If you usually frequent my blog to learn tips and strategies you can apply to your social media marketing, I hope you’ll forgive this rather more personal (and pretty long) blog entry today charting the journey of my cataract removal surgery.

On Good Friday this year I was diagnosed as having fully formed cataracts in each eye and told I needed surgery asap to remove them. To be honest, it wasn’t a surprise as I knew my sight was getting worse and it had got to the stage where I couldn’t be outside alone because I was a danger to myself.

Although if I’m really going to be honest in this blog, I should confess to a sense of relief that it was something I could sort out, as the fear that had held me back from visiting the Optician for several months was that I was progressively going blind… permanently, as a result of the eye condition I have, Retinitis Pigmentosa.

However, the relief was quickly replaced with fear. Despite the many conditions I do have, I have been relatively lucky in that I have only needed surgery once, a keyhole Arthroscopy when I was 14. I was now facing two operations in quick succession, in all likelihood under general anaesthetic both times, and I confess to a few weeks of nightmares about operating theatres and my biggest fears, pain (yes I know that is quite funny considering I live with chronic pain!) and needles!

But I was certain of two things. One, that the surgery had to happen soon so I could get my life back, and two, that there was only one person I wanted to do the cataract removal surgery… Peter Fox, the Ophthalmic Consultant who I had met in Worthing 17 years earlier when he diagnosed me as having Retinitis Pigmentosa and revoked my driving licence! (If you haven’t heard that story, watch my “Social Media Success Webinar” where I reveal the beginnings of my journey into social media)

An email to his secretary confirmed he would be happy to do the cataract removal surgery, privately in Goring Hall Hospital on the outskirts of Worthing. This was another stroke of luck for me as I had lived near to Goring Hall since it had opened about 20 years ago until I moved to Surrey, and always hoped I could be treated there if I ever needed surgery, and now I was going there… twice!

I met Peter for the pre-op consultation early in May and you can read the story of that visit and the simple marketing lessons I was reminded of here. The date was set for the first op, Thursday May 24th at 2.15pm.

That date was a milestone anniversary for me. It was the 17th anniversary of the day I passed my driving test and I thought it was pretty poignant that this was going to be the same date I received my first “reward” from the same guy who took the licence in the first place!

In the days leading up to this admission, I felt more scared than I had ever felt for a long time. In fact, I was trying to remember when I had ever felt that scared before and I can’t. As anyone with Aspergers will tell you, there is a lot of anxiety over everyday stuff but I quite enjoy the anxiety because I know if I push through it, the jubilant feeling at overcoming the anxiety will compensate.

But I couldn’t get myself to calm down this time. I had recurring nightmares of walking into the operating theatre and having the cannula inserted, then the pain of having it removed, plus all sorts of other scary images flashing through my mind! I couldn’t think about anything else for days and I didn’t sleep for the 3 nights leading up to the admission day.

By the time I got into the car to travel down to the hospital just over an hour away, I was in a right state. I was crying uncontrollably the whole way down in the car, I cried when they came to get me to take me through to the ward and by the time I got to my bed I was hyperventilating and withdrawing into myself!

I was a complete mess! When they did the preliminary blood pressure and temperature tests, everything changed. My BP and temperature were too high and the Anaesthetist refused to put me under the anaesthetic because the risks of complications were too high! I was given an ECG and blood tests and sent home!

What a relief! That was my first thought and it lasted for oh, about 30 seconds, then I was annoyed with myself. They maintain that my meltdown did not influence the decision but I disagree! You know how they say the universe works with you? I think I invited the cancellation because I was so over consumed with the fear and negativity surrounding the procedure.

The operation was re-scheduled for 2 weeks later and I had to make a choice. Either I could let this fear rule me, pull out of the surgery and take the easy route, or I get a grip, sort my head out and go for it.

There were people who half expected me to pull out of the surgery at this point, but for me, there was never any real question in my mind. I HAD to have this surgery! I’ve spent 2 years building a successful business and I wasn’t going to let a bit of fear stop me from getting to where I wanted to be! I had things to do and places to go… I needed my sight back!

Which meant going through with the cataract removal surgery… or else!

I wish I could tell you that I underwent some kind of process to sort my mind out, something you could model if you ever find yourself facing a situation that you are terrified of, but I didn’t. Somehow, I felt calmer now… possibly having seen the ward and having gone through the first part of the admissions process, I felt reassured? I don’t really know except to say that something changed inside me at that point and I lost most, but not completely all, of the fear.

