#642 – Kym Dekeyrel

Sevan Matossian (00:04):

Bam. We’re live there. You are

Kym Dekeyrel (00:10):

<laugh>. Yeah. Bright and early. I’m, I’m up.

Sevan Matossian (00:14):

What, where are you? What, what state are you in?

Kym Dekeyrel (00:16):

I’m right. I’m your neighbor. I live in San Jose. I’m in California.

Sevan Matossian (00:20):

That’s right, that’s right. Holy cal. Did you think about being like, Hey, can we do 9:00 AM

Kym Dekeyrel (00:27):

<laugh>? Well, I just do what I’m told. I’m a very, I’m a good student <laugh>.

Sevan Matossian (00:33):

I, well, I, I, I really appreciate it. I, um, I always expect people to push back who are on the West Coast and anyone who’s listening, that’s totally fine to do that. We had, uh, Don, um, fall the new CEO on a couple days ago, and he’s in, he, he’s more, I think he’s a little closer to you than me. He’s in Woodside. Yeah. He’s like,

Kym Dekeyrel (00:51):

I listened to that, and I was like, Oh my gosh. He’s, Yeah, he is right up the peninsula. Heard him saying.

Sevan Matossian (00:56):

Yeah. So if I wouldn’t have said hi to you, you wouldn’t have, you wouldn’t have seen me that I came on.

Kym Dekeyrel (01:01):

No, I, no. Like, like right now, I assume you are looking at me and I’m thinking, I wonder what this guy, I wonder what this guy looks like. Yeah. I’m just staring into like, uh, a light that’s in front of me.

Sevan Matossian (01:17):

Um, You’re, you. Well, um, do you know what you look like?

Kym Dekeyrel (01:20):

Well, a younger version of myself, so I’ll try to keep that in my <laugh>. I will forever be, you know, like 26.

Sevan Matossian (01:33):

That’s awesome. Uh, that, that’s when you lost your site at 26.

Kym Dekeyrel (01:38):

Well, I, I was born with the eye condition, it’s called retinitis pigmentosa, and it’s the deterioration of the retina. So I was diagnosed when I was five because that’s, you know, when I started school and teachers started noticing that I was tripping over things or not seeing things. And after that, obviously then I was diagnosed and it’s a slow progression of vision loss. Um, so I had some vision, but it was, it’s like a slow burn until I was 32 and I am 40 now. And, um, I had to have an emergency surgery. And when I came out of the surgery, all my vision was gone.

Sevan Matossian (02:37):

Got I, I want, I wanna dig into all that. I, I, I, listen. Have you, how many podcasts have you done

Kym Dekeyrel (02:43):

In the past few weeks? <laugh>.

Sevan Matossian (02:45):

Oh, have you been doing a lot?

Kym Dekeyrel (02:47):

Well, just a few here and there and, you know, some other stuff. I mean, it’s been awesome. This whole CrossFit is so cool, Right. Them really supporting this blindness awareness. I mean, and you, and you’re one of ’em.

Sevan Matossian (03:01):


Kym Dekeyrel (03:03):

So just some cool, cool stuff that’s been going on. And yeah, I mean, since I started competing in CrossFit, just some different podcasts here and there, and telling my story and trying to hopefully get other people that are adaptive or have vision loss to kind of join in and just kind of bring awareness to the normal able bodied world.

Sevan Matossian (03:34):

Uh, you’re, you’re very attractive. Did you know that

Kym Dekeyrel (03:38):

<laugh>? Oh, I don’t know. I mean, I’m glad. It’d be really awful if God made me blind and ugly, so.

Sevan Matossian (03:45):

Right, right, right, right. <laugh>, Hey, um, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna tell you one more thing, uh, before we start. Um, there’s a gentleman who runs the back end of the show, and his name’s Caleb. And by the back end of the show, if we’re talking about, let’s say your Instagram account or something on there, he brings up pictures and stuff. So not only will the people be watching us, but as we reference things in your life or, or something, he, he’ll be going through your Instagram and pulling up pictures and references so that people can see that.

