Vision Update

As some of you know, I was diagnosed with Late Onset Stargardt’s Disease back in 1992. For 18 years, there was some mild decline in my vision. Then in the spring of 2010 after five weeks on the road, my vision declined rapidly. By 2011, the vision in my right eye was beyond 20/400. My left eye was now carrying the load at 20/150 correctable to 20/70. Over the past couple of years, everyone I know has been helping me change my life to slow the progression and adapt to living with low vision. It seems to be paying off.

The 2012 results are good

After postponing my annual ophthalmology checkup twice, I finally made it in to get tested. I was in no hurry as the condition is still supposed to be untreatable and the annual measurement has brought nothing but bad news for the last couple of years. Much to my amazement, my vision has not declined in the last 14 months. While the right eye is still beyond measurement, my left eye is holding steady at 20/150 and is still correctable using the same prescription to 20/70.

Change is everywhere

I have dramatically changed my lifestyle to reduce stress and am continuing to learn to live in a low vision world. Over the past 24 months, my partners and staff have completely rebuilt the business to allow me to do most of my consulting via WebEx on a 27-inch iMac. Every other month on site client meetings have been replaced with monthly two-hour reviews that are analytically driven. For 2012, I will spend less than 60 days on the road and much of that will be to our own events. After more than 20 years of being a traveling consultant, I was dubious about the new paradigm. My team was right and I was wrong. The new system works. Most of my legacy clients are still with me, and my total client base has gone from 16 to 26 over the past 12 months. Personally, I think that has also been a big stress reducer for me. I wear sunglasses whenever I’m outside to protect my vision, and I pay even more attention to good nutrition and ocular vitamins and CoQ10 are part of my daily regimen. My ophthalmologist believes that all of the above are factors in stopping the disease from progressing over the past 14 months.

As I’ve begun to share the above with a few trusted colleagues, I’ve also felt much less alone and very much supported at every turn. The one comment that sticks with me more than any other came from my friend and client Cindy Carter, “We all have or will have handicaps as we grow older, you just got yours first.” Those of you who know Cindy probably can hear her saying the words. She’s a no-nonsense person who deals with life head on. I like the philosophy.

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Technology to the rescue

WebEx and my 27-inch iMac are a Godsend. I’ve also come to rely deeply on the text to speech, and speech to text software that is built into my iMac, iPad, and iPhone. The software does occasionally produce some really odd interpretations. Kim says she’s been able to figure out what they are by reading them out loud and looking for what I really was saying versus the text laid down by the Dragon software program. Kim laughs when she says this such that I actually believe her. Having low vision has become much easier as I’ve been able to deal with it directly with my colleagues, friends and family. I’m not dying from this thing and it does have some funny side effects. I’ve always been a Monet fan, and my new lack of ability to see fine detail gives my entire world an Impressionist filter. On a recent trip to Paris, Gail and I spent a lot of time with Monet’s work. I found the experience very comforting.

Traveling with others

By many standards, I still travel a lot. For the most part however, I am traveling with others and often spending several days in the same location. Compared to the new city every night by myself routine I had done for so many years, I actually now find travel to be a stress reducer. Most of the time Gail and I will spend a few extra days hanging out. I’ve also decided to place a priority on relaxation and stress avoidance. Parker, our two-year-old pug, is my constant companion and reminder that life is just not that hard. Parker likes to play, eat and sleep. He’s very inspirational. Last weekend, we caught the first good sailing trip of the year up the coast with a 14-knot breeze. My friend Jack Dresser remarked on the trip that there is just something about the sea air that relaxes the soul. Since my time in the Navy, I’ve always found that to be true.

New house, new neighborhood

While moving is supposed to be one of those stressful experiences, I found it to be just the opposite. Earlier this year, Gail and I sold our suburban home, and purchased a new townhouse that is part of a plan mixed-use community called Wayland Town Center. While my 20/70 corrected vision entitles me to a Massachusetts state drivers license, I choose not to drive for my own safety and the safety of others. My visual response time is slower then I think it needs to be for safe driving in anything but ideal conditions. So, living in a community where I can walk to practically anything was sufficient motivation for me to not get stressed out about selling our family home of 18 years. Gail is taking a bit more time to adjust.

Recognizing friends and colleagues

As my central vision has deteriorated, I’ve lost the ability to recognize people by their faces unless the lighting is perfect and they’re pretty close. To compensate, my hearing has gotten pretty good at recognizing voices. So the next time I see you, give me an extra heartbeat to match your voice with your name. Looking forward to seeing you soon and for many years to come.

Thanks for all the kind words and support.


    I am so sorry your sight has gotten so much worse over the last years. But it is good to hear that you take it from a positive side and that you have a lot of friends supporting you – good friends are invaluable!

    Take care!


    Thanks everyone… I do get by with a little help from my friends.

    I am blessed to be part of such a supportive community.

    You are the best!


    James C.

    Inspiring and upbeat as always Don. Glad to hear you are well and facing life’s challenges head on. All the best, and hope to see you in the not too distant.

    Stuart H.

    Don – thanks for sharing such a personal story. I am thrilled your vision is stable at this time, and may it stay that way for decades. You continuously re-engineer everything, and I am delighted you have re-engineered so many facets of your life to continue to serve your clients well and have fun. All the best.

    Jack G.

    I appreciate the philosophical message – thanks for sharing this. It will help me “see” better how I should be spending my time and living my life.

    Philip R.

    Thanks for the update and transparency Don. My wife Jennifer and you share the same disease, and she also is grateful for how technology has openned her world. We appreciate the advice we receive from Mequoda for our online magazine – now we know more about the person and team who gives us great advice. Thanks again for being vulnerable. Jennifer’s Dr Phil 🙂

    Ira M.

    So good to hear — sorry you have to accommodate in the first place, but glad you’ve made the transitions you have and that there have been some positive sidelights. Of course there’s yet another consulting opportunity for you: helping others figure out the technology adaptations that will work for them. All the best to you and Gail.

    Scott B.

    Don, as usual, you continue to be an excellent teacher in how to successfully overcome business challenges, and now how to deal with life’s challenges as well. Thanks for sharing the very positive update and best wishes in your new surroundings!

    Bob K.

    How you’ve approached this is very in-character and provides inspiring lessons for all of us aging direct marketing codgers: Understand the objective. Research and Analyze the options. Develop creative solutions to achieve the goal. And be positive throughout.

    Make time for Parker, sailing and good wine. Gail too.

    Greg J.

    Taking the long view, as usual. Well done my friend! Never short sighted, always looking ahead. ….Oh, I could go on and on. Seriously, as one of those who knew of this issue early on, I am thrilled to hear how well you are doing! In addition to halting the progression of the disease, it sounds like the lifestyle changes you have made have afforded both personal and professional benefits as well. Cheers!

    bob b.

    Good to hear that you are doing well. You are an inspiration to your fellow geezers and geezers-in-waiting.

    Bill D.

    Don — I won’t ever blame you for not initially recognizing me visually…I’ve aged 10 years in one year! Thanks for the update, and hope to see you at the next Mequoda Summit. Best Always, Bill


    Don — I didn’t know about this. Sounds like you’re dealing with it like a champion. Good luck.



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