So back I went on June 8th for round 2. The pre op tests came back with the same results but this time the Anaesthetist was happier because he could see I wasn’t unwell and presented no unmanageable risk. I was prepped and because I only got the final go-ahead from the Anaesthetist 30 minutes before the surgery slot, everything happened so fast, I didn’t have time to think about it…!

Soon, I am walking into the Operating Theatre, the bit of the process I had been having nightmares about. It makes me laugh now because I was fearing this part so much but it was such a non-event in the end! They ask you to confirm who you are and what you’re there for (I presume so they don’t chop your head off by mistake!) then a “quick scratch” and you’re asleep!

Cataract surgery

The only part of the experience I didn’t see!

The next thing I know, I’m waking up in recovery with a really minor dull ache in my eye… I wouldn’t even go as far as to call it pain, they check my blood pressure twice and I’m taken back onto the ward for a pot of tea and some toasted sandwiches! HAHA! Is that it?!!

Soon they came back to take the cannula out. Do you know the worst thing about the whole process for me? Not walking into the theatre, not the needle going in or out either! You’re going to laugh at me… but the worst thing was getting the tape off that held the cannula in place and also the eye patch!

I’m not good with plasters either (you’re getting a great insight to my wimpishness here aren’t you?!) but this tape was evil and they’d used metres of the flipping stuff (they hadn’t but it felt like they had!) Please someone invent surgical blu-tack… you’d be my hero!

I walked out of the hospital at 6pm, and tucked into a chippy dinner when we got back home an hour later. No pain at all aside from an occasional bruised feeling in my pupil when I blinked! The next morning, I had to take the eye patch off (more tape trauma! I nearly fainted… yes, go on, laugh!), clean the outside of the eye with cooled boiled water then it was just eye drops 4 times a day and I’m left to enjoy my new vision!

And OH MY WORD, I can’t tell you how much difference it made to my sight… it was amazing! I sat looking at my computer for 10 minutes, staring in wonderment at how all the icons were so sharp and clear! It was phenomenal!

And I turned into a total bore who kept pointing out random objects and scenery and telling people how pretty/clear/sharp/easy to read they are!

And I’ve become obsessed with buying reading glasses too! I didn’t really need glasses before the cataract removal surgery, but ironically now I cannot read without them… so I am already the proud owner of 6 pairs! I bought another pair a few days back that have red arms to match my branding! Make it stop!

On Thursday 5th July (4 days ago) I went back for the second and final admission and the op went ahead. This one was slightly more difficult as I apparently vomited under the anaesthetic (sorry if you were eating your dinner!) which meant they had to ram a tube down my throat which left me with a raging sore throat for the first couple of days.

I also feel exhausted this time, sleeping for 12 hours+ a day since Thursday, but I imagine that’s a combination of the stress of the last few months and the trauma of 2 operations… but aside from the eye drops and having to wear sunglasses outside for 2 weeks (even in the pouring rain!) it’s all over!

I’ve done it!

You may be reading this thinking “boy, that’s a lot of fuss over nothing” but I really do feel like celebrating my victory of overcoming the fear and making this happen!

It’s been a journey and a half for me but I start the second half of 2012 with a new vision (pun intended) for my business and lots of exciting stuff is going to happen now. it is time to step up a gear! I’ve been given a gift from the man who took a big part of my life 17 years ago and who, without knowing, set me off on a journey that has led you to be reading this blog today.

So, to Peter Fox, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for doing what you had to do 17 years ago and forcing me to take a different route in my life that has led to me running a business that I absolutely love, and enabling me to afford to have you give me back the gift of sight! You rock man and I will forever be your biggest fan!

To the team at Goring Hall Hospital who supported me through from the first day of fear to the discharge following the second op. You consoled me, you held my hand and we had some amazing laughs together. Thanks for the huge pots of tea and for a truly fantastic customer experience! Bill says thanks for the custard creams 🙂

And to you, my lovely clients, followers and social media friends who have allowed me to share in your journey, to support you with making more sales from social media, who have shared in mine too, for the lovely comments and testimonials you send me and for enabling me to run this amazing business working with the best people in the world! I love every single one of you!

Also thank you to hubby who attended every single appointment, has driven hundreds of miles back and forwards to Worthing, sat there waiting for me to come round and supported me with hugs, chocolate and magazines that I can now read!

And one more thing… if you ever find yourself in the situation of needing cataract removal surgery, I can’t recommend Peter Fox highly enough and you will love the luxurious stately home that is Goring Hall hospital. Here is his website, drop him an email and go see him. He does clinics on Fridays and Saturday mornings and operates every other Thursday afternoon at Goring. Tell him I sent you but don’t tell him I told you he looks cute in his theatre hat hehe!