Kym Dekeyrel (04:15):

Oh, that’s so cool. <laugh>. Yeah.

Sevan Matossian (04:17):

Awesome. I, I’m trying, I I was in the shower this morning and I’m trying to think if I’ve ever spoken to anyone who navigates the planet without sight. And I, I, I can’t think of one.

Kym Dekeyrel (04:41):

Yeah. Most people, and that’s, and with, you know, CrossFit, which is wonderful, having this vision division and them saying things like, Oh, we need to get the numbers for the vision division up. Well, in all honesty, there’s not that many blind people

Sevan Matossian (05:05):

<laugh>. Yeah. How many, how many Caleb, how many blind people are there in the United States?

Kym Dekeyrel (05:10):


Sevan Matossian (05:10):

He’s gonna, he’s gonna look now. Do you, do you have a guess at that?

Kym Dekeyrel (05:13):

But that’s interesting cuz if you look up like on the World Health Association, right? There is, let’s say, I don’t know, something million people in the world that are blind or legally blind. And there’s a huge difference cuz you know, I’ve been legally blind in my life and that I’ve been blind. And there is like, it’s, well, it’s like night and day, literally <laugh> and like people that are legally blind. I’m like, you can still totally see, But, um, yeah, Yeah. But most people don’t become blind until either they’re over 65 or they live in a third world country and could easily have their vision fixed by a cataract surgery or something. So there is, there’s a lot of visually impaired people out there, but totally blind. I don’t, I honestly don’t know it. I don’t know any,

Sevan Matossian (06:13):

I’m gonna read, I’m gonna read this to you off of some website. Kayla pulled off, uh, more than 12 million Americans over the age of 40 have some sort of visual impairment. Okay. Forget those people with 1.3 million, legally blind. All right. Forget those people. 3 million who have vision loss after a correction, 8 million who have an uncorrected refractive error. Uh, uh, I don’t see anything with totally blind, so

Kym Dekeyrel (06:45):

I’m the only one.

Sevan Matossian (06:46):

Just kidding. Yeah. Yeah. Probably <laugh>. Uh, here, here’s why it’s absolutely so fucking fascinating to me. My, my wife did this course. It’s a vipassana course. Well, first of all, I believe that we’re just all mirrors here. There is no, you’re given the name Kim, and then you’re given the, um, incredible task of keeping that character kind of sane and intact as it changes second to second until the day you die and the illusion’s over. It’s just this arbitrary thing given to us, and we’re just trying to fucking navigate this thing and keep this character together that our parents have named. Yeah. And our name kind of holds that together. And, um, and my wife did this Vipassana, of course, uh, several times where you go somewhere and you not allowed, you’re not allowed to talk to anyone or make eye contact with anyone for 10 days. It’s a silent, it’s, it’s a silent meditation retreat. How do you it that would fucking rock. Most people, most, most people could not even fathom doing that. And yet you live in this world, if I’m understanding it correctly. Like you can’t even, how do you know like how to read my gestures and stuff? How do you know if like I’m joking or being sarcastic or I’m flirting with you or if I’m angry at you? Like all those things are just out the door for you?

Kym Dekeyrel (07:59):

Well, it’s just voice inflection and physical touch. But yeah. 90% of our communication is nonverbal. And so it is hard. Like, you know, I’ll be somewhere and all of a sudden everyone starts laughing and you’re like, What the hell is happening? Yeah. Or you know, everyone starts cheering and you’re like, Was that my kid that made a goal?

Sevan Matossian (08:25):

<laugh>? Like, it’s,

Kym Dekeyrel (08:28):

If, if you don’t kind of laugh about it, it can be, it can be devastating. But, you know, I, I like to talk, I like to talk to people and Yeah, you just kind of have to, Yeah, I read people, right? You sense people and just go by language, really.

