Sight loss sufferer takes on globe-trotting challenge to beat incurable disease

Macular Society logo - with strapline "Beating Macular Disease"

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 Mills on her exercise bike wearing a yellow Macular Society t-shirt with an eye and caption above saying "I'm beating Macular Disease".
Julia Mills on her way to Havana on her static exercise bike

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. She said: “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 on the Just Giving website.

If you’ve also been inspired by Julia’s story to undertake your own virtual globe-trotting challenge, all the information you need to get going is on the Macular Society’s website.

For more information about the Kidderminster support group, contact Amanda Read on 01453 755 803 or email amanda.read@macularsociety.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: help@macularsociety.org

Ends

Notes to editors:

Every day, around 300 people are diagnosed with macular disease. It’s the biggest cause of sight loss in the UK. Macular disease is cruel and isolating. It steals your sight, your independence, and your ability to do the things you love.

It can affect people of any age – even children – but not enough is known about why, and there is still no cure. There is only one way to Beat Macular Disease for good. We must fund much more research now, until we find a cure, or find treatments that stop it in its tracks.

Together we can fund the research that will find the cure. Together we can make sure the next generation won’t have their sight, confidence, and love of life stolen from them by macular disease.

For more information on this press release contact Ginny Wood, media and PR officer, Macular Society on 01264 326621 or ginny.wood@macularsociety.org

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