On my Blindness – can they save me?

 Firstly, my consultant asked me to try and warn as many people as possible about a rare eye condition, Acute Angle Glaucoma. It is so important that people have their eyes checked regularly. So I thought that it might be of help to some dear readers who read this article.

I love good health – banal statement but true.   Never had a really bad day for years. Okay the normals – flu yep – kidney stones yep – Raynauds yep, all very common.  But I own to a  gritty determination and some brain cells to help me on my way.

When three lethal illnesses knocked on my door, I battled through. I’m not very brave, but I made it.  Then one day, I went to the optician. I couldn’t see the subtitles very well on the TV. I thought nothing of it and just looked forward to an eye test and some ‘glam’ new frames.

The first optician said I had tiny cataracts, but nothing to worry about, only I did need stronger glasses.  I was pleased to choose some ’glam’ frames. But, I wasn’t happy, even with these new glasses; the sub-titles were still fuzzy.  I went to another optician, who said I had medium cataracts; I just needed my new glasses adjusting. So I thought I’d have more ‘glam’ frames with tiny crystals on the rims.  After two weeks of wearing them, I could hardly see the TV sub-titles I was also seeing halos. So my gritty determination raised its head; I went to another optician; this guy’s office was in an old house tucked away in a side street.  But he’d treated pilots in the Royal Air Force – he was brilliant.   After an hour long examination he said quietly ‘I’d like to send you to the hospital – see a consultant.’ 

 I still didn’t think too much, nothing could be as bad as my torn oesophagus, which still isn’t good but it’s okay.

Could it? Could it be as bad as a torn oesophagus? Oh yes it could. I went along to see the consultant at the hospital eye clinic.  Nice guy, about sixty years old, brilliant and brutal.  So after an hour long examination, two nurses suddenly entered the room and stood either side of me.  The Consultant drew up his chair into the middle of room and sat facing me.  It looked like an interview with a     Godfather. He said. ‘Look I’m going to give it to you straight. I want you to understand this is serious.

I nodded. He said, ‘you have Chronic Acute Angle Glaucoma.’ I raised my eyebrows – never heard of it, but I waited.  

He said, ‘you need treatment immediately. I’m not going to beat about the bush; you have a serious condition – very serious. I want you to know – you need treatment now.’

I nodded, still not worried really. Why was he talking to me like this? Did he think I was a moron?  Of course I understood what he was saying, yes, I needed treatment. Then he took a breath – this is true – absolutely step by step. 

He said, ‘it’s like this, if you don’t get this treated, you will go blind. It happens in seconds. One moment you’ll be talking to me and in the next thirty seconds you’ll be blind. If you don’t have treatment you will go blind – everything will go black.  We won’t be able to get it back.’

I just sat still – couldn’t react, couldn’t think – just listened. I felt the nurse’s hand on my shoulder.  I knew then why the nurses were in the room. But I didn’t have fit of hysterics; I went still – silent.

I looked at him. Silence.

Then he spread his arms wide. ‘I mean this, you must have treatment, you can’t not have treatment. I’m going to give you a list and I want to you study it. If you have any of these symptoms before I see you again, you must come immediately to the hospital. You’re now an ‘Emergency’. Until we start treatment, if you have any of these conditions – nausea – headache – blurry eyes – see halos you get to a hospital fast, we’ll only have six hours to operate to save you going blind.

I nodded – numbly and left. Hubby was downstairs in the waiting area when I appeared. He walked over to me and I whispered. I don’t know why I whispered, ‘got some news – tell you outside.’

I didn’t. Riding back in the car with Brian I was mainly silent, – very unusual for me. I just said, ‘tell you when we get back.’ He could tell I didn’t want to talk. How could I? We were on busy main roads; I just didn’t want a car crash. I’m, sure he’d have been okay, but that was the way I was thinking then.

 Two minutes away from home I saw the daffodils on the central island of the roundabout. Beautiful – yellow – bright yellow daffodils. I drank it all in. I wanted to remember them. I wondered if I would be able to see them in my mind if I went blind. Anyway, once back indoors, I actually made some coffee, then sat down and said, ‘‘Brian, I’m, going blind. ‘

There’s no good way to say it.