Sevan Matossian (08:50):

It, um, and everyone must have like a thousand questions for you, but, um, probably none of them come, come out. You know, it’s the difference between, it’s like the guy sitting at the beach with one leg. My kids will go over and talk to him, they got questions. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but all the adults kind of avoid it.

Kym Dekeyrel (09:06):

Yeah. You’re, you’re so spot on. You. It’s, that is, that is how I lived and still live in like normal society before I became this CrossFit athlete. And it is just such a difference because, you know, now because of competing in CrossFit and having this CrossFit community, people will ask. But out in the real world, I feel that avoidance all the time. And I wanna say to people, I know you’re there. I know you’re there. <laugh> like, yeah, because I, cuz I have a guide dog. So people then know I can’t see and you feel them avoiding you and I’m like, I’m actually really pleasant if you just take a minute. And then people, I love it then. And it is true. Then kids will come up and ask a ton of questions and I’m like, Yeah, you’re awesome kid. You know, it’s fine to ask people, just don’t be an idiot about it. Right? Like, just ask, don’t be like, Oh, do you lose your leg in in the war? And they’re like 20 years old <laugh>, you know, like,

Sevan Matossian (10:26):

But it’s in it’s incom. It’s incomprehensible. It, it, and it’s, it’s even, it’s even, it’s, it’s even more fascinating the insights that I hope we can get into. Because you used to be able to see.

Kym Dekeyrel (10:36):

Yes. So when you talk, right, like, I can see you even though I have no idea what you look like and I can see when you speak like what gestures you would be making or facial expressions because I have seen it. Which I think that is such a blessing in still having memory. And my brain is like all the time. I mean, it’s always going and piecing things together. I mean, even as I move, like I feel like I can actually see my hands moving, but I know I can’t see my hands at all.

Sevan Matossian (11:17):

I, I can’t, I don’t look at you. If you, if I wouldn’t have known, Let’s say you came on this show and I was just talking to you about pr let’s say I was just talking to you about your training. I would have no idea that you can’t see like as I’m, I’m staring at you intently right now. And like all your eyes just do normal shit. Like they’re blinking like your face, like when you smile, does all the, like you just have a completely, your face does not, um, say, Hey, I can’t see.

Kym Dekeyrel (11:44):

Well if you watched me walk down a hall and smack right into this door frame <laugh> right then you would know. But I, and that’s actually something I really try to even work on. Cuz I have noticed as I, Cause when, especially when I was a kid, I did know cause I had to take classes to learn how to read braille and cane travel because of my eminent doom. And, um, there was a kid in my class that was way, way, way, way, way more blind. He was probably almost considered totally blind and he could not read social cues. And even as a little kid I thought like, Ooh, ooh buddy. Like, don’t do that. Like people, like, he couldn’t understand that, you know, when you get excited you wanna like jump up and down, but you don’t actually jump up and down because that’s not socially acceptable. And he, he would because he was excited. Right. And so I’ve said my whole life, like, you will not do that stuff. And I noticed I do have to practice. Cause I have started getting, I, it’s called, well I think it’s called the like blind upward gaze because I still have some light perception. So I feel like my eyes wander

Sevan Matossian (13:01):

Oh yeah.

Kym Dekeyrel (13:02):

The sky.

Sevan Matossian (13:03):

I have seen that. Like I, I have seen that when I’ve just like seen like blind people, like at a cafe or something. Yeah. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>.

Kym Dekeyrel (13:09):

And so I really try to focus on like then where your voice is or what I’m actually trying to look at. But people are sneaky too. I’ll be talking to them and I’m feeling like, Yeah, I’m doing this. And then all of a sudden I hear their voice like next to me over there. I’m like, damn it. Or I’m gonna, a lot of times, you know, my husband will be like, um, who are you talking to? And I’m like, Well Katie, he’s like, uh, she walked away like three minutes ago. I’m like myself, like talking to myself

Sevan Matossian (13:47):

<laugh>. Right.

