Since starting to write our Stay Sexy column a year and a half ago, I’ve focused on keeping it upbeat, sharing encouraging stories, interviewing authors who experience success with their health-related goals, and offering tips and information to help readers stay vibrant, healthy, excited and sexy across the life cycle.
I’m that kind of person, and yes, I was a cheerleader in high school. I didn’t want to be writing a column focused on “coping” with the many ailments that can catch us unawares as we age.
We’ve just been hit with one of those. Not major, if everything goes right – but anything threatening my vision, with which I make a living, feels major to me. I’m working hard to hang onto the attitude that will best position me to sail through this with optimum benefit, and I decided writing about it in this column would (a) help keep me honest and (b) maybe help others who likewise struggle with focusing on the positive when something unexpected blindsides them.
My diagnosis, technically, is a “pseudo-macular-hole” in my left eye. It’s a lesion in the concentrated bundle of nerves at the center of the retina, the area that communicates the vast proportion of visual information to the brain. ”The macula provides the sharp, central vision we need for reading, driving, and seeing fine detail,” (National Eye Institute). Um, yeah, gonna need that for the long haul.
It’s caused by aging – the vitreous gel that fills the eye shrinks with age and can pull away from the retina, causing a hole. My case is considered mild, and we caught it early, so I have much to be grateful for. The surgeon we’ve been referred to is a national expert in this field and she anticipates I will have either complete or nearly complete restoration of my vision in that eye.
I believe her. I don’t know that restoration will be complete, but I believe I have excellent odds, given both her assessment and the energy I’ve focused for years on doing everything in my power to stay healthy.
So where do I struggle with attitude? Lots of places. Any surgery requires a period of rest and inactivity. If I’m not regularly working out, I’m easily subject to depression. I hate when that happens, and I’m not a lot of fun to be around. I’ll have to work hard not to let it get me down or fill me with negative energy that won’t help me heal.
I don’t like unknowns. I don’t like not being able to plan ahead, not being able to know what to expect. If surgery goes as the doctor hopes, I’ll have to stay in a face-down position for at least two days. Longer, if there are problems. I don’t know what’s going to happen.
I’ve never coped easily with unexpected change, though clearly that’s something all of us need to practice as we age. When this problem occurred, we had just arrived in Seattle after four weeks driving up the Oregon and Washington coast on our summer motorhome trip. We’ve changed our travel plans and booked an extra month at the RV resort where we’d only planned to spend a week. I have no idea how soon we’ll be able to head back down the road to our home base in Nevada. Everything else being equal, actually, I hope that’s the biggest unexpected change I’ll be facing as we navigate our way through all this. Could be lots worse (see? Giving myself a pep talk).
And how do I begin to face these issues? Attitude is always a choice. We’ve been given an extra three weeks to explore what the Puget Sound area has to offer. We’ve encountered great beauty and been able to spend time with three sets of friends we might have missed. I’m supported by a husband who loves me, understands me, and will walk with me through whatever happens.
And we’ll keep writing about it, one way or another. Others have gone before me and faced darker days, and they’ve inspired me. For a taste of what matters, check out my conversations in this column with Mahalia Levey and Emma Lai.
I’d love to hear from you about how you’ve coped with bumps in the road, and what you’ve learned. Meanwhile, here are some of my favorite pics from where we’re staying.
Lily pads at sunset
Mt. Rainier at sunset
Dawn from Bainbridge Island