Eye injections saved Dymphna’s sight and helped her pen a book about her legendary parents.
‘A Paper Inheritance’: The back story
When Dymphna Stella Rees began digging through her legendary parents’ literary archive to write a book of her own, she was also diagnosed with wet AMD. But eye injections have saved Dymphna’s sight, helping her publish ‘A Paper Inheritance’ a decade later.
Dymphna is Australian literary royalty. Her parents are Leslie Rees and Coralie Clarke Rees, a cultural power couple in mid-20th Century Sydney, and her name is borrowed from iconic Australian writers Dymphna Cusack and Stella Miles Franklin, who were friends of the family.
Coralie was one of the first female broadcasters on the ABC before she passed away in 1972, while Leslie was an award-winning children’s author and the ABC’s national drama editor.
Leslie wrote more than 50 books in his life, leaving his daughter a treasure trove of literary artefacts when he passed away in 2000.
In 2012, Dymphna discovered bundles of love letters buried in this archive – the inspiration for her to write ‘A Paper Inheritance’, a memoir of Leslie and Coralie’s creative and romantic partnership.
“My love of language – my love of beautiful writing – was always a part of me,” Dymphna tells MDFA.
“And then I thought ‘I must write this book’ in 2012, which was exactly the year I was diagnosed with wet macular degeneration.”
Early action saved Dymphna’s sight
Despite no family history of macular disease, Dymphna first noticed signs of her AMD at the computer, when she saw lines of text bending like a parabola. She immediately saw her optometrist and was diagnosed with late AMD in her right eye.
Dymphna did two things straightaway: begin anti-VEGF eye injections with her ophthalmologist, and reach out to MDFA for support.
“I very much appreciate the work that the Foundation does. Immediately when I was diagnosed, I wanted to get more information, and I went straight to the Foundation,” Dymphna says.
“I’m an online researcher, and I wanted to read all about the eye injections. Having information about anything you’re diagnosed with is very supportive, so this was my first step. And I think the work the Foundation does in disseminating that information, it must be a great help.”
Dymphna received monthly eye injections for three years until the vision stabilised in her right eye. More recently, her ophthalmologist also picked up AMD in her left eye, which is now being treated.
“Because I had the scans and I have regular treatment, it was picked up quickly and it’s going very well now,” she explains.
“It’s sort of miraculous, because writing a book – any book – requires so much work at the computer and on paper and so on. But writing this book required so much research into old, frail documents.
“When you consider that to write 90,000 words and then pore over ancient documents and transcribe and read newspaper articles and handwriting from up to 90 years ago, it’s a lot of expectation of one’s sight!”
“And it was just absolutely remarkable that I was able to have treatment all that time, and it has allowed me to bring out this book.”
As well as being an author, Dymphna is also a keen photographer, which also demands detailed central vision.
But sight-saving eye injections have allowed Dymphna to continue doing the things she loves despite her wet AMD diagnosis.
“It’s not only being able to write the book, it’s the independence – being able to drive, being able to do all the things you normally do in life is very important.
“When I had been diagnosed, the treatment had only been around for a number of years, so it’s also my good fortune in the time that it happened to me.”
Buy the book
Eye injections have saved Dymphna’s sight, helping her publish ‘A Paper Inheritance’.‘ A Paper Inheritance’ is available now through uqp.com.au.