A 70-year-old Worcestershire woman, who also has an incurable eye disease, is cycling more than 4,500 miles to raise money to beat the UK’s biggest cause of blindness.
Julia Mills is covering the 4,549 equivalent miles between London and Havana, Cuba, on her static exercise bike in support of the Macular Society’s Step around the World challenge.
Julia was first diagnosed with diabetic macular oedema (DMO) in 2011, the most common cause of sight loss in people with diabetes. The condition came on quickly. Her symptoms began with blurred vision in her left eye. During the same time, Julia also suffered a heart attack and was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
Despite her other health issues, Julia said it’s her visual impairment that has had the biggest impact on her life. She said:
“I had to give up my driving licence, which is the worst thing anybody can say to you – it was hard to put that in the post box, I can tell you.”
Julia’s motivation to fundraise for the Macular Society, which is the only charity in the UK dedicated to finding a cure for macular disease, is driven by wanting to help other people with sight loss, particularly children.
“My condition will never be cured. But, although I won’t have the same opportunities that others may have, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t support everybody else’s. My thoughts are with the children who have these horrible eye conditions. I mean, it’s dreadful, they haven’t even lived their lives yet.”
DMO is a form of macular disease, the biggest cause of sight loss in the UK. Nearly 1.5 million people are currently affected, and many more are at risk. The disease can have a devastating effect on people’s lives, leaving them unable to drive, read or see faces. Many people affected describe losing their sight as being similar to bereavement. There is still no cure, and most types of the disease are not treatable. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common form of macular disease, affecting more than 600,000 people, usually over the age of 50.
Julia has had great support from the Kidderminster Macular Society support group – one of a network of 400 groups across the UK supporting those affected by macular disease. She said:
“Before I joined, nobody had explained much about my condition or what to expect. But when I went along to the group, I was made very welcome, and they talked to me about DMO. Knowing that I’m not the only one affected has really helped me to accept my loss of sight.”
Amanda Read, senior regional manager for the Macular Society, said:
“Julia’s commitment to wanting to help other people affected by sight loss is truly inspiring, and even more so considering that she has other significant health conditions to cope with. Despite everything that she has to deal with on a daily basis, Julia has such a positive attitude and is a wonderful example of how it is possible to adapt to living with a visual impairment.”
If you would like to support Julia’s efforts by making a donation, you can do so by visiting her JustGiving page.
If Julia’s story has also inspired you to undertake your own virtual globe-trotting challenge, all the information you need to get going is on the charity’s website: https://www.macularsociety.org/get-involved/fundraising/do-your-own/step-around-world/.
For more information about the Kidderminster support group, contact Amanda Read on 01453 755 803 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, for information on other services currently available from the Macular Society, please call the charity’s Advice and Information Service on 0300 3030 111 or email: email@example.com.