2019 Sucked

2019 was a challenging year for me, marked by health struggles, including Graves Disease and its complications. I persevered through surgeries, treatments, and work commitments, finding comfort in therapy and photography.

2019, like 2018, was challenging due to health issues. Diagnosed with Graves Disease, I struggled with thyroid imbalances, affecting my mental and physical health. Despite various medications, my autoimmune system continued to attack my thyroid, causing symptoms like anxiety and weight loss. I lost 30 pounds before surgery.

Balancing this with a new client on Wall Street, I worked a hybrid schedule: two days from home and three in the office. Remarkably, I missed only three days for surgeries, managing to complete all client work.

It was challenging. One day, I broke down, immobilized on a Manhattan sidewalk, overwhelmed by hormones. My wife, unable to assist from Princeton, offered support over the phone. Two days later, I was in the emergency room for observation.

My medical team advised a thyroidectomy. In late 2018, I underwent successful surgery, leading to a lifetime of Synthroid medication.

Recovery went well until 2019, when my immune system attacked my eyes, worsening my Graves Eye Disease. This led to proptosis, causing my eyes to protrude noticeably.

Despite medication, my condition deteriorated. In April, amidst my father's passing, I received radiation and steroids. My wife drove me 90 minutes to the Will Eyes Institute in Philadelphia for six weeks, balancing this with her work commitments. The treatment left me perpetually exhausted.

The mask made for my radiation treatments caused claustrophobia and anxiety. I took Xanax before each session, meaning I couldn't drive. Bhavna drove me to the hospital in Philadelphia and from there to my office in Iselin. I'd return by train, with Bhavna picking me up at Princeton Junction Station.

During my second treatment week, my dad passed away. The doctor advised against pausing treatments, so I missed his funeral in the Caribbean. My hair fell out, and my skin darkened and cracked around my eyes. The weight I'd lost due to thyroid disease returned, ironically, thanks to high-dose steroids.

I started therapy for anxiety, struggling with positivity. We explored stress relief through exercise and photography. I took up street photography, walking between appointments in Center City, Philadelphia.

After radiation, I faced orbital decompression surgery to relieve eye socket pressure. Risks were involved, but blindness was a potential alternative. Post-surgery, I developed strabismus, seeing double. It was supposed to be temporary but persisted, leading to another surgery in December.

I couldn't drive due to the strabismus, relying on Bhavna and ride-share services for mobility. My client allowed me to work from home, a rare concession for consultants.

Confined indoors, I missed hiking and outdoor activities. By day's end, I was emotionally drained.

On 18th December, my final eye surgery for 2019 corrected the strabismus. A few weeks later, I regained my driving ability, could hike again, and resumed photography. It marked the end of a challenging 14-week period.

I almost failed to complete my CSA CCSK course, needing an extension. Post-surgery, I dedicated weekends to studying, finally completing it. So, I bid farewell to a challenging 2019.

Double Vision

Frank’s challenge this week is fuzzy.

While I have recovered from the physical trauma of orbital decompression eye surgery, I have a new complication for my vision. I have strabismus (misaligned eyes).

At my post-surgery follow-up, the doctors performed some tests confirming my strabismus. The good news is that this is temporary. The bad news is that we need to know the meaning of "brief". Is it two months or six months? Will I do better with corrective lenses or require more surgery? We don't know. I have another follow-up with the ophthalmologists in Philadelphia in the last weeks of November. I'll know more then.

I would lie if I said I am not frustrated and feel dispirited by this news and the challenges before me.

I alternate between wearing an eye patch on each eye. Several years ago, I had cataract surgery in the left eye and laser surgery in the other eye. My left eye is used for distance vision, e.g., driving, and my right eye is used for reading and using the computer. Together, my eyes gave me a full range of view. With the misaligned eyes, this is broken.

Walking is challenging since I need both eyes to measure depth. I will not be driving. My spouse, although she has done much for me during this time, can only help so much, and I do not want to overwhelm her. She has health challenges. She will not be able to drive me to work each day or to the early morning photography workshops and photo walks I usually do at this time of year.

I am a freelance consultant. I have no vacation days and no paid time off. On Monday I will have a big request from my client. Will they allow me to work remotely until my eyesight improves? It's not a technical issue. Until my eye surgery, I worked remotely two days a week1. The client has systems and technology to support this. It's more of asking for a policy exception.

I know what I can't do. I can't drive or go on photo walks. I can work, but I need frequent breaks to rest my eyes. As I mentioned, I alternate between putting an eye patch over the left eye and then the right eye, but even with that, by the end of the day, my eyes hurt from trying to focus on the text on the screen. I have been using Siri dictation to send emails and text messages. It's not an ideal solution.

After work, I spend much time on the couch with my eyes closed. I registered for an online self-paced course but found watching the content exhausting, especially after a day of work. I cancelled all of my outdoor photography workshops.

To remain positive, I am focusing on what I can do. If/when she leaves the house to do errands, I go with my wife and photograph whatever I see. I have mainly used my iPhone 7 for this, as the Fujifilm X-T2 is too large to take on errands. If you see a man staring straight ahead while holding on tightly to his wife's arm, that is me. I'm paranoid that I'll bump into people and objects.

Frank's challenge this week is fuzzy. Frank's example image in his post is what my left eye sees now.

I have included a few photos captured using the double exposure feature of my Fujifilm X-T2. These images give some idea of what it feels like with my vision. The double exposure feature is easy to use. I select the double exposure feature on the command dial, shoot the first image, and accept the result on the LCD when the camera prompts. The camera then overlays the first image on the live viewfinder so that I can see how the double exposure will look. Pressing the shutter then captures the second image overlaid on the first.

The images are all straight-out-of-camera JPEGs.

22 September, 2019, Early autumn · FujiFilm X-T2 · XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR

  1. Before my arrival, the department head allowed us to work remotely one day a week. However, employees in both the Manhattan and London offices began resigning, attributing their departure to the burdensome commute. In response, management made an exception to the remote work policy. We were granted the flexibility of working remotely for two days a week.