The Diagnosis: Say Cheese With Your Eyeball, Please
I heard my name being called and a tall willowy female doctor waved at me to follow her. She had shorter straight brown hair cut in a tight page boy. I sat in a chair with all kinds of apparatuses attached to it and folded my hands in my lap. The doctor turned to me and said in Russian:
“Do you speak Russian?”
“No, I am Czech.” I replied in English. I knew some Russian from a long time ago but this was hardly the situation I wanted to start practicing it again.
The doctor apologized in English and set about my exam. I positioned my chin in a divot of the machine and rested my forehead against a plastic strap. The doctor sat opposite of me and peered in my eyes shining a light so bright I was sure she could see my brain through there. I felt I couldn’t breathe normally because her face was so close to mine. Did my breath smell? I did brush my teeth that morning. I should have eaten a Tic Tac before I came in here. I snapped out of my breath worries when the doctor switched the light to a nice blue hue. After endless series of commands to look left, right, up and down, she finally told me to straighten up. I tried to read her poker face for any signs of the seriousness of my eye blob. No luck. Maybe she used to work for the KGB. I was sent back to the waiting room, but not before she dripped eye dilating drops in both of my eyes.
As I sat in the waiting room, everybody started to be pleasantly blurry. I did not have to watch the other patients in misery during various post operative stages. However, I also started being really bored. I tried to text my boyfriend, only guessing where the correct keys were. Why didn’t I ever learn to type without looking?
I was called back in to a different exam room. This time, after I settled my head, the doctor positioned another huge arm of the chair apparatus in front of my face. It was a camera to take pictures. The objective was probably less than an inch from my eyeball. Each picture was taken with a flash. When I thought I was for sure blinded for life, the doctor said she would have to take a picture of the underside of my eyelid. She took a Q-tip, laid it on top of my eyelid just behind my lashes and literally flipped my eyelid inside out. I swallowed trying to stop my gag reflex. Blinking my eye afterwards to flip the eyelid back to the original position gave me another wave of nausea. I was sent back in the waiting room.
By now, my eye turned red and watery. I sat and fidgeted and squirmed and wiggled in my seat for what felt like hours. Endless minutes of waiting with no distraction whatsoever, my brain filled with images of me walking down the street with a white cane because I wouldn’t be able to afford a service dog. The air conditioner was making the hairs on my arms stand up.
I was called in the exam room again. This time they were going to do an eye ultrasound. Let me just sum this procedure up with two words: Eye waterboarding. I laid down in the chair and the doctor inserted a plastic cup inside my eye. Yes, inside my eye, around the perimeter of it. Then she poured water in it. I could see the water coming and falling in my eye but I could not blink. I instinctively squirmed and swallowed which moved my face enough to lose some of the water from around the cup edges. More water had to be poured in. Imagine sticking your face under a faucet. Then open your eyes into the water stream. That’s what it felt like. The doctor then proceeded to move the ultrasound wand over the water surface. I felt like a bug pinned down with a needle to a page in an atlas. When it was over and the cup removed and water soaked up with several tissues, I was again sent to the waiting room exile.
At this point I had been at this doctor’s office for almost 4 hours. I had not eaten anything that morning besides a cup of coffee. Add the two hours of traveling to the doctor and my stomach was letting me know I had neglected it. My head started to pound. I couldn’t tell if it was dehydration or panic.
Dr. F. finally called me in. By now, I figured out that he was the main doctor, the bearer of THE news. I sat down in his office and saw the images of my blobby eyeball on a huge TV screen mounted on the wall. My eye looked even worse in the close-ups than in the mirror. It looked worse than when you look at yourself drunk at 3 in the morning in a club bathroom with fluorescent lights. Dr. F. swiveled around in his chair. He was tall, probably 6’3 and had large dark brown eyes that somehow always looked sad.
“Well, Eva, this is a tumor”, he said, as he pointed his computer mouse to the blob in my TV screen eye, “and it needs to come out.” He paused. “And there is another one there.” He pointed with the cursor to the other side of my iris. I didn’t see anything but a faint red line. “It needs to come out too.”
I had not one, but two tumors in my eye. I forgot to blink and breathe for a few seconds.
“It’s probably melanoma.” He continued and explained that the tumors were in the conjunctiva, creeping up on the cornea and that they already had blood vessels in them. However, the ultrasound showed they most likely did not invade the eye. Yet. He said I needed surgery. He would first freeze the eye and then cut both tumors out together with a considerable amount of the conjunctiva. Then he would stretch the remaining conjunctiva over the eye and sew it together. Somewhere during this vivid description I started feeling that stabbing sensation in the stomach. That same feeling you get when you get pulled over. That same feeling you get when you take a really important test. I looked at Dr. F. and his sad eyes and asked with a shaky voice how much something like that would cost. He looked away and said I would have to discuss that with his office manager. I asked about the prospects of my vision after this. He said I should have exactly the same vision as now. I was sent to the waiting room again and waited for the office manager to call me back in.