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Every year Jim Goldstein invites his readers to his blog project, Your Best Photos From 2019. This is my fourth time participating in his project. I am appreciative to Jim Goldstein for continuing to support these end-of-year efforts.

From a health and emotional perspective, 2019 was a challenging year for me and this is reflected in the number and types of images reflected in my Adobe Lightroom Catalog. I battled Graves Eye Disease and the loss of my father. With regular daily and monthly trips into Philadelphia, and the need to walk from one treatment centre to another, I had many opportunities to practice street photography but less time, and with the stress of the treatments, less energy for landscape photography. Not all my trips into Philadelphia were health-related. Bhavna and I discovered that Philadelphia has excellent restaurants and parks.

2019 was also brought health challenges for my youngest who left for college in September. We made an emergency trip to Ohio just days after my surgery and brought her back home to heal. An emotional support animal, Camilla the cat, was recommended to help with recovery so we brought home Camilla, a rescue cat. She has brought joy to the whole family.

I tried something new, attending a few Warbler photography workshops with Ray Hennessey. Being out in the forests and woods of South Jersey, listening to the winds in the trees and the cacophony of birds call was excellent therapy for what was happening in my life. I’m happy that 2019 is over and eager to do a bit more wildlife photography in 2020.

Having an intense dislike of cold, I normally hibernate for the winter, but this year I endeavoured to embrace the opportunities that cold weather bring. I still dislike cold, but layers of Patagonia winter wear helped keep Jack Frost from doing damage.

In 2019, instead of purchasing a Fujifilm X100F which has been on my want list for a few years, I upgraded from a three-year-old iPhone 7 to the new iPhone 11 Pro. I immediately kicked off an iPhone Photography Project 365 to learn how to use my new gear.

The images below are captured on either my FujiFilm X-T2 or Apple iPhone 11 Pro.

Red Mill Museum and Main Street Bridge, Clinton Township, New Jersey | 26 Jan, 2019 | FujiFilm X-T2 | Fujinon XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR
4 Mar, 2019 | FujiFilm X-T2 | Fujinon XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR
Historic St George's United Methodist Church | 17 Apr, 2019 | FujiFilm X-T2 | Fujinon XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR
Love Park | 21 Apr, 2019 | FujiFilm X-T2 | Fujinon XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR
Blue-winged Warbler | 27 Apr, 2019 | FujiFilm X-T2 | Fujinon XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR
Prothonotary Warbler | 19 May, 2019 | FujiFilm X-T2 | Fujinon XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR
My wife and kids took me out for Father’s Day Lunch at The Dandelion | 16 Jun, 2019 | FujiFilm X-T2 | Fujinon XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR
Camilla | 22 Sep, 2019 | FujiFilm X-T2 | Fujinon XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR
three amigos | 12 Oct, 2019 | Apple iPhone 11 Pro | iPhone 11 Pro back triple camera 6mm f/2
14 Dec, 2019 | Apple iPhone 11 Pro | iPhone 11 Pro back camera 6mm f/2

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The year 2019 is almost over. Yay! I am so excited to start something new. Like the previous year, 2019 was full of health challenges that affected my work, my hobbies, and my mental health.

The last two years have been challenging. In 2018 I was diagnosed with Graves Disease. The year had me battling with thyroid hormones playing ping pong with my mind and body. My endocrinologists, I had two, put me on various medications, none of which seemed to work. My autoimmune system raged on attacking my thyroid causing it to pump out hormones which cause anxiety, panic attacks, sadness, exhilaration, weight lost, etc. I had lost 30 pounds by the time of my surgery later that year.

I was dealing with this all while starting with a new client on Wall Street, New York City. It was tough going. I broke down in tears one day, sitting on a Manhattan sidewalk, unable to move, the hormones had left me unable to move. I waited until I was able to move, speaking with my wife who was desperate to help but who could not as she was home in Princeton. Two days later I was in the emergency room under observation for several hours. Fun times!

My healthcare team determined that the best course of action was a thyroidectomy. At the end of 2018, a surgeon slit my throat and removed my thyroid. The surgery was a success but now I could look forward to the life of pill-popping Synthroid. Yay!

Recovery from that surgery was progressing nicely but in 2019 when it rained, it led to torrential flooding. My immune system moved on from my thyroid to my eyes. The attack had started earlier in 2018, but we could only deal with one problem at a time. The Graves Eye Disease worsened in 2019 leading to proptosis, a fancy word for, my eyes were bugging out of my head, Quasimodo style, which is not at all like Gangnam style.

The doctors tried treatment with medication but the situation worsened and in April of this year, just a week before my father died, I was treated with radiation and high dose steroids. For six weeks, my attentive, loving wife, drove 90 minutes each way from our home to Philadelphia, to the Will Eyes Institute in Philadelphia. Then she drove me to work, where I did my best not to fall asleep. I was exhausted.

The mask they made for the treatments made me feel claustrophobic and anxious so I was given a dose of Xanax for each and every visit. I was not allowed to drive.

My dad died during my second week of treatment. “If you stop your treatments now, you could make things worse”. I was not able to attend Dad’s funeral in the Caribbean. My hair fell out and the skin around my eyes looked like a bad sunburn. All that weight I lost from the thyroid disease returned. Thank you, high dose steroids!

I started to see a therapist. I was struggling to think positive. We brainstormed about using exercise but it's hard to exercise when you have low energy. We talked about using my photography to reduce stress so I started doing more street photography since I was walking around Center City between treatments anyway.

June came around and I was told that the next course of treatment was orbital decompression surgery to reduce the pressure inside my eyes sockets. The eye muscles were swelling and putting pressure on my optic nerve and there was a danger or blindness. The surgery would be scheduled for the first week of September. There were certain risks but what could I do? I accepted the risk.

After surgery, I developed strabismus; double vision. I need a break!

I was told the strabismus was temporary but if it did not; “We can correct that”, says the surgeon. But not right away. You just had surgery, you have to wait until December but with any luck, it will go away. It did not.

Weeks go by. I couldn't drive. Well, I could have, since I could see properly only from just under two feet from my face, driving would surely have been calamitous. Bhavna was back to driving me around to doctor appointments. The client reluctantly agreed to let me work from home. Without transportation, I was stuck inside by myself staring at a screen, unable to go out and interact with people. By the end of each day, I was wiped.

Last week, I had my last eye surgery for 2019. My strabismus was corrected and I can drive, go hiking, take my camera around the area, etc.

I nearly wasn't able to complete the CSA CCSK study course I started in August. I had to ask for an extension. I finally completed the course on Sunday. For the two weeks after surgery, I had spent Saturday and Sunday mornings and afternoons watching the training videos and taking tests. So, good riddance 2019.