I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Losing faculties one by one

Brilliant pink flowers at the harbor

I needed a good mood elevator yesterday morning, when I went for a nice walk at the harbor with my friend Steve. He left early so he could get to a breakfast meeting, and Don was obviously busy elsewhere, so I was alone for much of the time. It was really quite cool, with the temperature not reaching 50°F and a cold wind blowing off the water made it seem even colder.

That said, I ended up walking more than five miles, and it really did make me feel better. As I mentioned before, my AMD (age-related macular degeneration) is continuing to progress. I went on Friday to have my eyes dilated and checked, and it was the first time since I have been going annually that, with my right eye, I couldn't even see the image on the screen at all. I am definitely legally blind in that one, but my left eye is still 20/20. The atrophy has not yet reached my central vision there. My eye doctor said I am still capable of driving and continuing my activities, as long as I have one good eye. For now, that is what I have. It does explain why my depth perception doesn't work any longer: I essentially only have one good eye. Peripheral vision is not affected in either eye by this disease, but it's distressing to learn about the progression.

I knew it was happening; it's been gradually getting worse over the years, and with dry AMD, there has been no treatment. Until now, it seems: he told me he would refer me to a retina specialist, one I saw for years until they decided it wasn't useful, as they couldn't help me. Just recently a treatment has become available for dry AMD, to slow the progression of the atrophy. I will call them next week to see if they can set up an appointment. I also need to find out if my insurance will cover some part of it as well. With new stuff like this, it's possible it's not yet available. I'll find out. 

If I lose the ability to focus in my left eye, I will no longer be able to read anything at all, recognize faces, drive (obviously), or continue writing my blogs. That is a possible and probable future, but it's not inevitable. I spent some time walking around looking at things with just the one bad eye, and I realized that I could not be reading this at all, or typing without being able to check my spelling. I looked online for some possible magnifiers that can help me to some extent. Anyway, I managed to let myself get pretty discouraged yesterday, but yesterday morning's walk certainly helped my mood.

Let's see: hearing aids for my dwindling ability to hear, going blind, and the damaged ability to smell that came about because of a medication I took for years. I do have some things I can smell very well, mostly chemical aromas (unfortunately), but I  always stop to smell the flowers anyway, because I can still smell some of them, especially if they are in the sun. Roses, my favorite flower, are still able to delight my nose.

That leaves two senses still intact: my sensory and tactile ability, and my ability to taste. But one by one, I'm losing those wonderful senses, and it's really a little bit unsettling. Is this Nature's way of gently helping me to let go? Sometimes I do wonder.
You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you. —Brian Tracy

Yes, I am in the process of trying to master the enormous change that I seem to be facing at the moment. And I know that I'm not the only one who has to figure out how to continue one's daily life when something happens that changes everything. There is a young woman I see who rides the bus daily. She is obviously completely blind and has a lovely support dog who helps her get around. I'm probably not going to live long enough to get to that state, but you never know what's ahead. A dog would not allow me to continue to read and write, though; and that is what I will miss the most, if it comes to that. 

I learned awhile ago that Judi Dench, the 88-year-old actor, continues to work, even with advanced AMD that no longer allows her to read scripts. She just finds a way to work around it, but she has a photographic memory, which helps. You know what they say about "where there's a will, there's a way." And yes, I can also control my attitude and learn to appreciate what's still possible. Once again, I researched all the ways one can slow the progression of AMD, and I have been doing them all for years now. Who knows what my eyesight would be if I hadn't done them? There's only one of me, so I can't do a study to learn the answer to that question.

As I sit here in the dark, with the illumination of the room that comes from my laptop screen, I can see well enough to be quite happy and content. But I also realize that nothing stays the same, and hopefully I can find a way to stop it. Having injections in my eyes (yes, that's how the new drug is administered) might be in my future, and if it helps I will endure it. If I get the chance, that is. Yesterday I had no idea that a treatment has come out, and I look forward to seeing if I qualify. You'll be one of the first to know. I can still read and write and will do everything I can to keep it that way.

What else is happening in my life? The days are growing longer and longer, and I now need the eye mask I bought last year in order to sleep before it gets dark. I have grown more tolerant of the sounds of summer that waft through the open windows, with the distant sound of playing children actually rather soothing. There's one kid who loves to scream, and that's a bit of a problem, but it doesn't happen every night. These kids, though, love to play until we can't see anything at all. I remember doing that as a kid, not wanting to stop and being reluctant to go inside.

This morning I will head to Fairhaven with John to have our Sunday breakfast together. I will continue to work the Wordle puzzle and Connections, two ways I have grown to enjoy the New York Times subscription I pay for every month. I also read several articles every day, and I really appreciate their Sunday offerings. There is always at least one good read. So that is what I will do once I return home after breakfast. I feel incredibly fortunate to have these activities available to me in the near future, and I'll do what I can to make that a reality for as long as possible.

My dear partner still sleeps quietly next to me, and my tea is long gone. I will spend some time before I get out of bed to read the dozen blogs that have appeared in my news feed, and then I will begin the rest of my day. I do hope you will have a wonderful week ahead, and I look forward to finding out what's happening in your lives. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things, dear friends.


John's Island said...