Kym Dekeyrel (13:48):

But I try to be conscious of, I don’t know. It sounds so, I don’t know. Not to blind things

Sevan Matossian (13:59):

<laugh>. Right, right. Um, so the and is that a, is that a, is that a good thing that you do that?

Kym Dekeyrel (14:08):

I think so. I mean, for me it is just

Sevan Matossian (14:11):

You’re trying to be a good actor. I don’t mean that. Yeah, yeah. You’re trying to part, you’re trying to participate in in, in the normal social cues in malu of society.

Kym Dekeyrel (14:20):

And there are some things that I have realized like not, I’m no longer, the difference is, is I’m not embarrassed of it anymore. Like now I’m not embarrassed that when I walk down a hallway, I’ll skim my finger along the wall so I can keep track of the wall. Where in my younger days I would not, I would try not to do that at all. And then I’d end up hurting myself and I was so conscious of like, oh my god, people are watching me. And obviously I still have those moments of people that don’t know I can’t see. And then they do notice me just turn and smack into a wall or something. But I try, if I do things that are going to help me navigate this world, or if I do talk to somebody that walked away three minutes ago, I at least try not to be embarrassed inside about it. I just think like, whatever, like that’s my new attitude.

Sevan Matossian (15:33):

When you met your husband, could you see?

Kym Dekeyrel (15:36):

Um, yeah, I mean I could see him to, yeah, to a point, yes. I do know what, same as myself, we are forever young <laugh>. Like I still have a really vivid picture of him before we were even married. And we would go sit at the Togo’s sandwich shop and I have a, I don’t know, forever picture of him and my brain wearing his cool sunglasses and his button down shirt. And

Sevan Matossian (16:07):

And what did you order at Togo’s? I had, I had a, uh, I can’t remember what number it was, but my mom used to take me. I would get the Turkey and avocado.

Kym Dekeyrel (16:14):

Yeah. I’d always just do the Turkey and cheese. You simple.

Sevan Matossian (16:18):

And I would always get the foot long, even though I was a little kid. I’d always get the big one.

Kym Dekeyrel (16:23):


Sevan Matossian (16:24):

God, that was such a special treat. I haven’t heard anyone mention togo’s in 30 years.

Kym Dekeyrel (16:28):

I know I place is, well it was Greece.

Sevan Matossian (16:34):

Okay. So, uh, are are your parents still alive?

Kym Dekeyrel (16:37):

They are, Yep. They live in San Ramon,

Sevan Matossian (16:41):

So. Okay, so, so at five years old when you’re diagnosed with this, uh, degenerative, uh, issue with your retina, do do your parents tell you,

Kym Dekeyrel (16:53):

You know, I don’t know. I don’t remember, but I remember very, very vividly going to all the eye doctors appointments and listening to my parents talk to my doctors. So no, actually nobody in my entire life, <laugh>, and this has sat me down as a parent or a teacher or a counselor. No one ever sat me down and said, This is what is happening to you. Uh, this may be the prognosis and we’re gonna get through it together. No one ever did that. It was all just, I knew because I’d listened to them talking to doctors and listening to them talk about me in front of me.

Sevan Matossian (17:44):

Do, do you remember an age where did it ever hit you? Like a ton of bricks? Like you’re sitting there at, at 12 years old you’re just brushing your teeth and then all of a sudden you’re like, Oh fuck, one day I’m not gonna be able to see.

Kym Dekeyrel (17:54):

Yeah, that was like my entire young person life. It probably was about 12. Yeah. That like 11 and 12 that it started like becoming Yeah. Like teenager years. Right. Like this emotional, it’s so emotionally daunting. I mean, even through college of realizing, okay, my dream of being a professional dancer down in LA is never gonna happen because what vision I have left. It’s like the more, the less you have to lose, the more important those little tiny pieces that are disappearing are. And I started noticing more and more that I would like avoid situations to kind of hide that I was losing more and more vision. Um, but yeah. And that’s like the biggest part I think about vision loss is that it’s not like the guy on the beach with one leg that got in a car accident, lost his leg one day, and boom, now he is just learning it.


