Friday, December 7, 2012

The Good Kind (Mostly)

Was feeling good this morning, so I ran out to get some Christmas decorations and the makings of Christmas cookies. Aside from the fact that I was wearing my sunglasses, inside and out, on a rainy day, I felt...normal. I pretty much forgot about you-know-what.

Then I came home. The answering machine light was flashing, and caller ID revealed three recent calls, the second of which was from Dr. M. I would like to report at this juncture that my adrenal glands are capable of producing a full complement of adrenaline on demand.

Heart pounding, I listened to the messages. Dr. M, in his lovely way, spoke calmly and clearly and said that he had some information he'd like to discuss with me, and could I please call him back at such-and-such number, which happened to be different from the number on the Caller ID. It was very difficult to hear the number over the pounding of my heart, but he thoughtfully repeated it before the message ended. One gets the sense he's done this before.

I called. The phone rang and rang, and I was sure it was going to voice mail. Then Dr. M. said hello. He must have given me his cell number. Because, in case I haven't mentioned it, he's the kind of doctor who doesn't leave his patients a scary message on Friday afternoon, leaving them to simmer in their own anxieties all weekend.

Remember when I said there were essentially two kinds of ocular melanoma? They're called Class 1 and Class 2. Class 1 is the better kind to have; Class 2 is more likely to metastasize. Turns out Class 1 is subdivided into 1a and 1b. Class 1a is less likely to metastasize than 1b, but 1b is a lot closer to 1a than to Class 2.

I have Class 1b. What that means, as the doctor explained: survival rates at three years out are 93% (vs. 98% for 1a). At five years, survival rates are 79%. Not "there's nothing to worry about," but, as the doctor put it, certainly better than the flip of a coin. And way better than, "You're doomed."

I don't, apparently, have the laziest tumor known to man. But also, I don't have the most aggressive one. To put it in layman's terms, this tumor might be just ambitious enough to think about looking for a job, but it's going to be a job where it wears a plastic apron and a paper hat. A job, in short, that isn't going anywhere.

I can live with that. At least, dear God, I hope so.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

You Get What You Get

The nice thing about self-pity is that it gets boring for the person wallowing in it almost as quickly as for the people who have to listen to it. So, I'm back. I'm sure I'll slide into the Pit O' Self-Pity at some point, especially if I get bad news. But there's no point in wasting today.

As my son's preschool teacher often (oh, so often) said: "You get what you get, and you don't throw a fit." Not everyone can have the blue M&M or the piece of pizza with the most pepperoni. Life throws random stuff our way. Sometimes awesome, sometimes shitty. There's always someone better off and someone worse off. Always. It's not worth pondering for too long. It is what it is. Many people find that an annoying expression, but I find it honest, and useful. It's a polite way of saying, "There are some things you can't change, so don't mindf*ck them to death. Just move on."

So, today I paid some bills, did some laundry, finished stamping and mailing all the Christmas cards. I went shopping and planned a nice dinner featuring one of my favorite entrees, "le poulet rotisserie de Costco." Everything sounds fancier in made-up French. Also, did you hear me? I sent all the Christmas cards. On December 6. Because I am awesome. And also because last week I could do nothing but watch endless reruns of Little House on the Prairie and address Christmas cards. But mostly because of the awesome part.

Yes, I'd say I'm feeling a little more like myself today.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Dichotomy

I have been a little extra-rattled since I decided to educate myself about the genetic analysis of the type of cancer we're dealing with here.

In a nutshell: if the tumor has both copies of Chromosome 3, it's pretty unlikely to metastasize. This means, with the exception of scans a couple of times a year, life pretty much proceeds as normal. If it has one copy (monosomy 13), it's got about a 66% chance of metastasizing. If it metastasizes, it will kill me. Not may. Will.

That's a pretty stark dichotomy we've got there. It's either really good news, or really bad news. And it's coming.

