....Or Not

Last week, I encouraged you not to sacrifice the things you love to accommodate your condition. Now I am going to play my own Devil’s Advocate.

I have cataracts. Large central cataracts, a gift left over from my treatment for meningitis. (It happens sometimes when you take high doses of steroids.) Back then, it was just something in my medical file. My doctor once told me that they develop about as slowly as sand moves. Slow as that is, eventually the sand does move. Two plus decades on I look at lights – headlights, streetlights, flood lights – and there are dispersed halos around them. Lights in the dark can be blinding. Driving at night in the rain is a special challenge.

So, surgery. It’s the only treatment – to replace the lens. I first discussed it with my doctor 10 years ago. He sent me to a talented, sympathetic surgeon, who offered a 50% discount because I was so young. But once she had laid out my options, I had a visceral, panicked reaction. I could feel my figurative heels digging into that slowly shifting sand.

So, why the holdup? It’s a routine, uncomplicated procedure. Yes, there is a slight chance of error, and people are sensitive about anything that might affect their autonomy, but it’s more complex than that. (Isn’t it always?)

On this one, it goes as deep as my identity. I am a big reader. I always have been. When I think about the things that define me, I have a picture of myself as a kid under the covers, book three inches from my face, reading with a flashlight so my parents wouldn’t know how late I was up. And I knew I was up late because I could hear the Hill Street Blues theme song start to play. It’s so fundamental to who I am, I literally can’t conceive of who I would be without a book or three open around my house.

If I were to have surgery, I would lose that. As of this moment, I still have accommodation, which is the natural autofocus we all start off with. As you age, your lenses become less flexible, so you eventually need reading glasses. Also, as a diabetic who had already had two rounds of laser surgery, multifocal lenses are not recommended, due to issues with contrast, which affects depth perception, among other things. The bottom line is, I would have to give up that version of me that still reads in bed with a book three inches from my face. I am not ready to do that.

I know that overall my vision will improve after surgery, and I know I could have one eye done and wait on the second. But sometimes the visceral trumps the rational and you have to let that stand. The doctor says I can wait to have surgery until I can’t see anymore, so that is what I am going to do – dig in my heels and refuse to concede until absolutely necessary. Or until science catches up. Whichever comes first.