When I first started writing this post, it was all set to be a bit of a moan that I had to take a month off running, and a look forward to being able to get back to training. Then events took a different turn.
Funny how I pay attention to my health but never really think much about my sight. It’s there, it works, until it doesn’t.
It all started with a little visual sturbance in the corner of my right eye, almost like something stuck on an eyelash. Nothing too scary.
When the small blur increased to a rather larger blur, complete with flashing lights and covering nearly a third of my field of view within the space of a few short hours, I realised that this was more serious. Time to get help.
And so I found myself on a Saturday afternoon in A&E, surrounded by kids with weekend sports injuries, waiting to confirm what I feared: detached retina. Apparently, something that can just happen when you’re super-shortsighted and getting on a bit. Who knew?
Cue an anxious weekend waiting to hear when it could be mended. I have to confess, I’m EXTREMELY squeamish about eyeballs, so the thought of surgery was grim. But my eyesight slowly deteriorating was grimmer so it was a relief to be told that the operation was set for Monday.
Monday morning, bright and early, I was sitting in hospital with a big black arrow on my forehead pointing to the dodgy eye, just to make sure they fixed the right one. Fast forward a few hours, and I woke up in recovery to see the friendly face of Claire from my running club.
My retina had been glued back down using lasers and cryotherapy, and a gas bubble injected into the eye to help hold everything in place while it healed.
Home again the same day, and now began the interesting bit. To help the gas bubble do its job, for a week I had to spend 50 minutes of every waking hour ‘posturing’: either sitting or lying face down. The other 10, I could get up, move around, eat, use the loo, etc. It didn’t sound too bad.
Unless you’ve ever had to spend seven days straight staring at the carpet, it’s hard to describe the experience. Physically it’s tough. I’m pretty used to spending time on the floor, but I still struggled to keep my neck and spine comfortable. And it’s emotionally sapping, too. I could feel my mood dropping with the constant head down position. I felt like socially awkward teenager, never being able to make eye contact.
I lived for my 10 minutes of freedom, leaping up off the floor so fast my body struggled to keep up and I ended up feeling dizzy and disorientated. I missed walking in green spaces – I was tethered to the streets around my house.
With the help of family, friends and a selection of podcasts and audiobooks, I made it to the end of the seven days and was finally allowed off the floor. But no driving, running or strenuous movement for a few more weeks, until the gas bubble had completely gone.
Life returned pretty much to normal. I missed my running, but at least I could get out and walk again. My eyesight steadily improved. And slowly the gas bubble was disappearing – dropping down first like a spirit level, then getting smaller and smaller until only a tiny sphere was left, rolling around at the base of my vision.
I was within touching distance of being able to run again. And then…
Walking home from the supermarket, on the Tuesday before Christmas, I closed my ‘good’ eye for a moment to check out how my right eye was mending.
Something wasn’t right.
The blur and the flashing lights were back.
I felt sick with panic. What the hell was going on?
So, back to hospital next morning, to discover that the worst had happened. The retina developed a scar after the op. The scar got tighter as it healed. And bingo – one re-detached retina.
I was straight into surgery the same day to weld it back into place. And face down on the carpet again for Christmas week. This time with oil in my eye instead of gas, which would stay put for longer and hopefully hold everything in place even if I scarred. Meaning no running for a further three months.
Despite the fact that my immaculate sense of timing had stuffed up his work Christmas party, my lovely husband took everything in his stride, looking after me and handling all the holiday preparations solo.
Christmas was weird, quiet but still fun. I was given official medical permission to get off the carpet for Christmas lunch, making it feel extra special.
The week chugged by uneventfully, and then finally I was done.
Back to normality. Sort of.
A little over 12 hours after I’d finished with the posturing, though, and the telltale blur and flashing lights were back again at the edge of my vision.
Apparently my retina’s so good at scarring that even the oil can’t hold it down.
So this week, one more operation to remove the scar-stiffened edge of retina that’s pulling away. Third time lucky. I’m hoping for the best, and prepared for something less.
My family have been superstars – taking care of me, keeping me sane and bringing me G&Ts with a straw when it all gets a bit too hard going. Thanks a million, Andy and Joel.
Thanks too to my lovely friends for being so supportive, offering help and keeping me smiling. And the people I work with, who’ve been incredibly understanding, even when I’ve had to drop everything unexpectedly and disappear for a week. Again.
I’m ripping up my running plans for this year, and just keeping one goal in mind: to be fit enough by October to join my friend Gray Caws on his Costa Brava Chi Running retreat.
In the meantime, I’m naming 2018 as the Year of Epic Walking. And waiting patiently for the day when I can lace up my trainers and get running again, one slow step at a time. Wish me luck.