That night, I googled – wish I hadn’t. It was bad. What if I couldn’t get to the hospital in time. What if it was the middle of the night and there were no taxis? Why were they waiting? No one could say if the treatment would be a success – permanent.

The next morning I sat in front of my PC and thanked God I was a touch typist. At least if I did go blind, I could type. I could still write. But my typing wasn’t that good. I wouldn’t see the mistakes. Could I afford an editor? But my passion wouldn’t die just because I was going blind – would it? I’d find a way, maybe dictate it? Would I be able to tell a story instead of writing it?  I now have tears in my eyes writing this. I haven’t cried, up until right now – four months after the verdict.

So anyway, I realized as I waited for treatment, I could laugh or cry. If I got all morbid, my family would cry, my friends would cry, my cockapoo would cry. And she wouldn’t know what she’s crying about. No – I had to laugh.  Yes – laugh. Not hysterical laughter, just laughter – I desperately needed that in my life right then. That very morning I scoured the TV for comedy films.  I was half-way through writing a chilling novel on haunting, I decided to rewrite it as a comedy – laugh at the blackness to come.  I would write comedy.  I’d also watch comedy films, and read comedy books.

Short history: as a child, I wrote comedy spats at school – even the headmistress came to see them; they were ridiculous and childishly funny. Then I wrote jokey little stories to my sister ill with TB in a sanatorium. But then things happened; my life changed.  I was ten and I grew up fast. I turned to poetry –  more and  more. Later, I turned to psychology. I came from an abused childhood, with a social phobia – crippling, but in a way it gave me direction. Now I’m just so glad I studied to be a psychologist.  To keep it short, I had twenty years of love, sadness, tears, laughter and incredible clients whom I loved and who loved me back – we still do.

I decided to ‘change direction’, as I call it – I turned to writing; back to my first love.

So that brings me back to that first morning, when I decided to face the threat of blindness with laughter in my life.

I turned to Amazon and picked up a book by Nick Spalding, ‘Checking Out’, seemed appropriate, a comedy.  I was laughing in minutes but before that, I didn’t like comedy books, wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole and here I was alone in my study, laughing  and in stitches –true!!!, This guy was my saviour, brilliant. I didn’t think anyone or anything would pick me up so fast. Thank you Nick. You don’t know me, but I’m thanking you. I thought the comedy might just break the morbidity of the dark world of blindness. It did more, Nick’s book, picked me up, swung me around in whirl of laughter, and saved me. I love him – always will.   I love Ricky Gervais too, I watched his films – all that were on TV and his stand-up comedy shows.

So just to finish the tale, back at the hospital a few days later after the diagnosis, they realized I had raging blood pressure – who wouldn’t after that? They couldn’t do the operations – boring a hole in my irises and other things. So the race was on to get the blood pressure down; I was on the verge of a stroke now and spent two days in hospital. Thank God the meds kicked in.

I had moments of terror, why – why were they waiting to do the op’ when it was such a lethal condition?  But, I had to leave it to them.  

We won through; it took twelve weeks of A & E treatment, drops and waiting and laser operations – twenty minutes long. I had to stay still, I did I was terrified. 

Now the good news – four months later.  The good doctors and nurses, saved forty per cent of my sight. They can’t restore it, but Lord, I can see.  That’s all I want, I don’t care if I wear pebble glasses, I don’t  care if I still can’t see the subtitles on the TV.   I don’t care if I can’t see that car on the road racing towards me and Lucy – my cockapoo. There’s always someone there to see me across the road.  You know, I never realized just how kind and helpful strangers can be. So many good hearts holding out a hand.

Writing this four months later, after treatment,  I’ve finished my first comedy book, ‘Listen to the Chicken.’ By the way, I can still see those daffodils in my mind. Of course my eyes are deteriorating but the doctors tell me they can control it now. But – oh yes, but, they can’t promise. Maybe the condition will outlive me, I don’t know, I don’t care – I think. Right now and for some time I can see. I can get on with writing – comedy.

So dear friends, I’m sitting here today and for the very first time I’m writing about it – I just couldn’t before. But now, I’m listening to music – the golden beat of Magic Slim and the Blues Jeans Blues Band – bliss and writing another comedy.

