"I knew it wasn’t going to be good news when the consultant shook his head and said: 'You know, I really hate my job sometimes.' He told me I had macular disease, something I’d never heard of.”
When Kate was diagnosed with macular disease just before Christmas 1999, there was nothing the doctors could do. She was devastated, especially since her diagnosis came as a complete shock. “I can still remember it as if it was yesterday,” she says. “I’d always gone for my two-yearly eye tests and everything had been fine at the last one. This time, the optician covered up my right eye, and out of the left eye there was nothing. I couldn’t see a thing.
"I couldn’t believe it. I was only 52 at the time, but the consultant told me I had the eyes of a 70 year old. I was so upset and so afraid and there was nothing that could be done."
Kate’s family didn’t initially grasp what macular disease would mean for her, she remembers: "Bless them; they just said 'Oh don’t worry – we’ll get you a white stick!' As this was 20 years ago, there just wasn’t the awareness that there is now. Even some opticians didn’t know what macular disease was back then – mine certainly didn’t.”
A lot has changed for people with macular disease since then. Thanks to research funded by our supporters, we know much more about the condition, and exciting developments are happening every year in stem cell and gene therapies.
In the 20 years since Kate was diagnosed, her sight has continued to deteriorate – which has had a knock-on effect on all parts of her life. “Losing my independence was a very big thing, I do have to rely on other people to help me all the time,” she admits. And sadly, there is still no cure for macular disease.
Kate adds: "People need to know. They need to know that with research, a cure can be found. It’s so important that as many people know about macular disease as possible, so that one day, nobody will have to go through what I and so many others are going through. Nobody will have to lose their sight."
Cathy Yelf, Macular Society’s Chief Executive, says there is hope and research is making a difference: “It is more crucial than ever that we Beat Macular Disease. Another 20 years without a cure means another 20 years of people losing their sight, their independence and their confidence. We must not let that happen.
"Every piece of research teaches us something new and brings us closer to a cure for macular disease, and I truly believe that we are closer to a cure than ever before.”
Much more progress must be made – and urgently. Please donate today to change the future and Beat Macular Disease. Thank you.