As an Orthodox Christian, my prayer is, of course, "Thy will be done." But look, God's no dummy. He knows what's in our hearts and minds. He knows how I want this to play out. Heck, you know how I want this to play out, and "all-knowing, all-seeing" isn't even on your resume, am I right?

Hence, the spiritual dilemma: I am trying to accept whatever my fate will be, trusting that it is God's will, that, even if painful or difficult, it will work out for the best. But my heart is screaming and raging: please, God, don't take me away from my family. I want to see my kids grow up, marry, have kids of their own. I want to hold my husband's hand as we grow old together. I'm not ready. I know, even in the worst case scenario, I would probably have a few years left. My heart says that's not enough (is it ever enough?). I don't want to make my kids, as young teenagers, watch me die. I don't want to break my husband's heart and leave him alone. I'm not afraid of where I'm going, but I can't help grieve for what I'd be leaving.

The news is coming. Today, tomorrow, in a week, in two weeks. It will be good, or it will be bad.

If it's bad, how do I make the most of the time I have left?

If it's good, how do I make the most of the time I've been given?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Little Good News

I went for my one-week follow-up appointment with Dr. M. today. I love Dr. M., in case I have not mentioned that. He's confident, competent, and compassionate, the sort of guy you feel you could trust with your life. Which is excellent, as that's exactly what I have to do.

The appointment went as well as it possibly could. The doctor says the eye is "healing beautifully," and he's also very pleased with my vision. I'm cleared to drive whenever I feel like it, and I'm cleared to return to my normal activities like housework at the end of the week in April, 2036.

We are still waiting on the genetic analysis of the tumor, which will tell us more about how aggressive it is, and thus how likely it is that it would show up somewhere else. That would be very, very bad. So, while rejoicing with me about today's good news, please continue to pray with me that the tumor is lazy and not terribly interested in making anything of itself. Perhaps its mother is calling it from some petri dish somewhere, comparing my tumor unfavorably to the cousin who graduated at the top of  his class and made all the medical journals. I'm hoping my tumor is too lazy to even pick up the phone, and lets its sniping mother fill its answering machine tape. Maybe my tumor is too baked to even care. I hope so.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Nicest Thing Anyone's Ever Done for Me

My neighbor Annie came over Friday morning and brought bagels and kept me company for an hour. She's really been incredible, especially considering she's only known me for a couple of months. She's brought meals, watched my kids, offered to drive me to appointments and clean my house. She's been there for me in a way I had no right to expect, but for which I'm incredibly grateful.

There are friends who are there for you.

And then there are friends who will go there for you. Wherever "there" happens to be. Even if it requires a two-day drive.

Annie noticed toward the end of our bagel date that I looked a little tired, and urged me to take a nap. So when she left, I dutifully trudged to the bedroom to relax. Deciding to check Facebook first, because it had been almost a whole hour, I sat down at the computer, when the doorbell rang. I figured that Annie had forgotten something, or that the Jehovah's witnesses were back. I peered out the window next to the door. The face looked familiar: not Annie, but definitely not a Jehovah's witness. I opened the door.

And there stood two of my friends from Michigan.

At first it was like when you're a little kid and you see your schoolteacher in the grocery store. You don't recognize them, because the context, to your little brain, is so totally wrong. But it was undeniable: there was Sharon, and there was Chris. And they were at my house.

My initial thought was that they had just spontaneously decided to road trip, which would have been cool enough. But it turns out that this was a carefully orchestrated caper, that my husband was in on it, and that it had been planned for weeks. Other friends, who had wanted to come but had other obligations, put together gift baskets filled with Michigan delicacies: Vernors ginger ale, BetterMade potato chips, Sanders fudge sauce, Tim Horton's coffee. Specially made t-shirts, candles, homemade cookies. A few mildly obscene items, because these are not the ladies from the church auxiliary.  Lots of wine. Rum and a pirate costume. A pie, with a vent hole in the shape of an eye. 

