Editor’s Note:February is National Age-Related Macular Degeneration Awareness Month. AMD is a progressive eye condition that deteriorates the macular causing a decrease in center vision. During the last fiscal year, CVI provided services to over 500 clients that have macular degeneration. This number reflects CVI’s largest amount of CVI clients with eye diseases. Beverley Foster, a former client and current board member and volunteer, shares her story of how she maintained her independence after her diagnosis.
I’ve never been one to have "pity parties" so when I was diagnosed with Stargardt’s, a macular degeneration disease, in 1995 I didn’t throw one then either. Even though as a young girl I always said that the sense that I would hate most to lose was my sight. I didn’t know what Stargardt’s Disease was, nor that it was an inherited condition that had no cure. Turns out, my mother’s aunt had it and other members of her family had various eye conditions including blindness. I remember my uncle, mom’s brother called her sister “weak eyes”.
My disease progressed slowly until 2013 when I noticed a remarkable change that caused concern. Still, no pity party mostly because in 2006, I found the Center for the Visually Impaired. At first I became a volunteer, then later a client. The training and support I received has helped me remain independent and active in everything that is important to me. After receiving services, I went back to my current post as a volunteer.
Macular degeneration hasn’t taken much from me. I confidently live and travel alone and use public transportation. I also participate in and lead church, civic and social groups. While I am still resisting getting a smart phone, I use my computer with 3.5X reading glasses and a 5X magnifier. I enjoy reading ebooks on my Nook. I watch my favorite TV shows on a big screen television and use other assistive technologies. I sing in two church choirs. Many times, I lip-synch on songs that I have not memorized and can’t see to read the music. I count on the truth of the “God respects me when I work, but He loves me when I sing.”
I still get frustrated by macular degeneration when I can’t see the detail in faces to recognize people who are only a foot away from me; or when I'm not being able to read signs or see words on the TV or movie screens if I’m not standing close enough. And even when I'm reading a fairy tale to my adorable 2-year-old grandson. I hope I never see a crime or accident because I couldn’t help or be a reliable witness. But besides these setbacks, I have a wonderful and fulfilling life.