Friday, September 14, 2012


It's been a busy week. Lots of chores and running around to various stores. Minor repairs on the ol' green pickup to fumble my way through. Appointments to keep. Work projects to get out. And every so often, whenever I had an hour or two, time afield to make some photos and check the progress of the seasonal transformation.   

Yesterday I spent about three hours at the optometrist's, getting my annual, and quite thorough, eye examine. The bad news is I need new contact lenses—nearly four hundred bucks. The good news is that my glaucoma status hasn't changed. 

For the past few years, my intraocular pressures have been on the high end of the average range. Alone, this wouldn't be much to worry about. But I also have thin corneas, a fair degree of myopia, and some "cupping" of the optic disc—three additional risk factors that point to the probability of glaucoma in the future. Plus my mother had glaucoma, as did at least one of her aunts—a fifth and significant risk, which increases my chances of developing glaucoma sevenfold over the general population. 

At the least, I'm currently a "glaucoma suspect." The reality, however, is that I likely already have glaucoma. The optic disc cupping is probably indicative, and sufficient for an early-stage diagnosis—even though my visual field tests are still excellent, above normal for my age and show no loss of vision, my intraocular pressures remain within the normal range, and the amount optic disc cupping hasn't changed over the last few years. 

Still, I watched my mother go slowly blind—in spite of all the eye drops and surgeries and top-notch specialists who tried everything to halt the disease's relentless destruction of her eyesight. Science and medicine doesn't always have the answer—though I absolutely sure the excellent care Mom received did help slow the disease's progression. 

But the fact was, during the final years of her life, Mom could see only "shadows." Not colors, not details; light and dark…and shadows. 

It was awful to witness. This kind and gentle and wonderful lady who so loved looking at flowers and watching birds and animals, loved taking rides in the country, seeing the landscape and tracking the seasons; the woman whose quick brown eyes were always filled with laughter and no small bit of wild mischief, who loved her family and friends with all her heart, loved to cook and feed anyone who sat at her table; who hand-stitched exquisite quilts, crocheted gorgeous afghans, and could sew up anything—from a dress to a patchwork handbag—on her ancient treadle machine; this person who enjoyed reading and had taught me to read before I started kindergarten, who nursed me though serious illnesses and kept me alive for so many years when the doctors said there was no hope—the mother whom I loved and admired and cherished, who shaped and influenced me in so many ways and helped instill a sense of wonder in my appreciation of nature. I watched helplessly as glaucoma narrowed Mom's vision and dimmed her sight. Until finally, she could no longer do any of those things she loved, could not make out the details of my face, though I turned every lamp in the room to high, knelt at eye-level, and leaned within inches.

Watching that happen to her was beyond heartbreaking. And frightening. I want to do whatever I can to avoid such a fate—though in spite of some advances in treatment, glaucoma still can't always be controlled. As I too well know. Nevertheless, after talking with my eye doc, as a possible prophylactic measure, to do what I can before any damage occurs, and to give myself the best vision possible for a long as possible, I've decided to start an every-other-day régime of eye drops to help lower my intraocular pressures. Lower pressures don't necessarily prevent glaucoma, but they may slow the progress. 

I hope so, because I don't think I have Mom's grace or courage.                        


Gail said...

HI GRIZZ - oh my, what a beautiful and also tragic post of loss of sight and how you witnessed it and atop that your own valid fears of the same plight. I am a mix of joy for all your Mom was for so long and for all she lost when one of her greatest blessings slowly left. And for you to live in the fear of the same for yourself is heart wrenching. I do admire your courage even though you don't see it as such.I know all too well of loss of health, albeit sight, or mobility, and so forth. It is all heart wrenching and takes much faith and courage to adjust, surrender and never give up.
Loving you

Grizz………… said...


Thank you, for words both kind and wise. I appreciate them a lot because I know they come from your heart, and carry the validity of one who knows whereof she speaks. They also remind me that Mom didn't see her plight as a tragedy, merely as just another rough patch along life's winding road. She seldom complained, and even then it was usually just a wistful longing to be able to see something a bit better or clearer. Her grace wasn't simply a tool or addition to her personality, but the basis of who she was; it came straight from her core, as much a part of her as living breath. She adjusted, but never gave up and never allowed her failing sight to interfere any more with her life than was absolutely the minimum possible.

When I think about myself too much, imagine what may happen, I dread such a day—looming like a dark, foreboding cloud on my personal horizon. I know better, was raised better, and am ashamed of myself when I go there. Truthfully, I'm not afraid…I just dread that too familiar road. And I know, too, how lucky I have been with all this, how blessed I am with the health and life and eyesight I do have. I have no room to complain; no right to whine. It's just been a tough day or two, that's all. Understand?

Again, thank you.

KGMom said...

