Category Archives: Low vision

Courage

Yesterday was my scheduled long run of the week, in preparation for my very first half marathon in 36 days (but who’s counting?). I planned out my route, a simple 5 miles out through town and on to the park trails, and 5 miles back. I started out feeling really strong, and I was excited for this run because up to this point my longest run had been 8 miles. I knew I was going to have to walk for parts of it, to rest my knee, and I was okay with that concession.

Do you ever embark on a new challenge and you feel really confident about it, only to fall flat on your face, metaphorically speaking? Well, I did this, only it wasn’t metaphorical. A mile and a half in to this long run, I tripped on the sidewalk and fell Flat. On. My. Face. I sat on the grass between the sidewalk and the street and inspected my wounds. Were my teeth still in tact? Was I gushing blood? Were my cochlear implants still on my head? Yes, no, and surprisingly, yes. After about 20 seconds I stood up, brushed myself off, and continued to run. But as I ran I could feel my upper lip swelling and I could taste blood. I decided to call my husband, who happened to be working from home that day, and ask him to bring me some ice. Until he drove up to give me the ice pack, I fully intended to run the remaining 8.5 miles with a fat lip and what would eventually turn into a massive headache. I think he could see that I was on the verge of tears, and he suggested that I ride back home with him and just rest a bit, that I could always go back out when I was ready. After a few moments of hesitation, I said yes. I kept my running clothes on for several hours, under the delusion that I would go back out and run the 10 miles. But then the headache came, and I decided I was better off taking an Aleve and sleeping for awhile. I could always try again Saturday.

So Friday felt like a bust and I woke up Saturday knowing this was my day to get that long run in, but really feeling like I need to be safer about it. This had been the 3rd time I fell this month, and while I need those long runs to prepare my body for 13.1, I don’t think it’s wise to run so far from home without a guide. I can still get the same workout on the dreaded treadmill in our basement. I hate running on the treadmill, but I need to get ready for this race, and not injure myself in the process.

To be honest, I woke up Saturday not really sure if I was going to run or not. But then I was on Facebook and my friends were posting reports of their long training runs. And then a friend texted asking how my face was doing, and another friend reminding me that yesterday’s fall was not failure, because she still remembers when I needed a walker to walk. So with a few messages of encouragement, in just a matter of minutes, my extreme discouragement transformed into full-on Courage. I was ready to run these miles. The icing on the cake, folks, was when I walked down to the treadmill and was reminded of the picture I keep above the display that says: “There will be a day when I can no longer run. Today is not that day.” I had forgotten all about it, but you can bet that was the final word of encouragement I needed to make sure I got that run started. And once I start, you better believe I’m a stubborn mule and I will finish, dang it.

I learned some things about running on the treadmill. One, when you run longer than 99 minutes, it stops moving and restarts the timer. Thankfully it didn’t reset the distance because that would have really frustrated me, but I ended the run at 9.99 miles just to be on the safe side. Some other advantages to the treadmill are that I can watch tv, I can stream Pandora without using data, and I have immediate access to a bathroom. So it wasn’t all bad. I did struggle with finding a good pace but I suppose that’s all part of the training. Better to figure this stuff out here in the safety of my home, than out on the course on race day.

I’ll be honest, compared to most of my runs, this one was pretty sucky, but it’s done and I have to be okay with that. My legs didn’t fail me, although my knee did cause me to fall once so I was glad I had a grab bar, I had zero drop foot issues, and I was actually able to finish with a very slow jog. So it’s a win in my book, whether I like it or not. Two days of rest and then I’ll be back out again for some short runs!

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I’m a big girl now

Something great that has come out of my disability in the past 6 years is that there isn’t much in life that I take for granted anymore. That is a huge gift, to have a grateful heart the majority of the time, without even having to try.

Yesterday I had a hair appointment to get my wig trimmed. Not literally, that’s just the phrase my husband uses for getting his hair cut. Anyway, the salon I go to is about 2 miles away, and in the past I would have utilized the paratransit bus system to get there. However, though it’s a great service that I use quite often, it does come with drawbacks. You have to schedule ahead of time, and then you have to wait. They give you a 15 minute window to work with, which is fine, but it can be a little nerve wracking at times. I had decided that since the weather looked decent, I was going to ride my tricycle. And I did! It was fabulous. I felt so free and uninhibited. I got where I needed to go, at my own pace, all by myself. Which sounds silly when I say that out loud because for Pete’s sake, I’m a grown woman. But you guys! I know you all get it, right? I did it! All by myself!!

You have to celebrate the little things when they are good so you make the good things bigger. God loves to work in the details and I love that about Him. Find something to celebrate today, no matter how small.

Rainy days

It’s raining today. Storming, actually. It’s been awhile since we had a thunderstorm during the day like this. We’ve had a couple overnight, but those are no fun because I can’t hear the thunder. I don’t wear my cochlear implants overnight. Usually my daughter tells me all about the storms the next day because though she usually sleeps soundly, she is sensitive to the noise. That and she worries about lightning striking and all that. So it makes for rough nights for her, while I secretly envy that she can hear the thunder.

