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My Long Ago New Year’s Resolution

At the beginning of a new decade, I’m thinking back to the beginning of a new century. So many people make New Year’s resolutions. I’m going to lose weight, going to run a marathon, paint that picture, write that novel.

Do it now

I’m not the type of person who usually makes New Year’s resolutions. On occasion, I’ve tried. But to me, picking a date and saying I will do this or I won’t do that doesn’t ring true. If I’m going to do something important, do it now. If I’m going to stop doing something that I shouldn’t be doing, well then, I shouldn’t be doing it now, should I?  Except smoking. Smoking was my albatross.

Smoking and macular degeneration

At the end of the last century, I told myself I would quit smoking. That I would enter the 21st-century as a non-smoker. This was something I had tried often, and the only New Year’s resolution I had made and broken - numerous times. But this time was different. My mother’s vision had deteriorated as a result of macular degeneration and I was spending a lot of time researching for her.  In the late nineties, smoking was becoming known as the most modifiable risk factor in the development of macular degeneration and my mother and I both smoked.

Smoking cessation

“Observational studies showed that former smokers have only a slightly increased risk of developing AMD compared with those who have never smoked. Cessation of smoking has important implications for people with macular degeneration in one eye and not the other.”1 I was determined to become a former smoker!

I prepared for this one. I bought the nicotine gum, told all my friends so I would be accountable, and read as much as I could on the dangers of smoking, especially as it applied to macular degeneration. But my biggest, and saddest, inspiration was watching my mother’s attempts to see around the fuzzy grey map of South America that blurred her central vision.

Treatment options in the last century

My mother had been an artist; a photographer and colourist (one who uses transparent oils on black and white photos). At that time there were no treatments; even the suggested AREDS supplements which we all now know and love (or hate) were almost unknown, and just starting to be publicized. We became excited about the new photodynamic therapy in the news, but then discovered it was only for choroidal neovascularization, or wet AMD. She had geographic atrophy in both eyes.

Keeping one New Year's resolution

I’ve succeeded in keeping this one New Year’s resolution, and now, almost 20 years later I’m still a former smoker, but with my own macular degeneration. I’ll never know how much my smoking contributed, but I know I can’t turn back the clock.

Have you made important New Year’s resolutions for your health? Have you been able to keep them? Or do you try, like me, to do or not do things when the need is recognized, so that New Year’s resolutions are not needed? Whether your New Year’s is a time for resolutions or not, I wish you and yours a very happy and healthy new year.

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