For Judy Larush, the world looks like an impressionist painting. Like a Monet or Renoir, colours blur together and shapes have soft edges.
"There are no details, but it's very beautiful," she said. "It's an interesting sensory experience."
Five years ago, Larush was diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration, a disease that causes slow vision loss.
Today, she has only about 10 per cent of her vision in each eye.
"Frankly, I didn't really know what macular degeneration was," she said. "I thought of it as something I might have to worry about when I was 75 or 85. So to get the news at 55 was absolutely a shock."
The disease causes damage to the macula, the central part of the retina responsible for seeing fine details, such as reading print or seeing faces.
People who have it experience blurred central vision and a growing central blind spot.
In 90 per cent of all cases, vision loss occurs slowly, usually over a number of years, and the condition may cause few or no symptoms until it's more advanced.
As a customs officer for Canada Post, Larush had intended to retire at the end of next August, but when her eyes could no longer handle the strain of her job earlier this year, she was forced to work her last shift in May.
In light of the recent Age-Related Macular Degeneration Awareness Week, Larush wants people to know what they can do to prevent vision loss.
The most important thing, she suggested, is to maintain a regular check-up schedule with an eye specialist.
"If things are starting to get a little bit fuzzy, for heaven's sakes, go," she said.
"You could have glaucoma and lose your sight completely, just for want of going for a check-up."
Dr. Keith Gordon, vice-president of Research for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, confirms Larush has the right idea.
"Early diagnosis is extremely important to prevent vision loss," he said.
"Especially if you're over 50, you really need to be getting your eyes examined on a regular basis. New treatments for AMD are quite effective, but the earlier the disease can be diagnosed, the better the outcomes."
Othere preventative measures include not smoking, eating a diet rich in leafy greens and omega-3 fatty acids, wearing sunglasses and exercising regularly, according to the CNIB.
Though there's no cure for her vision loss, Larush hasn't let her diagnosis slow her down.
She still goes to the gym regularly, attends social and community events and recently found a new ballroom dance partner.
Most of her travels have been within the last five years, since her diagnosis.
"When I was first diagnosed, I thought, there's so many beautiful things in the world, I have to see them before it's too late," she said.
Having always been passionate about the visual arts, Larush took off to Europe to take in the cultural experiences there, making a point to visit world-class galleries in Greece, Italy, France, England and also New York City.
This year she is planning a couple of months in Mexico, which she plans to continue to visit no matter what level of vision she retains.
"Even if I can't see anymore, I'll enjoy the warm sand under my toes and fresh papayas," she said.
Larush said she can get around "quite well," especially having had a volunteer from the CNIB help her figure out the best routes to take on a regular basis in her neighbourhood.
She has also learned how to use a computer program that allows her to interact using her voice rather than having to read the screen.
Clearly one to always look on the bright side, Larush suggested her situation is not as bad as it could be.
"Macular degeneration is an ugly thing, but you know what? It doesn't hurt," she said. "And a lot of people age and end up with things that cause them pain every minute of every day, and this is not one of them."
For more information about the CNIB, or about living with vision loss, visit www.cnib.ca.