I have been treated for glaucoma since my early thirties, after the birth of my third child. It was a bit of a shock at the time when they diagnosed it; I could still see very well with corrective lenses and they did say I was a borderline case. I had yearly checks for many years but never worried too much, as all the time you can see, why worry and get on and enjoy life.
I have been very short sighted since age 16 and have used corrective glasses and contact lenses. I have used various different eye drops all this time to keep the pressure down and have not had to worry about glaucoma taking my sight until a few years ago, when I went for a routine check at the Eye Clinic. The consultant said I should have operations on both eyes to reduce eye pressure and limit further sight loss. At the time, I questioned this, as could see fine and wondered why I should need operations on my eyes, which seemed a very scary prospect. I was feeling happy, as my daughter was getting married and I was just about to do a Fine Art Degree and train to be an art teacher, which I had wanted to do for a long time and now had the opportunity to change my pathway of life and have a career in something I was good at and enjoyed doing. When the consultant told me that I needed an operation, my mood went from way up in the clouds to down in my boots.
When I came back from Las Vegas where my daughter got married, I was pleased to have seen the Grand Canyon which I had always wanted to see. I had the first operation on my right eye, a trabeculectomy and then the sight loss began, the mist starting to come down, and continues to do so now. It felt very scary and the sight loss was very quick and I was soon registered sight impaired. I then had a trabeculectomy done on the other eye. I had lost most of the central vision in my right eye but luckily can still see with my left eye close up small letters though my peripheral vision continues to go. I managed to start the Fine Art degree, but could only complete a year and half of this as my sight faded and made it very difficult to do the visual tasks required — was doing my job at the college, and I was eventually asked to resign, against my will, to be honest, as I wanted to be medically retired. That is another story.
My sight continues to fade; I cannot see goods on shelves in shops and fluorescent light is a nightmare. I am now registered severely sight impaired/blind and have got a guide dog, lovely Polly, who gives me great confidence to going about and great companion too. Sight loss can be very isolating by its very nature and different ways to do things have to be adopted. I have started to do a counselling course, and also have the opportunity to do some retraining at The Hereford College for the Blind to re-adapt and find suitable employment after learning appropriate computer applications for Administration. Thank goodness I can touch type. I have also manged to continue to do art at a local art group for the visually impaired.
It has been a shocking experience. I have the glaucoma through heredity as my father and his sister had it; my dad still alive at 93, now totally blind, although his glaucoma did not start until he was in late 60s, nor did my aunts. My great grandmother went blind with it; at the time they would not have known what caused it. My brother, who is older than me, also has glaucoma, though not as bad as mine. It seems to be strong in our family, though my grandmother did not have it, so skipped her generation.
All I can say, is that is true what they say, that glaucoma is a silent thief of sight. The damage is done and you gradually lose the vision; this is what is happening to me at the moment… it is not pleasant, and I try and cling onto to the last vestige of optic nerve that I have left. I cry most days in frustration and question, why me…. I wonder what the future holds when I can no longer see at all, and cling on to the last bit of sight I have. It is like a cancer without the death and given me no peace of mind.
At the same time, I have to get on with life, be strong and try and find alternative ways to do things and find happiness in what I can still do and adapt to do as a visually impaired blind person. Attitudes change, and you soon find out who your true friends really are. It can be a battle not to be defined by sight loss and for people to see me as who I am and not as a blind woman. I have to be strong so that if my children get it they can see that life can still go on. I decided to do the Fine Art degree to achieve something for myself and thrive in an area I was good at, and even this I had taken from me. It has not been an easy journey, as now I feel I face going blind alone. Although I have many good friends and family who will help me if needed, it is quite daunting to say the least.
I pray there is a cure for glaucoma soon so that if my children do inherit this disease, they can be rid of it. In these days of modern technology and flying to the moon, I would have thought by now that they would be able to grow replacement optic nerves and cure this awful disease along with many other blinding eye conditions. I am sure there is hope for the future in the area and research must be done more vigilantly. I am confident that one day, there will be a sudden breakthrough and loss of vision through glaucoma will be a thing of the past. It is a living nightmare and I would not wish it on anyone to have to cope with and all I can say is: researchers, get on with it and give us a breakthrough soon!
it was shared on facebook International Glaucoma Society page and i added the below comment:
Since i wrote this i have done the first year of a counselling course, worked as a volunteer in the Advice team of the Royal National Institute for the Blind in London, worked on the call centre for Family Lives, which helps families in need with their problems. I attend an art class for the visually impaired in Hadleigh Essex, with the Art The Art Ministry and had my art displayed as a visually impaired artist in the Hadleigh Art Trail, Southend Art Trail and in local venues in Southend, including the Council Offices in Victoria Avenue . I now have a Guide Dog Polly and i am a Speaker for Guide Dogs and have done this in some local venues for groups of people and children. I have also been to the Royal The Royal National College for the Blind (RNC) where i did a Business and Administration Award and now have a part time job placement for six months with Look-uk.org which is a charity which supports blind children and their families. I worked for them as a Project Assistant. I still have some vision about 10% optic nerve in each eye and it continues to fade. I hope there is a cure for glaucoma and these other eye diseases that are around, and wonder why in these days of technology and the wonderous things that are invented that someone cannot invent a bionic eye. i have started to write poetry. I hope to publish a poetry book one day when i have become more established as a writer.