After ascertaining that they had not come to visit because my death was imminent, I relaxed and enjoyed the best surprise of my life. We didn't do much of anything special: ordered takeout, went to the farmers' market, played cards, made inappropriate comments every few minutes. Nobody gave me the double hand-clasp and stage-whispered that they knew I was going to be just fine, while looking like they were trying to decide internally what to wear to my funeral. I just had the best time all weekend.

When they left Sunday morning, they left quickly, so I didn't have time to get all teary-eyed. Having them around made me realize how much I had missed them these past 18 months. The only thing to do at this point is to make sure this tumor is eradicated and my vision is restored as fully as possible.

Then, I roadtrip.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Three of a Kind, One-Eyed Jacks are Wild


There was this little period of time after my diagnosis where I was, like, "Well, I don't feel all that bad. Maybe this isn't such a big deal."

Then all the nice medical people did the procedures to make me better, which made me feel worse. If I'd ever wondered what I would look like after I got into a fight down on the docks, now I know. When I came out of anaesthesia for the first procedure, the recovery nurse asked, "How do you feel?" And I said, "Like I've been eaten by a wolf and shit out over a cliff." It was then they began to realize that if nothing else, my personality was intact.

My doctor was lovely, not only performing the surgery just as he was supposed to, but bringing me a pecan pie for Thanksgiving (he thoughtfully asked my husband what he thought I'd prefer).

Then I was stuck inpatient for five days, with a "Caution, Radioactive Materials" sign on my door. The doctor encouraged me to get out and walk a little. So a couple of times I walked up and down my hall. Maybe fifty yards total. I couldn't really see the point, not that there was much of anything else to do. Reading with one eye was still too uncomfortable, and the TV was positioned up too high to watch comfortably.

The next day, I was awake early, and bored. So I rounded the first corner of the triangle-shaped unit. There I saw a man coming out of a door with the caution markings like mine had. Wearing an eye patch with a lead shield just like I had. "Hey, teammate," I said. His name was Jim and he was going for a walk, too. So I walked with him.

Turns out the day before he had determined that eighteen laps of the unit was a mile. So he did that. Twice. Did I mention he was fifteen or so years older than me? So while he walked, I kept walking with him. He told me about Tommy, the other guy, at the third corner of the unit, who'd also had the surgery.I guess they separated us to avoid having too much radiation all in the same area.

Not that it did much good; we found each other, anyway. The doctor may have saved my life, but Jim and Tommy saved what was left of my sanity.  Tommy's sweet wife Ann came by and introduced herself. She brought me coffee cake from Starbucks. The guys and I went for walks, menacing the unit with our radioactivity. Completely badass in our sweatpants and grippy hospital socks. I talked about forming a street gang, but there was really nobody to go up against except the Infectious Disease Posse. So we walked, and loitered in each others' doorways. When Jim's wife Sarah came up we posed for pictures.

We decided, when nobody won the Powerball while we were inpatient, that we would win the next one. I mean, could the morning shows ask for a more inspiring story? We decided we would have our spouses each go out and buy three tickets, and if any of us won, we would split it.  Heck, even if we threw our doctor ten million or so for research, we'd still have plenty left over for diamond-encrusted eye patches and seeing-eye models. Not that we plan to need them, mind. But they can at least carry drinks to us in our beach chairs if we don't need them to lead us around.

Unfortunately, I forgot to tell my beloved to ask for the cash option if our ticket is the winner, So I guess we'll all have to survive for another thirty years.

Works for me.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Speed Bump

Sorry I haven't written in the past week. I've had all kinds of awesome ideas for posts, but not the will to actually write them.

I am scheduled to arrive for my surgery, which is actually an outpatient procedure, at 7:00 tomorrow morning. I will have the radioactive patch removed the following Monday. In between, I am supposed to be inpatient at the hospital, for my safety and that of others. Hospital policy is not to let people with radioactive heads run willy-nilly amongst the populace.

