Glad you stopped by. I hope you'll stop by again for Monday Morning Musings, Meet the Author Thursday, Weekend Writing Warriors, and guests whenever they drop in.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Eyes Have It

A comment Lucy Kubash made to last week's post really got to me. In fact, I mused on it most of last week. She mentioned that a disease robbed her mother and sister of their sight. I was so sorry to hear that. But she triggered my worse fear. Being blind.

Okay, there are worse fears. Nuclear attack, earthquakes, tornados, alien invasion. I know that people who are blind can live normal, fulfilled lives. People cope with disasters and loss. Not sure how I'd handle aliens unless they looked like the hero in Switched. (He could abduct me any day.)

Somehow, loss of sight frightens me more than anything. Being totally in the dark. Does anyone remember the movie Wait Until Dark where a blind Audrey Hepburn is terrorized? I take a nightlight with me on vacation . . . so I can find the hotel bathroom at night. (That's my story and I'm sticking with it.)

Fear made me put off having a 15-minute operation until I absolutely had to. Consequently, I put up with ever-thickening cataracts for way too long. My well-meaning family and friends thought they were helping with comforting words like: "I had it and it was a piece of cake." Or, "my mother/husband/ grandmother had it, yada, yada." Hah. It was my eyes. The only comforting thing anyone said was "aren't you kind of young to have cataracts? My mother was way older." What a sweetheart.

Three years ago, I dutifully went to a specialist. He was very reassuring. I had to watch a video where the doctor explained the procedure. That wasn't too bad—at least, there were no pictures. At the end of the video was the disclosure of risk listing eighteen things that can go wrong. Eighteen, including blindness and death. And to make sure I understood all the risks, a voice-over read them. Old Murphy was jumping up and down waving his "if anything can go wrong, it will" banner. Blindness and death?

I freaked. Silently, of course. Doctors frown on patients who run screaming from their office. Bad for business. Rather, I politely said, "No, thank you. My eyesight isn't that bad."

Last fall, I knew my close-up vision was deteriorating. I had to ask my dear hubby to read things on the TV. I'm sure he got tired of me asking "what did that say?" but he was very patient. One of the things I've always loved about him is he never says "I told you so." He probably thinks it, though. Then, there was reading small print on over-the-counter medicine bottles. (Where did I leave that magnifying glass?) What put me over the edge was when the clues on Jeopardy were blurry. No Jeopardy? I don't think so.

I finally went to the optometrist's office for a check-up. Whoa. Did I get a slap upside the head. You know the test where they make you cover one eye, show you three lines of letters on the wall, and ask you to read the lowest one? I kept saying none and the lines moved up. I didn't realize the last three lines were the bars of the big E. Holy cow. I thought it was just another three lines. Mind you, this was with my glasses.

When I told my kids, they freaked. Sort of. My son felt bad because he thought I didn't see any of the marvelous Arizona and Utah scenery he and his girlfriend shared with hubby and me back in October. My daughter was worse. "I let you drive my children and you can't see!"

Hey, it wasn't that bad. Distance was never a problem. Everything was sharp and clear unless it required reading. And, the other eye was doing the heavy lifting. Besides, her dad did all the driving when we were with the grandkids. Still, I asked the optometrist what would happen if I still didn't do anything. I'd go blind.

My dad had an expression—damned if you do, damned if you don't.

It was time to go back to the specialist. I had to watch that video again. More fear. I told the doctor how squeamish I am about my eyes. Without a hint of sarcasm, he said he'd heard that before. (Gee, you mean I'm not the only scaredy-cat?) So, we set the appointment for the operation on each eye, two weeks apart. Yeah, both eyes. The one doing most of the work had a cataract, too. I figured if I didn't do them close together, I might wimp out and then where would I be?

You can't imagine what happened when I got to the surgery center the morning of the first surgery. My operation was cancelled. I'd finally gotten my nerves as quieted as they were going to get (without Xanax), steeled myself for this and it was cancelled? I didn't know whether to be angry or relieved. The explanation made sense. They didn't have a second lens and the doctor wouldn't operate without a backup. That didn't inspire a lot of confidence in the surgery center. Did nobody count the supplies?

