Sunday, January 31, 2016
Last week called to the appointment desk for my 3-month checkup, and in just a day or so drove in to see my physician. All vital signs "exceptionally good," says he, and further added that he rarely saw patients beyond the age of 50 who didn't require at least some kind of prescriptions. I am totally med-free. No high blood pressure, no heart problems, no hearing loss, nothing. The pride he takes in keeping me alive is evident. We grin over it each time I show up for my routine visits. "See you in six months," says he.
After my check up and renewals of pneumonia and tetanus vaccines, I went to the eye clinic to check on the date for cataract surgery on my right eye. I did notice during the exam that the vision in that eye had deteriorated considerably since last May, and that now the left eye wasn't all that great. She dilated the pupils, checked the pressure, and completed the exam.
I'd given up night driving some months ago, since noticing that my night vision had become distorted and I no longer have the confidence needed to feel safe changing lanes, or even recognizing off ramps at times. Something was going awry, obviously.
For the first time, my diagnosis was that -- not only was the surgery necessary to remove the cataracts -- but glaucoma was now present. Glaucoma is, of course, incurable -- and the cause of blindness. I will outlive my eyesight.
This was not anticipated though I am aware that my paternal grandmother was someone I knew only as a small child, and at that time she was totally blind. She died when I was about four. My father spent his last ten years without sight. Since they both suffered from diabetes, I'd only associated their blindness with the disease. I've never suffered from diabetes, so had never connected glaucoma with something to be expected as I entered this past decade. Not for one minute did I anticipate or fear this diagnosis.
Because I'd received a clean bill of health from my primary physician only an hour before, the image that came up for me was, "... WOW! I'm fit to sign up for the Boston marathon, but I may have to do it with a guide dog!"
I drove home with new information that should have been shocking, right? It wasn't. Should have caused alarm. It didn't. I've lived with it for almost a week now, and find that I'm still waiting for some sort of reaction. Panic? Nothing, still. I've enjoyed excellent health for such a long time that I'm feeling blessed 'til now, and grateful for being alive and able to still be productive into these years.
I know that -- though there is no cure -- there are drugs that may slow the progression. I will have time to adjust to a new way of living, and that I'm computer savvy and have time to teach myself to use the features available to me. How different my capacities will be than what Dad could call on. My grandmother could only sit in the rocking chair on the front porch of that house on Lapyrouse Street in New Orleans and hold me close while my mother did the housekeeping and prepared meals for the family. My memories of her are that of a 3 year-old sitting in her lap endlessly brushing her waist-length dark hair and fondling the buttery-soft flesh of her upper underarm while falling asleep ... and being much-loved. Maybe that's why the thought of blindness is not more frightening.
My father left a great model for me. I remember being awed by his ability to use what capacities he retained into the sightless years. He knew that that little line from the top joint on his thumb to the tip measured exactly one inch. I often watched him, fascinated, busily doing home repairs using his thumb to measure as he went along. What he could have done if he'd lived into the kind of technology that I have access to! He'd been a builder all his life, and a proud one. Blindness required some adjustments, but he lived into his mid-nineties with little complaint.
Not sure how quickly this will progress, but one thing is certain; I'm about to enter still another cycle of life with new challenges. I'm also aware that this means that how I handle this may well determine how well my children and theirs, my nieces and nephews, will deal with this potential in their lives. My work as mother may not be over yet; that part of parenting that influences the lives of the next generation. And, of course, this may be something that they needn't worry about, or, by the time they reach these years a cure will have been discovered. Medical research is moving so fast; look at the advances between my father's days and mine.
None of this is immediate. There will be plenty of time to adjust, and if this past week is any indication, I'm still a long way from either realizing what this means, or, figuring out why it is that I'm not more disturbed by the prospect ... .
Tomorrow I will take the first steps:
I'll talk with my sons and my colleagues. I suspect that this will be harder for those around me than it (apparently) is for me.
No plans to retire. Nothing will change, unless ordered by wiser heads. I'm still in unbelievably good health, and don't anticipate any major problems in the foreseeable future. Cataract surgery will occur sometime in April, at which time there can be a more accurate assessment of just how much and how fast the glaucoma is progressing and how to plan for the necessary life adjustments. This involves an out-patient pain-free 15-minute surgical procedure, with a relatively fast recovery.
I'm committed to giving the keynote address for the annual Rosie the Riveter Trust banquet on April 9th, and the surgery will not interfere, but will be scheduled for the following week, or later.
I need to make some changes to my bucket list, maybe, but that's about it, I think. Maybe I'll need to plan to see Hamilton in New York; a luxury worth saving up for. A national tour is not slated until 2017, and that could be too late. Meanwhile, I'm planning to take Dorian to Yosemite for another look at Half Dome and Bridal Falls -- which should be amazing this El Nino year. That trip will come in early April.
Meanwhile, move along folks, nothing to see here ... .