Unfortunately, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama doesn't see it quite the same way. They will cover the surgeries. But they don't feel it's necessary to allow me access to medical support while I have a radioactive patch stitched to the back of my eyeball.

As the young folks say, FML.

The surgeon called to intervene with the BCBS medical director. No dice. The office manager said that she hasn't had inpatient stay for this procedure denied by any company for over two years--and that one was eventually resolved in the patient's favor. But for some reason, they decided to pick on me.

A very nice lady from preregistration called and said not to worry, that she knows how to handle this and will get it worked out once I am actually admitted. She said the office staff should have never even bothered me with it. But it worries me that it's hanging out there.

On the bright side, it's nice to have a husband who says, in effect, "I don't care what it costs, we're going to get you well." They say you can't put a price tag on love, but now I at least have kind of a ballpark of what he'd be willing to pay for me.

I am trying to keep in mind the saying of Elder Paisios: "When we believe in God and have trust in His fatherly providence and concern, then we do not think of ourselves; instead we know that God is aware of our needs and looks after our problems, from the simplest to the most serious one." Will try to keep that in mind again if I get a medical bill for more than I've ever made in a year. 

In the meantime, I'm choosing music for the EyeGotCancer playlist. So far, I've got something philosophical, something badass, and something inspirational. You like what I did with that last one? Anyhow, feel free to suggest more in the comments. 

I'll be offline for a week or so. I'll try to persuade my husband to update here. Like I haven't already caused him enough trouble.

Catch you on the flip side, my friends. Keep me in your prayers.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Life Worth Fighting For

Yesterday, one of my friends posted on her Facebook page a simple question: Is your life worth fighting for?

What a question.

Of course it is, most of us would say. And it is, in the sense that most of us would rather have our lives than not. But there's life--in the sense of being alive or dead--and there's YOUR life.

How hard would you really be willing to fight, not just for being alive, but for the life you have? If we have a life-threatening illness, we will do everything within our power, for as long as we can, to continue to be alive. At some point it doesn't work anymore. We're too sick, too broken, or in too much pain. But if the future is threatened, and we can, we fight.

But what if we were not just talking about the state of being alive? The life you've built, or allowed to accumulate around you in piles and drifts (see also: my laundry and mail)--how much of a fight is it worth?

One of my most and least favorite parables in the New Testament is the Parable of the Talents. You might have heard of it. Master gives his servants talents, or fairly large units of currency, to take care of while he's away. The first servant gets five talents. He invests it, and when the Master comes home, the servant puts ten talents into his hand and is rewarded with the famous phrase, "Well done, good and faithful servant."  The second servant had two talents, and likewise invested and doubled them. The third servant got one talent to manage, and, fearful of losing it and angering his Master, simply buried it. When the Master came home, the servant returned the talent to him, figuring, hey, at least I broke even.

And the Master is righteously pissed. "That all you got?" he thunders. I may be playing fast and loose with the translation at this point.

He doesn't just not give the unprofitable servant a raise. He doesn't give him two weeks notice. He orders him cast into the outer darkness, where there's wailing and gnashing of teeth and presumably no Internet access.

It's one of my least favorite parables, because guess which servant reminds me of me?

It's one of my most favorite because it fairly screams, and you may imagine Samuel L. Jackson's voice here if you wish, "WAKE THE F*** UP!"

We're all born with and acquire talents. Literal talents, not big gold coins. Life is for discovering those talents, using them, making our homes and our communities and our worlds better because we exercised that particular combination of gifts that is ours alone. By failing to do so, we're cheating ourselves and the Master. He knows what he gave us. He doesn't need us to give it back. He needs us to work it.

Too much of the time, I am not working it. For me, the big fear is what if I try to exercise my talent, and find out it's not nearly as much of a talent as I thought? Look at the other guys--the ones with more talents. Mine's not very impressive, not much to offer. What if it gets rejected or diminished? Also, I always figured I could work it later. Cancer is a rather unattractive reminder that "later" has a shelf life.

