Award-winning artist Jan grateful that treatment saved her sight
An award-winning artist from Victoria’s beautiful Great Ocean Road, Jan is a powerful example of how early action and maintaining treatment can save your sight.
Jan was diagnosed with wet AMD in her right eye in 2016. But regular eye injections allow Jan to keep painting her large oil-on-canvas masterpieces six years after her diagnosis.
Jan has held more than 50 solo exhibitions across four continents over a five-decade career in visual arts. She creates oil-on-canvas works inspired by her travels, particularly to Italy, featuring fine lines that depend on detailed vision. An example of her art is in the image above.
Changes in vision
Jan lives and works at Moongate Studios on the Great Ocean Road with George, her husband of more than 50 years and a sculptor himself. Their mud-brick house and purpose-built studios are surrounded by 26 acres of unspoiled bush paradise “just a birdsong from Bells Beach,” says Jan. But this idyllic lifestyle was disrupted when Jan started noticing changes to her vision.
“Being an artist, I just noticed over time that I had lost a bit of perspective. I always use long-haired brushes and I noticed the brush hit the canvas before I expected. I do some fine work and it was becoming increasingly difficult to put the paint where I wanted – even with glasses.”
Jan also observed straight lines appearing wavy and fuzzy black spots in the centre of her vision.
Despite experiencing no pain, this convinced her to visit the optometrist for an eye examination. That day, she was diagnosed with wet AMD. Although Jan had been packing her bags to fly to China for an art exhibition, she was immediately booked in for her first eye injection that week at a Geelong clinic.
Being diagnosed with macular disease can be confusing and overwhelming. With wet AMD in particular, it’s common to be scared about the prospect of eye injections and this fear can prevent people from receiving sight-saving treatment. However, Jan called our National Helpline and spoke to one of our Support Officers, who alleviated her concerns and encouraged her to receive the treatment that has maintained her vision.
Overcoming fear of treatment
“The possibility of losing your sight is devastating for any member of the community, but for an artist, it is unimaginable that you could not paint. It was devastating. I was frightened really. But I immediately rang the Macular Disease Foundation Australia and spoke to them. The Support Officer had obviously received so many of these phone calls and her understanding and knowledge settled me, so thank you for doing what you’re doing.
“I was afraid of the injections because I wondered if they would be painful. You think it is your worst nightmare to get an injection into your eyeball. But the Support Officer was able to talk me through the process and gave me some reassurance – enough to actually go on Friday and receive the treatment.”
Now, every three to four months, George drives Jan to Geelong for injections that preserve the vision in her right eye. Jan counts herself lucky that she was diagnosed in 2016 because this anti-VEGF treatment was only introduced to Australia in 2007.
Eye injections have saved Jan’s sight. Although George now does most of the driving, Jan can still paint, read and is even in the process of writing a book with her husband.
“I feel blessed. I feel absolutely blessed to live in Australia where we have this treatment. The ophthalmologist often says that it is fortunate to be diagnosed in this decade because the treatment was not available a long time ago. It is just a recent phenomenon, really.
“When I think of how I felt all those years ago, I had no idea that in the future, with my three pillars of support – my personal carer, my medical team and Macular Disease Foundation Australia – that I could be in such a joyous place.”
Access to sight-saving treatment
The independent Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Review Taskforce for Ophthalmology recommended to the Government that the Medicare rebate for sight-saving eye injections be cut by 69 per cent.
Economic modelling commissioned by MDFA estimated that the proposed cut would trigger out-of-pocket costs for wet AMD patients to balloon from the current $1,900 per year to $3,900 per year – double if the patient receives injections in both eyes.
The proposed cut would have resulted in an additional 47,000 Australians experiencing permanent vision loss or blindness in the next five years.
However, after MDFA represented the needs of patients to our political leaders in Canberra, both major parties committed to rejecting the recommended cut ahead of the Federal Election in May 2022.
This is wonderful newsJan
“You don’t always want to talk about money, but you have to raise it. Even my twin sister offered to pay for my injections if things got too much. I bet there will be thousands of families relieved with this outcome. I’m grateful to have this treatment available to me.”
Do you need information or support?
Our National Helpline is a free service. Qualified staff can provide non-clinical disease information, and help you find support to navigate a life with macular disease.
Posted: 24 November 2020 and updated 3 May 2022.