It sucks for sure, but now you’re learning to live with one leg and from the age of five it’s like, okay, I’m learning to live like this now five years later, now you’re learning to live like this and now you’re learning to live like this. Oh. And now you can’t read your textbooks anymore. Okay. And now you can’t see the stop signs anymore. And it’s like this constant reminder of like, whoa, someday I’m not gonna be able to see my face in the mirror and that’s gonna be really, really terrible. But I think things are changing. But when I was growing up, there was never that mental health element of saying like, of someone saying, Yes Kim, but you’ll be great. There’s, there’s, we will describe the world to you. It was really mentally difficult to say the least.

Sevan Matossian (20:23):

I I I, I wanna say that I either heard in, in, in a podcast I listened to yesterday that you did or I read on your Instagram that it was basically a, a really long morning Yeah. Uh, process. It’s just like constant mourn for

Kym Dekeyrel (20:38):

Yeah. And I mean, not to get too Debbie down. No. Cause I was a happy kid. I I was. And that’s part of my, it’s just my natural personality. I’m a super optimist and, but I remember like as a kid thinking like, just get it over with like, can’t we just get this over with? But then of course I didn’t want that to happen at all because I liked being able to see, but it was so a, it was so plaguing.

Sevan Matossian (21:08):

Um, Were you ever in denial?

Kym Dekeyrel (21:10):

No, I was never in denial because I saw other, cuz like I said, I had to work with other kids learning how to learn to be blind <laugh>. Which that’s, I mean, that’s a whole nother element of like, it’s these, I I look back now, right? As a kid I didn’t know any difference, but it’s, you know, sighted people who are very highly educated, which is fantastic. Teaching me skills of how to be blind, which have come in really handy, like braille cane travel, things like that. But nobody understood what it actually was to be blind. So they didn’t teach you how to be like blind. They taught you like tricks, which is good. But I was never in denial because I worked with other kids who were totally in denial and it just drove me like crazy because then they were angry all the time and they were mean to those teachers, Don’t help me and meanly help. I’m like, dude, they’re bringing us to Taco Bell and all we have to do is ask for a braille menu. Like, don’t be such a turd. Like, I never, I I just, I never was like that. I guess I knew it was coming

Sevan Matossian (22:29):

<laugh> what was the

Kym Dekeyrel (22:30):

Right in front of my face.

Sevan Matossian (22:31):

Yeah. What did that mean right there? When you said you were never taught to be blind, they taught you the tricks? What’s the distinction?

Kym Dekeyrel (22:39):

Oh, like I was taught to read skills, right? Like, like learning language. I was taught to read braille. I was taught how to braille label my kitchen appliances. I was taught tricks of like cooking or, um, navigating listening to intersections and things like that. But nobody being, which I don’t think you can understand until it happens to you. So like nobody could understand what it is to actually no one taught me like to navigate this world totally blind with nothing where, and that’s, like I’ve said, it’s more of a, a mental thing. Nobody taught me exercises of like, okay, like in this situation when you are absolutely terrified, like this is a coping technique or it, it just is something I didn’t expect when I did become totally blind how unfathomably different it is to be visually impaired compared to not being able to see at all.

Sevan Matossian (24:10):

Hmm. Uh, someone in the comments wrote this just now, the show’s live <laugh>, uh, and uh, as a general miserable person who has really no problems in life, I’m fascinated by people who have been given challenges and overcome them and just make the most of it.