I would submit that if you're burying your talents, out of fear, or laziness, or bitterness, or selfishness, or whatever reason, that break-even is not enough. Break-even does not create a life worth fighting for. In your gut, you know it. So, start fighting. Start fighting for a reason to fight. Work it.

Later may be sooner than you think.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

One Week

So, it seems I have this tiny surgery coming up.

Two surgeries, actually: the one to put in the patch with the radioactive seeds, and the one to take it out. And the first surgery takes place one week from today. I will be going into Duke University Hospital next Wednesday, having Surgery #1, spending my weekend glowing, not from the excitement of the holiday season, but from radiation.. The following Monday they take out the patch and discharge me. On Tuesday I have my post-op appointment. And then I wait a few months to find out if it worked.

I feel very much like I'm on a roller coaster. I don't especially like roller coasters, but I have gone on them, under protest, when my companion was not tall enough to ride without an alleged adult. So I am familiar with the feeling of creaking slowly, up, up, up an incline, preparing in my mind for the precipitous drop, which turns out to be only a little one--so funny! And then just as my stomach is settling back into place, BAM! You round a corner and fall off the edge of the earth. Or so it seems to me. Everyone else is having a perfectly delightful time.

I don't know if anyone is going to have a delightful time on this roller coaster. The kids have known for a few weeks that I have "a growth" in my eye. I used the word "cancer" with them for the first time a few days ago. Their own eyes got big and frightened. I explained that the doctors feel really good about their ability to treat me. I reminded them of all the people we know who have had cancer and are doing fine; some of those had their treatment so long ago the kids didn't even know they'd had cancer. They settled down. Within minutes they stopped treating me like a precious china figurine and started asking when dinner was going to be ready.  I would like to keep them there, in the back of the roller coaster car, where they can take their cues about how to react from the riders in front of them.

In front of the car, of course, is me. I will not be able to act like this is fun, but I do have to disguise the rising panic and the distinct sensation that I'm going to throw up at any moment. I will try to convey the impression, as I do on real roller coasters, that this is no big deal. I hate those cameras they have on roller coasters that take a picture of your face when you're dropping, and then the monitors that post the picture at the exit so everyone can see that, despite what you say, you are SO not cool. I'm glad they don't have those things in hospitals. I hope.

One week. This thing is in motion and climbing, and it's too late to get off now. Buckle your seatbelts. Here we go.

Monday, November 12, 2012

I Am Apparently Not Very Good at Having Cancer

In the first few days after my diagnosis, I was doing remarkably, surprisingly well.

The obvious explanation for that was that I was in denial. But I wasn't. I had digested the information from the retina specialist. I knew that things could end badly, by which I mean I knew that I could die from this, although statistically speaking, it was more likely that I wouldn't. I was not bitter when I saw other people experiencing happy life events; in fact, I was comforted: there is still good in the world, and I can take joy in it.

But man, have I ever tanked lately. To put it simply, I have been depressed. Not the constantly-crying, feeling sad kind of depressed. The "Nothing Seems Terribly Interesting or Worth Doing" kind. I have managed the bare minimum of household chores. Enough laundry gets done that people don't need to turn their underwear inside out to get another day's use out of it. There is enough to eat, because I have gone to the grocery store. I even managed to produce a fairly nice dinner and cake for my husband's birthday. But the twice-weekly vacuuming has fallen by the wayside. Don't even ask about dusting. Things pile up on surfaces because I lack the energy to put them away or, more frequently, to instruct their owners to do so. I still give a damn, but not enough to do anything about it.

It is just after noon, and I am still in my bathrobe, because taking a shower seems like an awful lot of work. It takes a long time for the shower to heat up, and there's not a lot of water pressure. Meanwhile, I have to stand in a cold bathroom and marvel at just how dirty white grout can get in a short period of time. I had intended at one time to have the bathroom redone, but my tile budget is going to get eaten up by CT scans, and that ticks me off. I feel like a drain on the system.

