July 25th. We were exhausted after a long delay in Shanghai and were thrilled to be warmly greeted by the English-speaking coordinators, Carol Gu and Patrick Lee. They drove us to the treatment center—approximately a half an hour from the airport—and got us situated in a nicely furnished Western-style suite within the center. As soon as we arrived, we were met by a nurse who performed blood work and urine testing. Afterward we slept for several hours. Later that day I underwent a series of tests to determine my suitability IMG_1814for the vascular shunt surgeries and stem cell implantation. These tests included an FERG to measure retinal function, a visual field test, a visual acuity test, an Intro Ocular Pressure test, a PVEP test to measure optic nerve function, and an eye ultra sound to determine if my eye structure was suitable for the stem cell implantation. The rest of the day was spent resting and getting over jetlag.

Day 2: After taking my blood pressure and temperature, I underwent preparation for my first vascular shunt surgery. This involved a trip to the hospital barber to have the right side of my head shaved, about two inches above my ear. Then it was time for the surgery. Done under local anesthesia, this procedure involved a small incision directly above the ear to block one of many arteries to my head. This, in turn, increased blood flow to the optic artery. This surgery took approximately ten minutes. Later that day, I was started on IV infusions containing a blend of Chinese herbs to promote blood flow and circulation throughout my body.

Day 3: This was largely a recovery day, though I received another IV infusion. I was also started on the first of fourteen eye injections safely inserted through ocular tissue. These injections also contain Chinese herbs designed to increase blood flow and circulation to the retina. In addition, they started me on oral Chinese herb medication—again to promote blood flow and circulation.IMG_0793.JPG

Day 4: I received the second shunt surgery on the left side of my head, along with the IV infusion, eye injections and oral medication.

Days 5 and 6: These were primarily recovery days with the IV infusions, eye injections and oral medications. On Day 6, Carol and Patrick took Sydney, me and the two other international RP patients to a beautiful lake and park constructed during Japanese colonial times. It included a Buddhist temple, which was amazing.

Day 7: Stem cell day! This is the day I have been waiting for. Preparation for the surgery involved clearing my tear ducts, in which a needle is inserted into the tear duct followed by a saline solution wash. Afterwards, the nurses performed a comprehensive eyewash in both of my eyes. Neither of these procedures were particularly pleasant, but they were manageable. Then it was time for the surgery, again performed under local anesthesia. A tiny cut was made at the inside corner of each eye where millions of MSC stem cells were implanted into the back of my retinas. The entire procedure for both eyes took about ten minutes. Once done, my eyes were completely bandaged for 24 hours. An important thing to note about this day: my visual acuity increased by one line in my left eye and two lines in my right eye in a visual acuity test conducted an hour before my stem cell surgery. This improvement is a result of the vascular shunt surgeries.

IMG_0855.JPG-2Day 8: After 24 hours in total darkness, my bandages were removed. I can’t tell you how much I hated not being able to see anything, and how much it reiterated the importance of doing everything in my power to save my eyesight. My eyes, though blurry and sore, seem to have adjusted well to the stem cells. In the first 24 hour period, I had no adverse reaction. Along with the regular IV infusion, eye injections and oral medication, they started me on antibiotic eye drops to protect against infection.

Days 9 through 12: These days were largely recovery days. I was forced to stay in our room the entire time aside from my trips to the patient room for my eye injections. Though my eyes made a great recovery, they remained blurry and sore until Day 12, when they finally started feeling normal again.

Day 13: Released from house arrest! The doctor finally cleared me to go outside, which felt amazing. We celebrated by going to dinner at a Japanese restaurant with patient coordinators, Carol and Patrick.

Day 14: I once again underwent comprehensive eye testing to determine what, if any, eye improvements I experienced. Though I won’t see the full impact of the stem cells for three to six months, I am thrilled to report that I’ve already had visual improvement all the way around. Most promising are the results that measure visual function, which tests the connection between the optic nerve and the brain. It nearly tripled. Not only does this mean that the stem cells should do very well in these upcoming months, but I already have an easier time adjusting to different lighting. For example, today we went to a Confucius temple where it was really bright outside and extremely dim inside. After about a minute, my eyes were able to adjust. While I couldn’t see everything IMG_1908in the room, I was able to see a lot. This is something I haven’t been able to do for years, at least since the chemotherapy.

Clarification: Based on some of the questions I’ve been receiving, I realize I ned to make this more clear.  I STILL have RP and my vision is still quite limited. The surgeries aren’t a cure by any stretch. They are a treatment designed to restore some vision (greatly varies depending on the patient and the type and progession of their disease) and halt or greatly slow the progression of the disease.  According to Carol, about 30 percent of patients experience some immediate improvement while at the hospital undergoing treatment, and approximately 80 percent of patients experience improvement during the following three to six months – as the stems cells kick in. In my case, my visual acuity increased by two line – going from 20/70 to 20/50 and my light perception in my peripheral vision improved a little.  Light sensitivity is the biggest issue for me at this point. I now need a lot more light to see clearly and when I go from a well-lit area to a more dimly lit area, my eyes struggle to adjust…if they adjust at all.  But now – post surgeries, my light sensitivity is beginning to increase and my eyes are starting to adjust a little when I go into a dimly lit room. And I’m hopeful this will continue to improve as the stem cells begin to take hold in the next few months – which is where the boost in my visual function comes into play.

Day 15: This morning we head back to Seattle. I can’t express enough how thankful I am to have had the opportunity to access these surgeries and treatments. The staff was incredibly kind and experienced. It was amazing to be in the care of doctors and nurses who know so much about Retinitis Pigmentosa and have so much experience treating RP patients. Again, I will post the backstory behind the treatment center and the mission and goals of the staff next week. And I will keep all of you updated on my progress with the stem cells over the coming months. If you would like more information on the surgeries/treatments, visit:

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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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