Scribe--eyesight is one of those areas where we see the marvelous advances in medicine.
My grandfather had both cataracts and glaucoma. The result of the combined conditions was that he was legally blind for the last 2 decades of his life.
It was amazing how he adapted--he had been a preacher, and he memorized the number of steps from the back of many churches he visited to the front, so he could stride confidently with only the use of his white-tipped cane which he tapped back and forth.
The one thing he abhored, however, was when someone would visit him and not tell him who. The visitor would say--guess. Which, frankly, was cruel.
Today, of course, removing cataracts is out-patient surgery, and drugs can help control glaucoma.
I trust your condition will respond to medication.

Grizz………… said...


You're right, there have been a number of near-marvelous advances over the last couple of decades in the treatment of several eye diseases—the fields of cataract surgery and glaucoma being just two examples.

However, in the case of glaucoma, while some new medicines have proven of worth, and surgery has been refined, much of the advancement has come in tools to enable obtaining an earlier diagnosis—giving you a head start for treatment, before severe—or any—eyesight loss occurs. But unfortunately, glaucoma progression control is still mostly a matter of lowering the intraocular pressure, via either various eyedrops or various surgical techniques.

The problem comes in that just as high intraocular pressure is not indicative or sufficient for a glaucoma diagnosis, neither is lowering elevated intraocular pressure always effective in preventing the disease's progression. You can have high pressures and NOT have glaucoma, and you can have low pressures and HAVE glaucoma.

My intraocular pressure is currently on the upper side of "normal." My mother's pressure was, too, when she was diagnosed. (She did already have vision loss at this time.) They started her on drops immediately, which lowered her pressures about 30 percent—well into the mid-normal range. Her eyesight loss continued to increase. They did two different types of surgeries over the next few years, both of which lowered her intraocular pressure even more—another three or four points, as I recall. It didn't help…her pressures were great, but the glaucoma progression continued relentlessly.

And that's pretty much the state of glaucoma medicines and treatments today. Glaucoma is treated mainly by lowering intraocular pressure—drops or surgery. Lowering the pressure either keeps eyesight loss under control, or it doesn't. Naturally, being Mom's kid (albeit a pretty old kid) I worry my response and outcome will be similar. Or as Yogi Berra puts it, "déjà vu all over again."

Gail said...

Hi again - I completely understand Grizz - and we all fall in to our harsh realities from time to time and feel the "why me's?' and or 'poor me's'. You have the right and so do we all. But like your Mom, you rally and rise up and value all that is and move from what may or perhaps will be.
I thouhgt of you and your Mom last night and I wanted to say that I also felt that even in the shadows of vision your graceful Mom saw beauty and hope and truth beyond words - and you as well - have that gift of looking through the shadows and finding a glimmer of hope. I look for the flicker in the darkest of times - and I have found that it is always there. Hang on to that flicker and I will too, and even if it gets really dark and you lose sight of it for a moment it is still there.
Love to you

Grizz………… said...


I am just overwhelmed by your lovely, wise, and kind words. Thank you.

And you're absolutely right—for a lot of us, now and then something crops up and the self-pitying and whining begins. I know this, see it in others, don't like it in myself. Yet for the life of me, I can't help but do it anyway. Disgusting! And doubtless disgusting to others. Really, if it weren't such a self-absorbed, pathetically weak, patently human, and entirely predictable reaction, it would be laughable…except we're invariably too busy crying to every living soul in our personal world about how "big bad life has dealt so unfairly with poor old me! Again!"

Mom simply didn't go there. She wasn't merely being stoic or meek…she just didn't complain. Mom picked her battles, adressed only what could be changed. She had sense enough to know that anger and self-pity resolved nothing, that it didn't make any difference to those situations which were set, absolute, unchangeable. Instead, she realized the right course of action began with acceptance of the facts—and after that summoned the courage to deal with whatever she faced to the best of her abilities.

Grace and courage…and a wealth of practical and uncommon "common" sense.

The way she grew up, there was never time or place for anything else. Life was right there, raw, coming at you full force—with the consequences of your actions immediate. Regardless of the news or issues they faced, no one in her family ever took time for dithering to engage in the "why me?" syndrome. And neither did my father, or his people, for that matter.

So, you'd think I'd be better, huh? There is, as you say, always that flicker…

I love that image. Thank you again.

Jayne said...

My mom has Fuchs' Dystrophy, so there is a chance that either my sister or I might also have this disorder. It can wax and wane, but can also lead to total blindness without a corneal transplant. So, I feel your trepidation my friend, and fully understand wanting to be proactive about treatment while you can. I suppose none of us is guaranteed anything, and vision is a gift, which is why I know the importance of taking time to pause and ponder the beauty all around me each and every day. Blessings to you.

Grizz………… said...


Nope, life doesn't come with a guarantee of either good health or extended years. And in a way, I'm glad, because that makes it even more vital to never waste a single precious moment—to always take the time to notice and enjoy the beauty and wonder all around, find joy in the everyday, laugh as much as possible, live with honor and humility and compassion, understand grace, seek peace, and never ever pass up an opportunity of telling those you love how much you care. I pray that neither you nor your sister have your eyesight troubled by such a terrible disorder.