And speaking of drains on the system: one of my son's few chores is unloading the dishwasher. Not reloading it, just unloading it. When I pointed out to him in the nicest possible way that the dishwasher has been ready for unloading since yesterday, and that my cleanup of the kitchen sort of hinges on my ability to put the more recently dirtied dishes in an empty dishwasher, he rolled his eyes at me. He rolled his eyes. When I inquired, in the nicest possible way, why he rolled his eyes, he responded that unloading the dishwasher "isn't very fun." Whereupon I unloaded upon him a litany of things in my life that "aren't very fun." I didn't use the word cancer, which we have not introduced into the discussion yet, but I came perilously close. I did use the phrase "washing your underwear."

I went downstairs and waited fifteen minutes for him to unload the dishwasher. When he failed to do so, I did it myself, as loudly and as passive-aggressively as possible. When my son and his sister timidly inquired as to the reason for the ruckus, I might have intimated that they would find themselves the subject of an episode of "Hoarders" by the end of my five-day hospital stay. Then I burst into tears. Perhaps I should ask if I can get some electroconvulsive therapy while I am cooling my heels inpatient. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Still fun and games, for now.

In other words, nobody around here is losing an eye, at least according to current plan.

So, we went up to Duke Eye Center yesterday. We were there from about 8:45 in the morning until about 6:45 at night. It was a long day, and people were shining bright lights in my eyes like they were expecting me to give up war secrets. But with the exception of one monolithic, lumbering orderly who expected me to follow him to the CT area without so much as a glance at me or a kind word, every single person I met was thoughtful, helpful, and gentle, even when they were doing something frightening.At one point a nice young doctor approached me with something she referred to as "a metal Q-Tip" and my handler nearly had to have me restrained in my chair.

My handler was Greg, BTW, and if ever a fella passed the sickness portion of the "in sickness and in health" exam with flying colors, it was he. Unfortunately, the test isn't over yet.

You would think, with all the poking and prodding and shining and flashing and testing that I would have been a bit testy at the end of the day, but I was feeling surprisingly calm and grateful. Dr. Mruthyunjaya, who is the boss of my eye, was incredible, even as tired and stressed as I was. He was direct and informative and managed to be compassionate at the same time. I seriously love him like I love Michelle Obama. Except Michelle tells me to exercise and she can't save my life. So maybe I love Dr. M. more.

He confirmed what Dr. S. had told us. It's a melanoma, though not the kind of melanoma you get on your skin. I didn't do anything to cause it. It's medium-sized. We will treat it aggressively, which means with a radioactive patch sewn behind my eye for five days. Yes. I am badass enough that I get an eye patch IN my eye. A nuclear one. Take THAT, sissy pirates.

The doctor is optimistic that this treatment will address the problem. He acknowledges that there is still some chance of metastasis, but he is optimistic that it won't occur. He didn't say what Dr. Google told me, that if this tumor does metastasize, I will die from this cancer. We are not going there right now. Right now I have a doctor who knows his sh*t, who is going to launch a full-scale nuclear attack on this tumor, which I have begun to refer to as "The Situation." It helps me somewhat to think of it as having a spray tan and a low IQ. It's going to be sitting there, waiting for someone to bring it a beer or some hair gel, and it's never going to know what hit it.

I would be lying if I said I wasn't scared. I'm very scared. Only an idiot wouldn't be scared. But I believe in God, and I believe in my doctor, and I believe that God moved me away from the Podunk, GA Regional Medical Center so I could be near this doctor. I'm in good hands, and right now I'm choosing to trust in that. A friend recently posted on Facebook something to the effect of, "Don't ask, 'Why was this done to me?' Ask, 'Why was this done FOR me?' When you do that, everything shifts." So I am trying to remember to ask the right questions, and to be quiet while I wait for further instructions.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


I recently got the nicest compliment from one of my dear internet friends on my great attitude. I mention that she's an internet friend not to suggest that she's any less of a "real" friend, but to point out that the only parts of me she sees are the ones I post online. I try to be honest in what I post; that is to say, I would never post anything, about myself or about anyone else, that I know to be untrue.

