The Eyes Have It

Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here, today recounting my recent (and continuing) experience with cataract surgery. I’m extremely grateful that this surgery exists. Even a quarter of a century ago, cataracts meant, at the least, coke-bottle glasses and permanently impaired vision.

That said, it hasn’t been all sunshine and roses, especially for someone who normally spends most of her time either reading or writing. Like so many people over 65, my vision was getting worse. My right eye was doing most of the work, since the left was both blurry and extremely nearsighted. Even so, I put off having cataract surgery for years, mostly because the description of the process gave me the willies. I’d still prefer not to think about that part of things. Anyway, since it was getting harder and harder to focus properly, even with bifocals, I finally decided it was time to bite the bullet. Because my husband had his cataracts fixed a couple of years ago, just pre-Covid, I thought I had some idea what to expect.


For one thing, where he opted for the super surgery that would remove his need for glasses altogether, I wanted to keep wearing glasses. I’m also cheap. I went with the standard surgery, which is completely covered by Aetna Medicare. This was not a mistake, but it was undertaken while under a major misconception concerning how much time would have to pass before I would actually get new glasses and be able to see at all distances once again.

My first surgery was back on October 12. I don’t even get my eyes tested for the new specs until November 21. Since that’s Thanksgiving week, I doubt I’ll have them before November 28. That’s a looooong time not to see properly.

obviously, I’ve worn glasses for a long time

For those of you who may not know much about cataract surgery, it’s a pretty simple process, but since it does involve making a laser incision at the side of the eye, it isn’t trifling and it takes time for the eye to heal afterward. The surgery itself lasts about seven minutes, and the patient has to be awake in order to focus the relevant eye on a rather bright light. There’s no pain—numbing eyedrops take care of that. And there isn’t a lot of nervousness during surgery, thanks to the wonderful world of pharmaceuticals. However, there is more than an hour of prep time (instilling drops into the eye multiple times) and since we live where we do, there was also an hour’s drive to get to Eye Care of Maine in Waterville—entirely too much time to wonder whether I really wanted to go through with it.

Obviously, I didn’t chicken out. With the left eye (the worst one) done, I had a follow-up visit in Waterville the next morning and then, a week later, an appointment with my own eye doctor in Farmington. All was good. I could actually see stuff with that eye again. And everything was brighter—glaringly so! Two weeks after the first surgery, it was time to get my right eye fixed. Again, there was a follow up the next day and a visit to my eye doctor the next week. After each surgery, I had to put steroid eye drops in the affected eye: four times a day for a week, then three times a day for a week, then two, then one. For each eye, for a week, I had to wear a eye shield taped to my face to protect that eye from random contact with, well, anything.

All that was as I expected. I also knew going in that I’d end up farsighted instead of nearsighted, and that’s certainly true. Within a day of the second surgery, I could see well enough to legally drive without glasses. Watching TV was no problem. I could even, a little more than a week after the second surgery, work on the PC without glasses, although the screen still seems awfully bright.

typical page during revision process

But here’s what I didn’t anticipate: everything closer than two feet is blurry. Until I picked up a pair of “cheaters” at Walmart (3x magnification), I couldn’t read. Even the food on my plate was out of focus. Worse, I couldn’t edit. As regular readers of this blog know, I revise by hand, often using asterisks and stars to insert new material. I couldn’t see the printout well enough to read it, let alone make changes. I have reached the point where I can see the printout when it’s next to the monitor on my PC, and therefore could type corrections into a doc file, but since I still can’t focus properly on the printout when it’s in my lap . . .

So, here I am with an enforced month and a half off from any writing projects I can’t do directly on the computer. I did not expect that!

I guess I shouldn’t complain. I can still read other people’s books on my iPad, thanks to enlarged fonts. I can even reread some of the trade paperbacks I bought, years ago, in large print format. My eyes aren’t completely working together on this yet, but they’re improving.

the bags are there, but they’re harder to see in this pre-surgery photo

There is, however, one other side-effect I didn’t anticipate. Now that I’ve essentially gone from being nearsighted to being farsighted, I am aware of some things that, to be truthful, I’d just as soon not be. For instance, it’s hard to pretend I’m a decent housekeeper when I can see the dust on the baseboards. I don’t even want to talk about being able to see the walls and floor of the shower stall. I’m not likely to become any better at cleaning than I was before, but ignoring what needs doing is no longer an option.

Worse, though, is what I see every time I look in the mirror. Poor eyesight combined with glasses frames did a wonderful job of hiding the bags under my eyes. Ditto for assorted wrinkles. I don’t much care for looking ten years older than I thought I did, or for the fact that I still won’t have new glasses when the family gathers for Thanksgiving. I’d consider wearing the “cheaters” if they didn’t blur everything farther than a foot in front of me.

Oh, well. I don’t suppose there’s much point in vanity once you hit seventy-five. I can’t undo the surgeries, and honestly, I wouldn’t want to. My overall vision is much improved, even with the current drawbacks.

But I sure will be glad to get those new glasses!

BIG glasses, back in the day

Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett has had sixty-four books traditionally published and has self published others, including several children’s books. She won the Agatha Award and was an Anthony and Macavity finalist for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category. She was the Malice Domestic Guest of Honor in 2014. Her most recent publications are The Valentine Veilleux Mysteries (a collection of three short stories and a novella, written as Kaitlyn) and I Kill People for a Living: A Collection of Essays by a Writer of Cozy Mysteries (written as Kathy). She maintains websites at and


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10 Responses to The Eyes Have It

  1. jselbo says:

    A lot to go through! Best to you

  2. John Clark says:

    Perfect description of the experience. Beth and I both had ours done be the same outfit early on in Covid and I’ve never looked back.

  3. maggierobinsonwriter says:

    Oh my gosh. I could have written this, right down to wanting to still wear glasses and not wanting to spend more money. But with a twist. About a year after my cataract surgery, distance vision became blurry again. I was one of those people who needs laser surgery to get rid of whatever was left after the cataract surgery (they explained it, but I was going la-la-la in my head). This happens in a fair number of cases, so you’ve been warned, LOL. But the difference has been incredible. The house next door is not at all the color I thought it was!

    • kaitlynkathy says:

      Fingers crossed I DON’T share that experience! I hear you on the la-la-la. There are some things I’d rather not know about in any detail.

  4. Brenda Buchanan says:

    What a journey! I know several others who have had this surgery in the past couple of years and all of them have been pleased by the end of the process, but, like you, say it has taken considerable patience to get to that point. Sending you good wishes that your reading/editing vision will be better than ever, eventually.

  5. kaitcarson says:

    I had mine done maybe six or seven years ago. At the time, I was working full time and our vision insurance covered progressive lenses. Even though I don’t need glasses to drive or see distance, one look at those bags sent me to the optometrist for a pair of progressives. Plain glass phasing to readers! Now that I’m no longer working, I’m wondering how I’m going to adapt when/if my reading prescription changes or my current frames break.

    • kaitlynkathy says:

      Thanks for the chuckle. I’m begining to think “seeing too well” should be listed among the consequences of this surgery. At least we’d be forewarned!

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