I had a week's reprieve. I steeled myself again (why, oh, why didn't I ask for that Xanax prescription) and . . . it was a piece of cake. I was on my way home less than an hour after the surgery was scheduled. I think it took me longer to get my shoes on than the actual operation. Then, holy cow, I could read street signs before being on top of them. Without glasses. After the checkup the following day, I was told I was legal to drive. Without glasses. I could read the guide on the TV. Without glasses. (I picked up a pair of "readers" from the drugstore for close-up reading until my eyes settled down enough to get prescription lenses.) I could do everyday things, including reading the computer, without glasses. A week later, after the second eye was done, it was even better. No glasses.

Now, those of you who didn't need glasses until your forties (or later) probably can't understand my amazement. I have worn glasses since I was three years old. I never lost glasses because they were always on my face. I put them on first thing in the morning and took them off the last thing at night. I always wore glasses. Contacts? In my twenties, I tried them. Only hard contacts for far-sightedness then. Uncomfortable and too much bother. And now I don't need glasses anymore!

To be totally honest, I do need them to read. Another disclaimer: I was given the option to have a special lens that would also correct my astigmatism (lopsided eyeball—not a technical term but how I understand it). At my family's encouragement, I agreed, even though the pricey difference wasn't covered by insurance. The special lenses made such a difference.

Now that it's all over, I realize my fear was for naught. I let it blind me (pun intended) to doing what I should have done a lot sooner. I can't believe how long I allowed that fear to rule my life.

One thing I promised myself afterward. I wouldn't be one of those people who make light of what has become such a common-place surgery. Sure, it was a breeze—for me. Everything went well, beyond my expectations, actually. But, I still remember the fear, the anxiety that something would go wrong. I vowed to be sympathetic and listen to another's worries.

But, I would be thinking "hey, it's a piece of cake."   


  1. Fear of the unknown can be so immobilizing, but great you were able to overcome it. And glad the surgery was a success. As writers, I guess we all know about fear and uncertainty. It's such a part of our lives!

  2. My first try at commenting got eaten. This is another version of it.

    I can relate to that "damned if you do, damned if you don't" gut feeling. Focusing on the tiny details and sensations--and the big bottom line-- writers experience things with such intensity.

    Thanks for the pep talk. So glad your results were so positive. Keep on writing. All the best, Annette

  3. I'm so glad everything went well for you Diane. And to have the procedure behind you must be a fabulous feeling! Imagine, to be able to see so clearly again! Awesome! My mother in law did have the surgery last Jan. at age eighty. She still wears readers but I don't think she has to. It's more out of habit, I think.
    So glad you overcame the fear and can now enjoy the reward. Good job!

  4. Thanks, guys. Yes, it's a great feeling of relief. Annette, so sorry your original comment was eaten. Blogger hasn't liked me for a week now when I try to respond to blogs, including my own, when I used Explorer yet I can get in using Firefox. I wonder what's going on.

  5. Hi Diane,
    Thank you for sharing this experience. I'm glad you overcame your fear and had the operation. I was one of those who never had to wear glasses until my forties. And now, it drives my crazy that I can't see something right in front of my nose. Good for you!!!

    I can relate 100% with allowing fears to dominate your life decisions. While my fears have nothing to do with blindness, although I'm sure if I think about it long enough I could add that to my pile. For years I had panic attacks over the fear of the unknown. As Lucy mentioned above, my fear was immobilizing. It's been a few years now since I had one but I live with the fear that I will. (catch-22 syndrome) Thank the lord for Xanax and understanding friends and family.

  6. Annie, I can only imagine how difficult it's been for you. I am so glad you had the courage to admit you have a problem and to get help. You are fortunate to have great support.

  7. Wow Diane,

    This one I'm going to come back to again and again and again. What a great post. Thanks for taking us along on your journey. As someone who has worn glasses almost as long as you have and is going to be facing the same surgery in my future, I need all the encouragement I can get.

    You go, girl.



Love getting your comments. BTW, your comment won't show up until you refresh the page. Isn't that a pain? Thanks for stopping by.