But let's face it: most of us don't post our WHOLE lives online.There are certain things we avoid posting, in order to avoid upsetting others, or to avoid making ourselves look bad. Given the choice between two pictures to use as our profile pic, we pick the more flattering one. So perhaps my friend, who was so impressed by my positive attitude, wasn't getting the whole picture.

The thing is, for about a week after my diagnosis, my attitude really was great. I knew I had cancer. I knew, give the type of cancer I have, that it could end badly. Yet I was okay. I wasn't bitter, recognizing that bad things happen to everyone at some time. I prayed to St. Paraskevi and St. Lucy for intercession. I felt that no matter what happens, even if this cancer kills me, that things would be okay. I reflected on the blessings: proximity to a world-class hospital, medical insurance, the fact that our move was completed by the time I found all this out. I felt really, really good.

And then I didn't.

One day, in the midst of reading a note from a friend, my great attitude deflated like a souffle. Who knows why. It wasn't that the note said anything particularly upsetting or offensive, or in fact, terribly different from other notes I had received. But my visceral response to one line of it was, "Well, fuck you." Which wasn't fair, because I had been thinking the exact same thoughts to myself minutes before I opened the note, but when someone else admonished me so...not interested. (Kind of like when I look in the laundry room and think, "I have GOT to deal with that mess," but when my husband suggests, as politely as possible, that I think about getting to the laundry room, I get my back up and suddenly remember several pressing episodes of "Designing Women" that need watching while I eat a bag of cheese curls.)

So anyhow. My lovely attitude evaporated, and I was left with horrible, mean little me. Several of the less attractive stages of grief descended on me at once, pummeling me with their tiny, scaly fists. Anger, and Depression, and even Bargaining, during which I suggested to God several people whom he might more profitably afflict with eye tumors. I won't pretend Ann Coulter's name didn't come up.

I took to my couch with a bag of Halloween candy and a blanket and watched TV for the rest of the afternoon, which was restorative. I prayed a little, though not especially coherently.

My attitude is better now. No longer fabulously serene, but not angry or sad, either. Just waiting for my appointment on Tuesday, waiting to figure out what's next. And then to go and do it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What Not to Say to Eye Tumor Girl

But first, an announcement: my appointment with the oncologist is next Tuesday morning at 9:15. Prayers appreciated, as always.

Preparatory to this appointment, I had to have some blood work done, as well as a chest x-ray. The good news is that both were normal. The woman who registered me for the chest x-ray was very nice. You could just tell she had a good heart. I also wanted to kill her. 

Probably most of you are not in the habit of registering patients with ocular melanoma for chest x-rays. But if you happen to find yourself in that field, here are a few things you might want to remember not to say.

1. "I hope this doesn't offend you, but I know a great doctor. His name is Jesus."  This one came almost right out of the gate. Now, as it happens, it doesn't offend me personally. I'm an Orthodox Christian, my belief is pretty absolute. However...she had no way of knowing that. I could have been Jewish or Muslim. I'm pretty Semitic-looking, and either of those would be quite plausible. In that case, I would have been pretty offended. I could have been atheist or agnostic. I could have been a Christian who was nonetheless struggling with a recent, very upsetting diagnosis, and pretty angry with God, Jesus, whoever I felt allowed this to happen.

Here's a useful tip: If you ever find yourself tempted to preface a statement with, "I hope this doesn't offend you, " know that there's a good chance that what you're about to say could offend your hearer.. And then don't say it.

