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Joan Pinard stated it’s not easy to ask for help. But 5 years ago, following cataract surgery, Joan’s eye doctor told her she had macular degeneration. “I knew something wasn’t right because I was starting to see some cloudiness in my vision and was having difficulty with reading and driving. I was hoping it wasn’t macular degeneration.”

I knew the disease ran in my family. My mother had it as did 8 of my uncles and aunts. I always hoped my eyes would be spared. Adding to my misery that year was my cancer diagnosis – “malt lymphoma” they called it. The fight required aggressive treatment for nearly a year. Between the cancer and the vision loss I was forced to leave my job. And to this day I can still remember my retirement party. I wasn’t even able to read the print on the card given to me and signed by all of my co-workers.

While I managed to beat the cancer, my vision continued to deteriorate rapidly.

Giving up my driver’s license was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life. I was so angry about having to give it up. I was even mad at my husband. I didn’t want him telling me to do it. I wanted it to be my decision. I wanted to give it up on my own. I wanted to do it for myself.

I was determined to get on with my life despite my deteriorating vision. I quickly came to the conclusion that I couldn’t do it on my own. Dr. Correnti, my eye doctor, told me about the New Hampshire Association for the Blind and the kinds of help that was available for people like me.

One of the Association’s social workers, Jennifer, helped me get set up with the Talking Books program. That opened up a whole new world to me. Jewett, a specialist in low vision rehabilitation brought me some hand magnifiers as well as a video magnifier (CCTV). He even came to my home and marked my dishwasher so I could “feel” where the controls were. They were both great!

The Association’s monthly peer support meetings in Manchester have helped me to build the confidence I never knew I had. I realize now that I’m not alone and even with blindness “I can keep doing what I’m doing”.

Even simple things are difficult when you can’t use your eyes. But I say, “Keep trying – it will work”.

All my life I’ve been independent. I guess I get that from my mother. I know that I can’t let my vision loss get me down. I have to keep living my life. Thanks to the training and support I’ve received from my many friends at the New Hampshire Association for the Blind, I’ll be able to keep doing what I’m doing for a very long time.

This year I traveled cross country with a friend to visit my sister in Colorado. I stay active by walking and bowling with the Senior Bowling League.

What I’ve learned through all of this is that sometimes “you can’t do it on your own and need to ask for help”.

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