Monday, November 21, 2011

Eyes

If the eyes are the windows to the soul, what happens when the window gets foggy?

I have been thinking about my eyes a lot lately. Why? Because I am fifty days away from cataract surgery. That makes me feel a lot older than I am. Medical treatments like that are more often associated with 80-somethings than with 50-somethings.

I first wore glasses in 7th grade and began wearing them nearly every day fifteen years ago. For the past year I have worn them nearly every waking hour of every day. My vision is rapidly deteriorating, which is what led to the decision to finally have this surgery.

Loss is the biggest single issue we face as we age. Loss of friends and family through death, loss of youth, loss of various body and mind functions. We start losing brain cells in our late teens, so this should come as no surprise as we reach 40, 50 or more, but acceptance doesn’t equal liking it.

Loss of vision scares me more than loss of mobility, hearing, money or libido. Fortunately, of those five, vision is the only one in jeopardy right now. Vision seriously impacts all but the last of those. With glasses, I can see well enough to drive, work and read. It is difficult to do any of those things without them. Even with the glasses, there are issues related to the cataracts. The decision to have surgery done happened when it begins to affect quality of life. I am there.

Cataract surgery is considered almost routine now. I know two people who have had the operation; one was 52, the other was 80-something. Neither had complications and both were happy with the results. One of them was 52 at the time of the operation a year or two ago.

The eyes, like many other parts of human anatomy, offer redundancy. We have two of them but we can see with either. I need the surgery in both, so you can see why I am concerned. First operation is scheduled for January and the second will likely be in March. I have a wait-and-see attitude about that second one; I want to be sure the first one was successful. Part of the operation involves a plastic implant, so there is no going back.

I have interviewed two sight-impaired people on my radio shows and they function very well with limited vision. One was actually blind. They each represented support organizations for people with vision issues. But their lives are definitely a struggle. I probably could not do my current job without sight. One of my non-job passions is photography and another is writing. You see the obstacles with both, don’t you?

If you know me in person, then you know I can be obsessive about things and sometimes project myself into possible future scenarios, some of them negative. When I was in the hospital years ago after breaking a few things in a fall down some stairs, I was imagining myself not being able to walk. I scared myself needlessly. For several months I did need crutches and later a cane, but within six months my walking was perfectly normal. I even tried running again, although that is more of a struggle.

So now I imagine life without sight and it scares me. Even limited vision scares me. Just the other night I had trouble reading a recipe and seeing chopped onions on a white cutting board was a challenge. Odds are overwhelmingly in favor of completely successful surgeries. In fact, I probably won’t need glasses for distance any more. Those odds do not stop me from being concerned and a little obsessed with the slight possibility of a negative outcome.

I feel a little foolish even telling you all of this. My optimistic side assures me all will be fine. Maybe I’m just saying this stuff out loud to give you a little glimpse through the windows into my soul.

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