Overcoming Type 1 Diabetes Vision Loss
Lynda Sekora knew she was losing some of her vision, but the night she realized she couldn’t read her insulin pump anymore, the Orland resident sank into a deep depression.
“I cried all through dinner,” Lynda said. “I flat had a nervous breakdown and quit living. I spent my days watching stupid TV shows and would have welcomed death.”
Due to a lifetime of Type 1 diabetes, Lynda was blind in one eye and had macular degeneration and glaucoma in the other.
As her husband, Palmer, watched her sink further and further into anxiety and depression throughout 2012, he knew something had to be done. Lynda’s ophthalmologist in Chico did not know any place that could provide resources, so Palmer began digging through the phone book and newspapers. He wanted to do anything to help Lynda feel better – she had always been such an independent person. But he kept hitting dead ends.
Meanwhile, Lynda began seeing a therapist and taking anxiety medication, but nothing was helping her realize that life could go on.
Then Palmer came across Society for the Blind, and one of the instructors came to their house to visit with them. They described her as a “big ray of sunshine.” She told them about Society for the Blind’s Senior IMPACT Project that starts with a weeklong retreat. Though the retreat is geared toward the person losing vision, Palmer decided to participate alongside his wife so he would understand her experience.
During the training, Lynda and Palmer learned to cook using real knives and a real stove. They learned how to navigate streets using a white cane, shop and know which bills they were using, thread a needle, read braille and use talking gadgets like a labeler.
“We spent a week in that program with those wonderful positive people and their can-do spirit,” Lynda said. “They showed me that there is life after blindness – that I could do anything I wanted to, I just would have to do it a different way. When we left, we were walking on cloud nine.”
After the retreat, Lynda’s depression lifted. Her counselor was so impressed that she decided Lynda didn’t need her anymore. She also began weaning off the anxiety medication. Three years later, Lynda is proud that she can cook, tend her house, go out to dinner, go on trips and have lunch with her friends. Palmer manages her insulin pump, but Lynda makes all of the decisions regarding her care. They credit this transformation to the retreat at Society for the Blind.
“Everyone hits the lows,” Palmer said, “But it’s how you deal with it that determines whether you’re going to be happy. Many of the Society for the Blind instructors have a family and travel, and one even rock climbs! They teach you that the only limitations are those that you place upon yourself.”
Since the retreat, Lynda and Palmer have attended a few of Society for the Blind’s workshops for seniors including yoga, exercise and self-defense.
Because of their own experience searching desperately to find help, the Sekoras began volunteering at expos around the Sacramento area, distributing information and talking about Society for the Blind so that others would never have to experience the same isolation.
“For us, this experience was like wandering in the wilderness and finding your way out and realizing you’re not alone anymore,” Palmer said. “At Society for the Blind, it’s a person-to-person effort, and that’s what makes it so worthwhile and effective. When you can meet someone who has experienced what you’ve been through and is living his or her life fully, you say to yourself, I think I can do that too.”