Three years ago, on the morning of my birthday, I woke up, sat on the edge of my bed and looked in the floor length mirror opposite. I couldn’t see my head. Where it should have been was a big oval shaped blur. I waited 3 days to go to the optometrist who immediately sent me to an ophthalmologist who immediately put me on very high doses of prednisone because he thought I had temporal arteritis and without prednisone the prognosis was complete blindness – eventually in both eyes. For 6 months I jumped between a rhuematologist who monitored the prednisone and the ophthalmologist who kept a check on the eye. I was then sent to an ophthalmology specialist who decided that I didn’t have temporal arteritis after all. I had ruptured veins in the left eye and so began the long slow weaning off of the prednisone. A vile drug which left its side effect of high blood pressure – also a danger to the blood vessels in the eye.
Two years later, I woke with blurring in the right eye and was told by the local ophthalmologist that the eye was probably going, too. I went home devastated and dug out my rifle. Living on a farm, I need to be able to drive which you can legally do with good eyesight in one eye. I couldn’t face losing my independence and – even worse – losing my career as a visual artist. Luckily or unluckily for me, I couldn’t find where I’d hidden my bullets. Was fate taking a hand? or was I just enough of an airhead that I really couldn’t remember where I’d put them to separate them from the gun. In any case, I had to sit down and think things through. A visit to the specialist in Toronto confirmed that there had been a rupture in the right eye but a fairly insignificant one and the vision would not be affected after the blood settled to the bottom of the eye. So I waited and, indeed, the vision in the eye clarified and I can carry on.
The thing is, it’s like carrying on with the sword of Damocles over your head knowing that at any time it may all be taken away. I try to prepare for that time with the help of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and family and friends. I don’t know how I will face a final blindness but I try to believe that there is life beyond the dark.
Coincidentally, I found in my old files a poem called Seeing and share it here.
Hand me my seein’ glasses, Doris.
He bought them at an auction
in a box of junk for 25 cents
along with two other pair.
They do me just fine,
have three lenses.
I bought them at an optometrists
in a suede-lined box
for five hundred dollars.
Most of the time I shuttle between their worlds
I used to live
in a crystal-edged light-flooded
intimately sounding hue-drenched depths,
all the colour.
I see things that aren’t really there.
Liz McCall has cataracts.
She used to ride
I saw her fingers looking for
the golden places
where the sun
floods his crest
and spills down his shoulder.
I heard a small boy
on a tour bus.
Can you get sight-sick, Daddy?
My cat can see in the dark.