2. "You have such beautiful eyes. My kids always tell me I have beady eyes." Um, ma'am? I KNOW you read that sheet in your hand that states clearly that I have a tumor in my eye. I would rather have a couple of beady, healthy eyes than a beautiful pair that has cancer in one of them. So, um, please stop talking now. Please. Stop. Talking.

3. "Oh, you're a divorce lawyer? Let me spend the next ten minutes while you're captive at my window seeking free legal advice from you." This wasn't as bad as the time I had lost a few units of blood following a second-trimester miscarriage, and the nurse wheeling me to my room on a gurney kept pumping me for advice on her daughter's custody case while I was too weak to even lift my head. I mean, this time I was at least physically capable of walking away. But still. I was vulnerable. I was in need of a medical test that I couldn't get until this woman finished processing my paperwork. It was taking advantage. And even if it wasn't? I was a little too preoccupied with my medical situation to worry about a complete stranger's legal situation. Again, stop with the talking.

At the end of all this, this dear woman gave me her e-mail address and asked me to keep in touch. Because I think she really did, in her own way, care what happened to me. But there's a part of me that wants to e-mail her this blog post.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

I got cancer...and all you got was this lousy blog.

You know you're in trouble when the eye doctor pulls out the big 3-D multi-part model of the eye to show you what the problem is.

I just didn't know how much trouble.

To begin at the beginning, or at least further back: I'd been having some funky little eye problems for months. Not that funky, and little enough that even a hypochondriac like me could ignore them. A few years ago, I had a couple of episodes of migraine aura, as diagnosed by my ophthalmologist. These symptoms were similar, and although they were more frequent, they seemed much milder. So I concluded they were as harmless as the doctor had assured me the migraine aura was, and ignored them. Plus, I was a little busy. After four months off of work, my husband had gotten a new job out of state, and I was consumed with getting our house sold and getting ready for the move.

Within days after we settled into our house, though, the eye symptoms I was having got even more frequent, and lasted longer. They were more intrusive. I found myself an ophthalmologist online and made an appointment. Out of fear or denial or ignorance, I didn't mention the problems--just asked for a routine appointment.

The doctor, Dr. P., was young, and seemed smart, but also new enough to practice that she could focus on either clinical details, or bedside manner, but not both at once. She picked clinical details. She told me it looked like I had a detached retina in my right eye. She made an appointment for me with Dr. S., a retina specialist a few miles away. For, like, immediately. You take a moment and thank God right now that you weren't on the road at the same time and place as a panicked hypochondriac with fully dilated pupils and an allegedly detached retina. Those things make it hard to see things like, say, signs that say, "Do Not Enter."

Anyhow, my eyes and I made it to the retina doctor. He was young, too, but him I liked. He told me that there are all kinds of "typical" abnormalities in the retina that can look like detachments, but which are really harmless. He was pretty sure that was what we were dealing with.

The good news was that Dr. P. was wrong.  The bad news was that Dr. S. was, too.

Did you know that you can get melanoma on your retina? Neither did I. But apparently you can, and apparently I did. I mean, I don't even know how you're supposed to get sunscreen in there. But whatever. That ship has sailed. I have cancer in my eye.

The good news: I now live near a major university medical center with an eye center. My husband is employed, as he wasn't for four months. We're together again, as we weren't for six weeks. We have insurance. And Dr. S. thinks that there's a "reasonably good" chance of preserving the vision in that eye. He thinks we caught it in time.

The treatment regimen is going to involve me being hospitalized for about five days. A radioactive seed (I know!) will be placed behind my eye, then removed. After that, I'm not sure.

I haven't Googled "ocular melanoma" because I don't want to see anything that's going to freak me out. Dr. S. was "99.9% sure" that's what this is. I'm going to wait and talk to the ocular oncologist, as soon as he gets me an appointment, and base my freaking out on information that pertains specifically to me. I'll let you know when I get that.

Them as prays, please commence to praying. We've got a little fight ahead of us.