So. Today’s storm is nice. It’s dark and cloudy though, which makes me want to go back to bed (which I did) and stay in my pajamas all day (which I am). I’m also roasting a butternut squash to make soup, so the house smells like autumn. My sister and I have our annual retreat to the monastery this weekend, and this year we decided against planning an elaborate menu and instead are each bringing a homemade soup. We think between soup, salad, and snacks, we should be set for the weekend.

My plan for this year’s retreat is to get a big head start on my book. I want to read through the past five years of journals in order to get an outline or map of sorts of what I’m going to say. That’s a giant task and not something I feel like I can do sufficiently while I’m here at home. Distractions and all. I am very easily distracted.

I still feel like I have this nagging voice that tells me I can’t write a book, not one worth publishing anyhow. That voice I need to just keep telling to shut up. Lots of people less qualified than me have written books so I have no reason to believe that voice.

What else is going on? I started leading Financial Peace University this week for my church. We have a small group but it happens to be very diverse. People from every walk of life. Newlyweds, single, married with kids, empty nesters. It should make for some really interesting discussions as the weeks go on. I’m very excited to be doing this class. For one thing, I needed the refresher, for sure. But also it just feels good to be able to give back and serve God in an area I feel like He’s given me a passion for. I was a ball of nerves this first week, because my vision loss and difficulty hearing still give me great social anxiety, but everyone was extremely understanding and gracious. I’m confident it’s going to be a life-changing class for everyone.

Speaking of social anxiety, I’m also in a women’s weekly Bible study and yesterday was my first time going. I attended last year and loved it so much, I’m doing it again. However, I had a lot of trouble hearing people in the discussions as well as reading the materials they hand out every week. There’s not a whole lot I can do about the discussion because you can’t expect to completely retrain people to speak a different way just for that one hour a week, so I’m learning this is an area I have to accept not being able to hear everything. I just have to accept and be thankful for the words I CAN hear.

As for the lesson handouts, I had been scanning them into pdfs every week so that I could read them in high contrast on my computer or tablet. That was kind of a pain, but it worked well. It only occurred to me after the class had ended that I should have been scanning my answers to the questions as well, because every week I would get to class and struggle to read my answers during the class discussion. This year I am super excited because they offer the lessons and questions in pdf format, so I don’t have to do all the scanning! It may be hard for others to understand my level of joy here, because until you’re faced with the daily difficulty in seeing and hearing things, you just can’t imagine it. I know it’s something I took for granted, for sure. If you are reading this and you have fully functioning eyes and ears, will you please just take a moment to thank the Lord? Because not everybody has that luxury. It’s so hard, people. Not impossible, just hard.

Well, my squash is roasted so I need to go saute some shallots and garlic and get the soup assembled. After that perhaps I’ll do some crocheting. I’m on my third of thirteen afghans for each of the nieces and nephews. A perfect rainy day activity, wouldn’t you say?

Adventures in low vision

I’ve been starting to wear my contact lenses again. They don’t have the glare protection I have with my glasses so I don’t see quite as well with them, but it’s a worthy trade off. With my contacts I feel much less inhibited, which is of great value when you have low vision and hearing impairment. That and it kind of allows me to tuck my hair behind my ears, which is a habit I regretfully had to give up when I got my cochlear implants. Between the earpieces and my eyeglasses, there was just no room for my hair.

I recently went back to the eye doctor to update my prescription so I could order more contacts and I asked them if it would be a problem to just wear one contact. My visual field index in my right eye is 27%. Meaning out of an entire area normal eyes can see, I am unable to see 73% of it with that eye. Which makes it kind of a useless eye, in my opinion, so I don’t feel justified in paying for a contact for that eye. The 27% I do see has clearer vision anyway, and can get away without corrective lenses.

I wear colored contacts that pretty well match my eye color, and that is just to prevent me from losing the contacts altogether. I have a hard enough time seeing things without contrast, so when I drop a clear contact, it’s nearly impossible to find.

All that to say, if you see me out and about and I’m not wearing eyeglasses, take a real close look and see if you can tell which eye has the contact in it. The ladies at the eye doctor assured me it was a pretty close match (although one of them thought it would be “cool” to have two different colored eyes), so I’m trusting they were being honest. Because I’m fairly colorblind and can’t tell for myself.

If anyone is really interested in this visual field index stuff and knows how to do the math, maybe you could tell me how much total vision I have with both eyes combined. Left eye sees 51%, right eye sees 27%, so with that means… what? That it’s a good thing they don’t let me drive anymore? That’s all I can say for sure!

I was gonna end the post there, but I just remembered a funny thing I did today, to give you a glimpse of life with me and my crummy eyes (my family is unnervingly unphased by it by now). Tonight I was making scrambled eggs for the family and I grabbed an almost empty carton from the fridge to add milk to the egg mixture. I knew as soon as I started pouring that I had grabbed the wrong carton. What I thought was the last of the milk was actually the last of the apple cider. Oy. I went with it though, cuz I didn’t figure it was going to hurt anyone, and I don’t think I poured enough to really alter the flavor. Crap like this seems to happen to me on a fairly regular basis, but I have to laugh or else I would cry. Life goes on, right?

