Lea Morrison: A Winner on Many Levels

At age 32, Lea Morrison, had recently gotten married and was looking forward to starting a family with her husband. At this time, Lea did not know that over the next four years she would learn just how important her eyes were in communicating deeply with those around her. It was during this year of her life that she received shocking news from her doctor: Lea was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML).

After receiving a bone marrow transplant for CML, Lea developed Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD) and eventually began having ocular side effects. GVHD severely impacted Lea’s quality of life, as the burning, itching, and pain impaired her ability to drive, read, use the computer, watch movies, or even go out to eat. Looking back on this time, Lea said, “It was really never-ending. The only time there was peace from it was when I would close my eyes and nap or be asleep.”

After being cancer free for over 2 years, Lea and her husband adopted a baby boy, Henry. For the first 10 months of Henry’s life, Lea was still using special sunglasses to control and lessen the ocular impacts of GVHD.  Then Lea learned about PROSE treatment while in a GVHD study group and discussion group in Seattle and followed up on those conversations by making an appointment with BFS.  In February of 2011, Lea began wearing PROSE devices.

Reflecting on the impact of wearing PROSE devices while being with her son, Lea said, “It was unbelievable to be able to interact with him without my sunglasses on…the bonding and attachment through the eyes is just beyond words.” Not only did Lea’s interactions with her son change, but she also is aware of the way in which she can more fully engage with other people in her life and share her happiness now. She no longer has the barrier of sunglasses or constant squinting in pain that once stood between her and other people.

Prior to receiving her own cancer diagnosis Lea had already been an activist in the medical community by participating in marathons and triathlons for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). To this day, Lea continues to fight for those causes and share her gratitude through working with fundraising groups and by writing a personal blog. On October 15th, Lea was the honoree for the Northern California chapter of the Light the Night Walk. This walk is an annual event put on by LLS all across the country to raise money and promote hope for individuals battling blood cancers.

How can you become involved in these causes? Lea suggests first and foremost the simple act of giving blood. Other ways to help that she recommends are becoming a registered bone marrow donor, or making a donation to groups such as LLS or Fireflies West (whom Lea’s brother, Brian, is a part of).