Hi DJan, I never got around to leaving a comment for last week’s Eye, but reading it this morning sent me to the Facebook Seeing Bellingham group where I got lucky and discovered some of the best aurora photos I’ve EVER seen, all taken during our recent solar storm. Wow, thank you for mentioning that! By the way, the Northern Lights were seen here in Seattle, but, alas, not by me as I was sleeping. 😊 Today’s post is a strong dose of reality. This business of aging definitely has its consequences. I am sorry to hear about your vision loss. You are on the right track to get in to see a retina specialist. I admire your fortitude, despite vision issues, to keep blogging. I feel lucky to have found you and be able to follow your life story. Wishing happy days ahead to you and SG. John

Linda Reeder said...

Yesterday, when we were at the car dealership, and I was dealing with income numbers and dates and telephone numbers and trying to text my daughter, my brain scrambled and I couldn't remember my SS number. I said aloud to the youmng man "Getting old is annoying". It is, and worrysome too, so I try to deal with it with a sense of humor as much as I can. BTW, I asked for a pen and paper and by writing it down and looking at it, I could remember my SS nunber. Our eyes are so important.
We did buy a car yesterday, a 2020 Subaru Crosstrek, with very low miliage. It's bright red like our little Chevy Cruze that we will be selling to Jill. She'll get a good deal because the dealership offered us a very low trade in value, so I called Jill to see if she wanted it for her herself or Irene. Car business will take up quite a bit of our attention this week. Today I will need to practice driving the new car. It has a lot of bells and whistles.
While my senses are less sharp, it's my balance and mobility that are my most troublesome age related deterioration. These age limitations make me mad and sad and yet glad I can still do what I can.
Keep on walking and stay happy. You are aging well.

Anvilcloud said...

You have every right to be a little downcast at times and to not feel badly about yourself when you do. It's only natural. Meanwhile, you wrote a good post and managed well with it. Cheers.

Rian said...

DJan, sorry to hear that your AMD is progressing... hopefully it will be a slow progression. And your quote about controlling your attitude is spot on. As I think it's important to control the 'fear' (much easier said than done I know). 'What is, is... and I can handle it' was my mantra with BC. And although it wasn't the be all and end all, it did help.
And I was thinking... with all the technology we have today, if it was no longer possible for you to type on your iPad or laptop, could you not 'speak' into it and have it write for you. I believe this is possible. We recently went to a class on AI and were made aware of so many possibilities.
Enjoy your Sunday!

Barbara Rogers said...

I have a friend who I lunch with occasionally at the Sr. Center who has advanced AMD. He gets the shots periodically and says they help. He no longer drives, but can walk around (with a cane outside) and walks around recognizing folks and eats his meals without scrambling stuff. I catch him reading texts and news on his phone, a large type, but I tend to do that also. My new iPad somehow sends my type as grande' and I do use the mike to dictate texts and emails frequently. Have to still do an edit job on them. Just to say, coping with changes is in the air...not just the changes of aging, but then there's climate change. Yes, find those roses that you can smell! I'm always looking for them too.

Rita said...

My mom had macular degeneration--dry in one eye and wet in the other, believe it or not. She got shots in her wet MD eye for years. My mom ended up nearly blind and deaf by her late 80s. Covid and isolation came and she gave up and died. I really, really hope this new treatment might work for you.

I follow a young woman who is totally blind who blogs. So I guess where there's a will there's a way, for sure. Technology these days is amazing!

I, too, have paid attention to what is available because I am losing my hearing (I'm sure it is almost gone in the one ear) and have macular puckers in both eyes now plus tri-focals so that limits the time I can read anymore. Yes, it is like losing your senses one by one.

I think of a lady I used to read the letters she received for her when I worked in a senior building. She was legally blind, but she handwrote letters still! She rigged up a way to guide her hand across the page in a fairly straight line and then moved down the page...told me she "wrote from memory". (I had no trouble reading it!) But then she needed to find someone to read the letters that she got and to check the envelopes she wrote for her. I was honored!

I could do that and still write letters...if I didn't lose my hearing. But if I lost my hearing I could still maybe journal...even if I lost vision and hearing. Who knows? But, as you can tell, I have thought about these things, too. One must adapt to whatever life throws at you. I pray I don't ever give up the fight like my mom did. She never could accept technology. We tried. It could have helped her so much. I know you won't give up. You have a strong will, my friend. *hugs from Fargo*

Elephant's Child said...

I hear you dear friend. Sometimes it is difficult to not get a bit down but attitude changes are so very important. The thought of injections in my eyes makes me shudder - but it would be so worth it to retain sight for longer. Huge hugs and much love.

Red said...

Lots of good comment here today. Once in a while we stop and check things . Sometimes what we find is somewhat alarming. You've been keeping tabs on a number of life altering situations. It's a bit of a bummer when one issue is checked and we find a deterioration. After that you have a great attitude and work hard at being healthy. Keep on walkin!

Gigi said...

I am sorry to hear the AMD is progressing; but am heartened by the fact that there is a new treatment! I hope your insurance covers it and that it works for you. xo

gigi-hawaii said...

My goodness. What can I say? Carry on as you have and hope for the best.

Linda Myers said...

My goal several years ago was to age with grace. I still need a lot of improvement. Every week when I read about your five-mile walks I sigh with envy. My most frustrating decline is in my mobility. I'm so glad you write about these things, as it reminds me again that we are all in this together. Thank you for that.
I love these long days!

Far Side of Fifty said...

So sorry to hear that your AMD is worse, I hope you can see the specialist without waiting months! I know how discouraging it is to have a failing body...sometime I get so mad...but that just wastes what little energy I have. Keep your chin up !! I know that Troutbirder used a voice activated system to write his blog for awhile. His Demintia must be worse as I have not heard from him in awhile, he used to email me once in awhile.