Terminator Eye: The Day After
I woke up on Saturday, July 7, the day after my eye cancer tumor removal surgery and my first thought was: The Eye. Can I still see from it? I tried to open it a little bit and felt sharp pain slice through. I also felt another wave of nausea. I sat up in the bed. My head throbbed. I tried opening my eyes again. The good eye opened half way and the room spun around me. Was I going to throw up again? I took a couple deep breaths and swung my legs out of the bed. I needed to look at my eye. Now. I needed to see what it looked like.
When we discussed the surgery, only four days earlier, Dr. F. showed me on his computer screen how much conjuctiva he was going to cut out from my eye on each side of the iris. To my horror, it looked like he was cutting out all of the visible surface. He said he was then going to stretch out the rest of the tissue over the eye and sew it together.
I felt my way through the apartment into the bathroom. Reflexively I turned on the light. It hit my eyes like a sun flare. I slapped it back off. Instead I cracked the blinds open just a little bit. I turned to the mirror and took a deep breath. I tried to open the bad eye again. My eyelashes were stuck together. I turned on the water and gently rubbed the eyelashes between my fingers until the top ones separated from the bottom ones. Every move of every eyelash felt like a knife slicing through my eye. I turned to the mirror again. I slowly opened the eye. I was only able to do it about half way. I saw the black pupil and the blue iris around. That was familiar. That looked the same. The rest of the eye was blood red. Deep, rich, ketchup red. I leaned in closer and actually saw about 2 mm edges on the side of my iris. It literally looked like chunks of the white of my eye were cut. How is this EVER going to look normal again? I wondered.
I returned to the bedroom. I felt like I needed to throw up, my head was spinning and I had a huge headache. I knew I wasn’t allowed sneezing, coughing, or straining of any kind so that the delicate stitches in my eye don’t rip. What if I throw up? I panicked. I already threw up once yesterday, what if that already ripped some stitches? My heart started beating faster and I started to sweat. It was hot in the bedroom, our AC barely keeping up with the July heat. I felt my chest tightening and my breath sped up. The panic held me in its claws and I tried to fight it, sitting at the edge of the bed, my eyes closed, nausea spreading to every crevice of my body.
For the rest of the day, I laid in the bed, on top of the sheets with my arms and legs spread out to keep cooler. My husband dripped the drops in my eye as directed and I took pills for pain. Dr. F. called me once to ask how I was doing. I told him about the nausea and he stated that the pain pills were probably contributing to that. Great, I thought, so now I couldn’t take those either.
By Sunday evening, it felt like I spent two days in purgatory. I had not eaten anything and only drank some water here and there. By then, I could not tell if I was nauseous from the surgery or from the lack of food. I shuffled in the kitchen, my eyes closed because any amount of light bothered me. My husband was cooking something and I walked over to the light switch and turned the light off.
“What are you doing?! I can’t see shit now!” He reproached me.
“It hurts!” I squealed back. “The light really hurts and I can’t stay in that bedroom anymore. I feel like shit.” I tried to crack open my good eye with what I hoped was a pleading look.
I must have looked pitiful enough because instead of turning the kitchen light back on, he just cracked the back door open a little so he could see. That night I ate a little bit of rice and chicken, and sipped some water and cranberry juice. The nausea was still there but I realized I would have to live with it until it decided to go away. What I dreaded more was the fact that my husband had to go back to work the following day and I was going to be left alone to do everything including dripping my drops in and taking care of our German Shepherd.