A woman who was born with a degenerative eye disease which eventually left her completely blind has relived her lifetime struggle with failing sight by publishing her first book.
Philippa Groves, 68, hopes that Chasing Rainbows – which she has spent the last seven years writing with the help of “talking technology” – will prove an inspiration to others afflicted by debilitating sight problems.
Philippa was born with the inherited eye condition retinitis pigmentosa, which causes severe vision impairment and often blindness, but was not properly diagnosed until she was 28.
In 1975 she was told she would lose her eyesight completely within 10 years, and she has been totally blind for 13 years now.
Philippa, a divorcee who grew up in Whitley Bay and Newcastle, moved to her current home in Newbrough near Hexham, where she lives with her retired guide dog, in 2006. She went there with the aim of writing her life story, which she is publishing in two separate volumes.
She has used talking laptops and iPhones to help her research and write the books, the second of which – to be called The Lily and the Lotus – she plans to publish in August.
Chasing Rainbows, which she has self-published in paperback, tells the story of the first 30 years of her life, including her short-lived marriage and the birth of her daughter Paula, now 42. Philippa’s eyesight problem, together with the fact that she suffered from dyslexia, caused her education at La Sagesse in Newcastle and a Catholic school in Wolsingham, to be severely disrupted, and an often miserable experience.
When her parents split up she moved to Sussex with her mother at the age of 19, and got married in her early 20s.
She moved to Northumberland from Cumbria seven years ago after friends and a social worker urged her to write a book about her experiences. She said: “I decided to write the book after people kept telling me I should. They said if people read about my experience of losing my eyesight they would find it interesting.
“I decided to split my story into two parts and used a talking laptop and iPhone to write it. I do make a lot of mistakes but it reads back to me what I’ve written.
“I feel it’s a great achievement that a totally blind person can now write a book thanks to talking technology.
“Most of the time I have really enjoyed the writing experience, and I’ve met some incredibly lovely people via emails and telephone calls while doing it.
“Being dyslexic I didn’t really like words, but if you can use them creatively they become interesting.
“I hope people will find it inspiring, because that was my overall intention. I came to Hexham with three aims; to enrol at a gym, do a yoga class and write my book, and I’ve achieved all three.”
Chasing Rainbows is available from Amazon and other online bookstores priced £6.99.