I feel good and I want to say to all of you dear readers out there, that have this bloody condition, there  is hope – experts who can save or prolong your sight, you just have to do all they say, have the lasers, the operations, take the drops and laugh – yes laugh – read a comedy book!!! Of course there are fears, I’m not a robot, but just read the bookJ 

So now I realize the reason why the doctor was so darn blunt. He was trying to save my sight. There must be some sufferers who haven’t listened to him or other doctors, some who haven’t turned up for the treatments and then one morning woken up blind.  So please, don’t waste any time – have your eyes tested regularly. Two opticians didn’t pick up my condition, the third one did – thank you God.  So don’t accept blurry sight.  Just keep searching for the optician that agrees – there’s a reason why you have blurry eyes.

 Acute Angle Glaucoma is very rare, only 2 percent of the population have it. One more thing, if you have the gene, make sure your family are tested too, the consultant told me I had to warn each member of my family to have regular eye tests.

So back to ’Listen to the Chicken.’ It saved me during those months. I loved doing the cover too.  I also love to paint, the paintings sold all over the world. But I’m just sticking to the writing and digital art right now!!

Love you all.

P.S. As I said, just writing the second comedy book. Haven’t got a title yet. I think it might be ‘Follow the Cockapoo!!

7 Mind Blowing Reasons to Exercise

“IF I’D KNOWN I WAS GOING TO LIVE THIS LONG, I’D HAVE TAKEN BETTER CARE OF MYSELF.” Eubie Blake 

I’ll admit it.  I’m a health nut.  I don’t know how anyone could sit on their butt all day the way we writers do and not be concerned about their health  much less the size of their ‘butt.’

I’m a seven day a week exerciser and am seriously out of sorts if I miss a day at the gym where I do a minimum of seven miles on the elliptical and fifteen minutes on the rowing machine.  For a start!

I’ll admit, vanity is probably a bigger impetus for me than paying attention to my health, but both spur me on.  I like my toned abs, my buff arms and keeping my weight well under control.  BUT even I know that the benefits of daily exercise are more than looking good or better yet feeling good.

I like the fact that I’m warding off the big killers like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. I also like the fact that I’m improving my mind—and my spirit! And I hope, my ability to do what I love to do—write books!

“Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory, and learning,” says Harvard Medical School psychiatrist John Ratey, author of the book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. “Even 10 minutes of activity changes your brain.”

Here’s a list of 7 Mind Blowing benefits of exercise I found in an article in US News &World Report.

  1. Reverses Detrimental Effects of Stress
  2. Lifts Depression
  3. Improves learning
  4. Enhances Self Esteem/ Improves Body Image
  5. Leaves you Feeling Euphoric
  6. Keeps the Brain Fit
  7. May Keep Alzheimer’s at bay

If these 7 Reasons don’t get you up and moving then maybe you’re of the Joan Rivers school of physical fitness.

“I don’t exercise. If God had wanted me to bend over, he would have put diamonds on the floor.” Joan Rivers

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While you’re on that elliptical or treadmill, check out one of my books guaranteed to raise your heart rate.

Sergeant Viviana Moreau is no stranger to physical exertion.  From cliff diving in Belize to infiltrating a dangerous drug cartel against the specific instructions of her harried captain, Viviana is a piece of work.  Her harried captain’s anger is nothing compared to Agent Jax Hughes’s fury when he discovers the sassy woman he thinks is a drug moll is a renegade cop about to torpedo his high-level undercover operation to take down the violent cartel. To say the sparks fly between the beautiful cop and the tough agent is an understatement.  Prepare to be wowed!

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Do you believe in the magic of Christmas?

They say Christmas is the most magical time of the year, that miracles can happen on the day when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. I don’t particularly believe in miracles, but there’s still some magic of the winter holidays left in my heart.

I loved Christmas when I was a child, even though my parents were not wealthy and we never had a pile of gifts under the tree. But we were better off than a lot of other people, and I’m grateful for that now.

As I became an adult, the practicalities and problems that come with being a grown-up took away a little of my holiday enthusiasm each year. Stretching the budget, organizing things, breaking my back in the kitchen… The real tree turned into a plastic one to avoid the hassle and the mess, buying gifts turned into a stressful process, even going shopping is less fun every year because of the growing lines and interminable city traffic.

