redeyeLast week was one of those weeks where everything just seemed to touch an emotional nerve. In fact, it was difficult to find any bliss with all that is going on in the world to add to it all.  It would have been one thing if I had kept the emotions in check but that didn’t happen. Which is how (much to my horror) I came to be in a pain-induced tearless cry (yes, tearless) in the most unlikeliest of places… at my favorite fitness center.  Mortified best describes how I felt to be “crying” while trying to perform a series of squats in a group exercise class. Exercise is supposed to be the best medicine, especially in times of stress and uncertainty (both of which still color my life for a variety of reasons).

The day before I’d gone to the eye doctor. I’ve been experiencing chronically dry eyes for a number of months. Most days my eyes are extremely red and terribly irritated, necessitating drops of Systane to the eyes throughout the day. At first I thought my dry eyes were due to allergies but this condition has persisted well into winter so I knew it was time to get it checked. So off to the Ophthalmologist I went. The doctor gave me a thorough exam, complete with refraction, and advised that I did indeed have a severe dry eye problem along with blepharitis which is a common eye condition characterized by inflammation of the eyelids. “I’m going to write you a prescription for steroid drops to address the inflammation and get you on Restasis®,” she said. I’d seen the commercials for the drug Restasis® on T.V. so it wasn’t news to me. It’s just eye drops, I thought to myself.

On the drive to the pharmacy my thoughts naturally migrated to this whole aging thing. I’m sure that I have articulated it before, but just in case you’ve missed it dear reader: I am not handling it very well. Perhaps it’s because of this awful winter here in ‘Bama-land. I’ve definitely got a severe case of cabin fever, being cooped-up for days on end due to frigid temps…many gray days…then snow, followed by more gray days…and let’s not forget lots of ice (I couldn’t even get out of my driveway for two days due to an ice storm). So yes, I’m having my own little “pity party” (violins playing in the background…can you hear ’em?).  After so many years spent active in the beautiful climes of southern California, this winter has plunged me into a dark hole and in the process I have gained weight and apparently according to my eye doctor and my general practitioner, I’m literally shriveling…drying up… inside and out. South, north, east and west…. I’m Death Valley dry and can’t even cry healthy tears about it.

Still (believe it or not) by the time I had pulled into the parking lot of the pharmacy I had talked myself back into a positive state (really). Even though my eyes were feeling the pain of ultra-sensitivity due to the refraction, I had dark glasses on and I had my sights on a non-fat latte and a petite vanilla scone at Starbucks to lift my spirits after the pharmacy.

That was the plan anyway.

Since my prescription was ready for pickup I went straight to the pharmacy counter instead of shopping around the drugstore. At the register, the nice, young pharmacy clerk handed me my two prescriptions and said: “That will be $524.00.”

EXCUSE ME? $524.00!

Naturally, I blanched. But I recovered quickly folks because I noted that the pharmacy clerk was a new gal. Laughing, I said, “There must be a mistake. I do have insurance. Did you access my information correctly?”

The head pharmacist heard my question and immediately came to the clerk’s aid. “Let’s see what we have here,” he said. “Ah. Yes…this is a prescription for Restasis®. …And with tax…yes…there is no mistake.”

I could swear my heart stopped.

“I’m sorry to have to tell you that,” said the pharmacist noting the distress on my face. “Restasis® does have a rewards program though…it can help mitigate the cost.” He pointed to the coupon card that I had in my hand. “You can call the 800-number on their coupon card and enroll in the program and it will reduce the cost of the drug.

I was floored.

I looked at the box of Restasis® that I had just been handed. The steroid drops were about a $100 (I could see that expense). The Restasis® eye drops had to be taken twice a day. “So this little box of Restasis® is $424.00? How many days’ supply does this contain? I asked the pharmacist.

“30 days.”

“You’re kidding! Over $400 for a 30 day supply of eye drops?!”

Now I’m seeing red.

“Well, it is more than just eye drops. it does contain an immunosuppressive agent. Still, I understand how difficult this must be…it is awfully expensive for eye drops. If you get enrolled in the Rewards program I will rerun the transaction and see how much it helps. Go ahead and make the call; I’ll wait for you.”

“Oh thank you, I said with relief.

My hands were literally shaking as I dialed the 800-number to enroll in the coupon program for Restasis®. After I made the call I handed the pharmacist the Restasis® rewards program card with my new account number so that he could run the transaction again.

And the savings was…. $20.00

“Just $20! Seriously?

Seriously. If I had any good tears available, I would have dissolved into a puddle right then and there. Really, more than anything else I was angry. Folks, normally I research stuff a bit before making decisions. I’m not one for drugs of any kind and I feel mighty fortunate at 57 to be virtually prescription-free…. but truthfully…my eyes have been in a mess of pain for weeks on end and I felt I had no choice but to give this drug a try. Still, I had no idea that eye drops to combat chronic inflammation would be this freakishly expensive!  And, now I was genuinely worried (well, “a basket case” seems more applicable given my financial stress); what if I had to take this drug for years and years?

Once home, I went straight to the computer. I looked up Restasis® and read lots of reader comments on various message boards/sites. The expense was a common complaint as well as the side effects (principally intense stinging and increased eye sensitivity.) But here’s the thing: It can take anywhere between three and six months before any improvement can be seen, IF improvement even happens.  Many folks commented that they had been on the drug for months and months without noticeable improvement.  In fact, there were few positive comments about this drug.   I’m angry with myself for shelling out this sum of money (and apparently, I am not alone based on user comments) on a drug that doesn’t seem to provide significant relief to a lot of folks. It’s money that I could have used to buy new prescription glasses, not to mention a month of Sundays of Starbucks coffee. So, that…along with continuing worries about my mother, finances, chronic pain, an eight-pound weight gain since moving to a State I’m not exactly thrilled to be in, and not being able to physically do what I did just two and a half years ago… is why I dissolved into an emotional mess in the middle of a squat exercise on the gym floor. Jeidi, the group class instructor and owner of SWEAT Huntsville fitness studio saw that I was in distress and was at my side in a flash. “What happened? Are you OK?” she asked, her eyes wide with concern. Mortified, I pulled myself together and quickly explained: “I’m just tired of being in pain…and growing old just plain sucks,” I said through blood-red eyes. “I’m sorry…I’m OK,” I added. Jeidi had me do a couple of other moves instead of the jump squats and gave me a reassuring pat.

So…I’m not 100% OK…but I will be. My physical limitations…though my reality…are certainly nothing in comparison to so many others who suffer in this world. And, I know I have to come to terms with living in middle-earth…after all, I won’t be here forever, I tell myself.  So, even though I am Death-Valley dry I’m certainly not ready to throw in the towel. I’ve got to keep moving.  Honestly, I think I just need a few sunny days in a row to lift my mood… and some magical elixir to add moisture to this dry-as-a-bone body would be positively lovely. I know. The latter isn’t bound to happen. But I can tell you one thing for sure…if I can help it: it’s not going to be Restasis® for more than this thirty-day supply.  There’s got to be a better, less expensive, more natural way.