Kym Dekeyrel (24:28):


Sevan Matossian (24:28):

That’s a great line, Jeff. Uh,

Kym Dekeyrel (24:33):

And what other choice? I mean, I do have a choice. I could lay in bed all day and just collect my disability check and be a miserable person. And, and I do, like every so often I’ll, uh, like pop into a Facebook blind group and that’s a lot of what’s going on. And I wanna like shake them and say like, there’s a world out there. Like, go listen to some birds singing or, I mean, I do have a choice. I could sit around and do nothing. And that’s kind of where I was headed in a sense. Uh, well, no, I still have a job and everything, but before this world of CrossFit. But I mean, there’s, there’s stuff to do, man. I have like, you know,

Sevan Matossian (25:24):

To help, help me with that second. So I think, I think when people, um, uh, a lot of people like, uh, Matt Su the executive producer of the show, he just went to Rome mm-hmm. <affirmative> and he went to Rome to like look at the coliseum. And so I think a lot of people are driven almond to go to the Grand Canyon cuz I wanna look at the Grand Canyon. Yeah. Um, uh, there’s a whole swath of society that’s like, Hey, I wanna look at porn. Yeah. It’s just like everyone’s just driven by shit that they wanna look at. Right. I want, I want to go to, uh, the nursery and, and look at plants. I, I wonder how different your, what, I wonder what the catalysts are that drive you to wanna do things to keep if, if it’s not to go out and just look at shit.

Kym Dekeyrel (26:07):

That’s, that stuff is actually challenging for me. That’s like, like I said, like my brain, it’s like a world of self talk all in here. Because someone would say something like, Let’s go to Rome. And my first instinct is to be like, for me, like, why, like this point you could sit outside right now and say, here’s Rome.

Sevan Matossian (26:31):

Right. <laugh>.

Kym Dekeyrel (26:33):

And I’d

Sevan Matossian (26:34):

Be like, I mean, it’s real what you’re saying. Yeah. Wow.

Kym Dekeyrel (26:37):

It’s beautiful. But I try not to remember, um, like maybe it’s five years ago we, my husband really wanted to go to New York City and I totally pulled that, What’s the point? I can’t see it. Like I’ve never been. And, but we went and I, I loved it so much that I do remem I stood in the nasty subway, uh, tunnel like crying, saying, God, I wish I’d brought, been brought here when I could see. But, you know, especially my husband, cuz obviously he knows better than anybody. And I’ve learned once again, to not be shameful of being blind. Like, I mean, we just would walk straight up to the late naked ladies in on the street that are all painted and my husband would say, like, my wife can’t see, can she like, you know, touch your boob <laugh>, like, and just trying to be okay with navigating things differently, like going to enjoy the sounds and just the experience overall. But yeah, I mean, it is still hard for me to think I’m gonna go to the Grand Canyon and stand there. That’s cool. <laugh>.

Sevan Matossian (28:10):

So when you get up in the morning, what, what, um, what, what motivates you? So like, I might get up in the morning and look over and see that the laundry’s full and I see that. Then I look over and I see my kids and I’ll be, be like, Oh, the blankets are off them. So I go pull the blankets on them and then I go over and I, and I, and I open my computer and I, and I see my email, like, I’m just driven like a fly that flies from one pile of shit to another by, by my eyes. Mm-hmm.

Kym Dekeyrel (28:40):

<affirmative>. Um,

Sevan Matossian (28:42):

What’s, what’s driving like, I, you wake up in the, like do you wake up in the morning, the first thing you do is put your hand on your husband?

Kym Dekeyrel (28:49):

Yeah. Yeah. Or I mean, and

Sevan Matossian (28:52):

Because I would just look over, right? Yeah. I just look over and like, yep. There’s my wife, she’s sleeping.

Kym Dekeyrel (28:56):

Yeah. Yeah. It’s very tactile. And then just like, I guess it’s just the routine of life. I wake up, I know what I have to do that day. I know, because I also, like, my kids always joke, but they’re not even joking. They say like, my mom is blonde and she can find anything. Like they drop their shoes somewhere or they’re like, I can’t find my shoes. And I’m like, they’re under the coffee table, <laugh>, because, you know, maybe somewhere along the night before I sat down on the couch and my foot touched a shoe, I don’t know, All these things get like logged into my brain all the time. So like you look over and see that the laundry’s full, I just know it’s full and I know that that has to be done. I know, yes. I, I always touch things or.

The above transcript is generated using AI technology and therefore may contain errors.

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