However, this year I believe in the magic of Christmas more than I ever had. Why? Because my friends in the Authors’ Billboard practically put the most amazing present under my tree: a USA Today bestseller badge!

A little over a year ago, the seed of what seemed like a crazy dream took root in my mind: to become a USA Today bestselling author. Not only that, but I realized that if I made it, I would be the first Romanian in history to achieve this prestigious title. Since that moment, I worked relentlessly toward this goal, and I’m still amazed by how many incredible people I met on the way, people who joined me in my journey and fought hard to help me achieve my dream.

Together, we did it with the anthology Love, Christmas 2!

My story in this box set is a romantic comedy called Boyfriend Wanted for Christmas.

THE DESPERATE YET HUMOROUS QUEST OF AN AMERICAN BRIDGET JONES TO FIND A BOYFRIEND IN THE SEVEN DAYS SHE HAS LEFT UNTIL CHRISTMAS

Thirty-three-year-old librarian Andrea Sachse doesn’t have the time or skills to date. No man can ever live up to her dreamy book boyfriends, so why bother? But with her parents looking more desperate each time she shows up solo for their annual Christmas party, this year she’s determined to find herself a boyfriend by any means—fair or foul.

There are so many people I owe this accomplishment to, and who deserve a special THANK YOU:  Carmen, Mimi, my editor Sue, Jackie, all my wonderful co-authors of Love, Christmas 2 and of course, all of you, our dear readers and friends, who bought this box set.

The most meaningful THANK YOU goes to my husband, for being there for me, for believing in me, for offering moral and financial support, emergency hugs, pep talks, for playing housekeeper, tear-wiper, even chef when I was too exhausted, and never complaining when I worked twelve hours a day until 2 or 3 am, for keeping my spirits up with his endless supply of optimism, and for putting up with me – which is no easy job.

Each and every one of you who read this post, this victory is yours, as much – or even more – than it’s mine.  ♥ ♥ ♥

Now do you believe in the magic of Christmas? Here’s something that will make your holidays even more fun:  We’re looking for Santas and Reindeer! Visit our December Contest and YOU could win gift cards, paperback books, and book bundles. Click here to play! 

Wishing you the best holidays ever!

Love, Christmas…How Gavin Stole Christmas #mgtab @NatalieAnn121

I’m thrilled to say I’ve got the honor of the first post for our Love, Christmas- Movies You Love boxed set coming out on October 16, 2018. It’s made up of 26 brand new Christmas stories of our choice. For the next several months there will be two posts a week by the fabulous authors of this set. Stay tuned for more personal tidbits.

Also, if you enter here, you can have a chance to get one of our stories dedicated to YOU! And the best part of all of this is the book is only 99 cents!!!

My story is How Gavin Stole Christmas. As you can probably guess, my Christmas movie was How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Why did I choose this as my Christmas movie? The Grinch was me for a long time. My mother Natalie (the real Natalie Ann) was born in December and unfortunately passed away in December, one week before her birthday at the tender age of 47.

When I was a kid, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She’d had five reoccurrences or new diagnoses of cancer over 17 years. Every time it was around the holidays. As you can imagine, it made celebrating difficult for us as a family.

Nineteen years ago I was lucky enough to welcome my son into this world, Nathan. Yes, we named him after my mother, who coincidentally was born on her father’s birthday, the first Nate. And though my mother would never get to meet her namesake, it was one of the best honors I could do for the woman who taught me to never give up and always go after my dream.

My world changed after Nate was born. I was so excited, and my husband and I wanted to celebrate those holidays with him. Little by little, the joy of being a parent myself helped me overcome my “Grinch” status.

If you’ve followed my Fierce Five Series, then you know all about Gavin and Jolene Fierce along with Jolene’s matchmaking ways with her five kids, Brody, Aiden, Mason, Cade, and Ella. Many people have asked about Gavin and Jolene’s story and I thought, why not?!

In How Gavin Stole Christmas, he too was affected with the loss of a parent at Christmas and it turned him sour on all things holiday. But then Jolene came into his life and she made him see that we can’t always be locked up in the past.

Check out How Gavin Stole Christmas, along with 26 other great holiday stories now!

You can buy Love, Christmas—Movies You Love at Amazon and other retailers.