Winner, winner

Okay, so one of the things I had been struggling with is the fact that I can’t really share meals with my family the way I used to. I come from an extended family full of food lovers, and we do our bonding and make our best memories over a meal. So not sharing evening meals with my own immediate family was affecting me more than I had anticipated.

I don’t expect them to eat what I eat, and I don’t even have the desire to try to convince them to. I know it would be a futile effort. It’s certainly not something I came into overnight, so I couldn’t expect that of them. I did come up with an idea however, and that was to serve one fully vegan meal per week, one they would be most likely to enjoy. I ran the idea past them a few nights ago and while the kids were immediately against it, my husband was on board. That alone surprised me, but then he went a step further and told the kids he thought that since I do so much for them and I make compromises all the time, that they should be willing to do this for me. And then they all agreed, and I was in heaven. It was so nice to have their support in this. Not to mention, I fell in love with my husband all over again, for stepping up like that.

Anyhoo… ever since, I’ve been trying to find some easy vegan recipes that aren’t too off the wall for them, and I’m coming up rather short so far. Because they are mostly super picky eaters. I only plan to do one meal a week, so I’m not terribly worried. I’m sure between Pinterest and a good old fashioned Google search I’ll find plenty.

Tonight was the first night we tried an an all vegan meal. In order to ease them into this, and to show that I’m not just trying to introduce them to a bunch of foreign foods (think seitan and tempeh), I served waffles with strawberries and whipped cream, with fresh red grapes on the side. Waffles made with almond milk and egg replacer, and coconut whipped cream. They loved it, and we all agreed that it was delicious! I had never had the coconut whipped cream before, and I dare say it tastes better than the dairy version. Winner, winner, vegan dinner.

Oh, and also today I had a visual field test at my neuro-ophthalmologist’s office and it turns out my eyes have both improved! I can now see 51% with my left eye and a whopping 27% with my right.

It’s safe to say that today was a really good day. Tomorrow is infusion day, so I’ll get to relax in their new heated seats and sip coffee and read a book. I’m livin’ a glamorous life, folks. Envy me. I dare you.

A glimpse at regaining independence

I received approval today to use the paratransit service, and I am beyond excited. The service provides people like myself with rides to pretty much anywhere in the city. All I have to do is schedule the pickup within 24 hours, pay the fare, and off I go! I can apparently schedule online, which I tried already for two of my upcoming appointments, and I’ll probably call tomorrow to confirm that I did it right.

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No more pulling my husband out of work for doctor’s appointments, dragging him and the kids out at dinner time for my support group meetings, and who knows what else? I can go on shopping trips, get groceries on my own (up to 8 plastic bags), even take the kids to the library or the museum on days off! Just dreaming of the possibilities is more excitement than I have had in a long time.

Be thankful for the independence you have, because it can be taken in a heartbeat. My optic nerves were damaged as they are in a matter of weeks. I used to enjoy taking trips, sometimes just driving for the fun of it. The second to last time I remember driving (and enjoying it) was when I went to the abbey for a weekend getaway with my sister in august 2013. Even then I should not have been driving. A week later I drove my kids to their first day of school, with one eye closed to reduce the cloud in my left eye’s  field of vision, scared out of my mind and feeling reckless and over the top stupid for putting my children’s lives at risk. And that was my last time driving.

So there goes my Nascar dream. Is there a competitive arena for bumper?

Okay I got off track, didn’t I? Here’s the lesson: be thankful for your independence, whatever form of it you have. It is a gift.

Range Date

Grandpa agreed to come and watch the kids (and the puppy) after church so Mike and I could go on a date. Where do we go for fun? The shooting range! Mike shoots competitively (and does quite well for someone who doesn’t get a lot of time to practice), so when he gives me a fist bump after I’ve shot a few rounds, I feel pretty proud of myself. See for yourself in the picture below, that hole right in the middle, dead center? That was my first shot. I thought at the time I should have stopped right there, but I’m glad I didn’t.

I was shooting my Sig Sauer P238 (with new paisley decorated grips… I really ought to have a picture), my Glock .380, and Mike’s Glock .45. We had a blast, and it is such a great way for both of us to relieve stress. We were wrapping things up when Mike started chatting with an acquaintance from a couple lanes over. I think Mike must have shared how much I was enjoying shooting the .45 (cuz I was, you know?), so the man offered to let me shoot his gun: a Desert Eagle .44 magnum. This gun was a monster. Not too heavy to hold, but it was almost too big for my finger to reach the trigger. I had a hard time managing the recoil, so I was pretty surprised when I saw I hit the bullseye. I told the guy after I shot three rounds – with his super expensive and impressive gun – that I didn’t do so bad for having low vision! Maybe I should have mentioned that first? Oh well, I shot well and he seemed mostly humored that I was having so much fun with it. (He even accepted my friend request on Facebook!)

We didn’t get a picture of the target I shot with the magnum, but the one below is from the rounds I shot with the Sig P238.  I think. Maybe it was the Glock. Anyway, not too shabby for someone who only gets to the range a handful of times throughout the year. I can’t drive a car, but I can shoot a gun! 🙂

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