Eye Cancer Check-Up: Take Two

signMy alarm clock rang at 4:30 AM, pulling me out of a pill induced sleep. It was still dark outside and the narcotic was pushing my eyelids closed. I flung the covers off me, knowing my carefully scheduled morning routine didn’t allow for any snoozing.

It was the day of my eye cancer check up in New York City. Four months passed from the last time I went there when I got the all clear. As the days rolled by, the anxious thoughts about the cancer returning grew steadily. And magnified. And multiplied. And mutated into a monster that didn’t let me sleep for several days before my trip.

The night before the trip I had to use my leftover mastectomy pain pills to fall asleep. The other cancer pills. At least it was good for something, I thought.

I stood in the kitchen and only turned on the stove light. I drank my warm water and lemon juice, took my morning supplements and gently woke up my dog. We went outside in total silence, accompanied by only a few bird chirps. I counted the hours till I would know. In nine hours, I thought, I would know.

I left the house on the 6:45 AM metro shuttle and stood on the platform with the fresh business clad crowd. Was anybody besides me possibly going to get life altering news that day?

As the Union Station neared, my stomach started cramping. I forced myself to breathe deeply because all these videos and books said it helped. It didn’t do a damn thing for me. My heart inevitably beat faster.

I stepped off the escalator and walked through the glass station doors, my eyes searching for the departure displays. I could tell from afar that something wasn’t right. I saw yellow blocks on the far right side of all the screens.

As I got closer, I saw the words “Cancelled” displayed by every single train going up north. I reeled. This could not have been right. I wasn’t prepared for that. I thought I imagined every possible outcome for that day but not even being able to go to New York?

I rushed to the Acela Express counter and asked the question I already knew the answer to:

“So, are all the trains cancelled?”

The Asian middle aged lady behind the counter couldn’t care less.

“Yeah, everything cancelled.” She didn’t even look at me.

I stood there for a second and then pressed her:

“Well, do you know why?”

“Uhmm…something about the tracks…” She mumbled. “Do you want a refund?” And she yanked my ticket out of my hand.

“No, I don’t want a refund yet.” I started feeling my anger bubble in my stomach. I snapped the ticket back out of her hand and she raised her eyebrows.

“Do you know approximately when the issue may be fixed?” I asked.

“No, we don’t know anything.” And she turned sideways in order to continue her conversation with another unconcerned clerk.

I fought an irresistible urge to jump on the counter and put a fist in her impassive face. Did she not realize I was supposed to find out today if my eye is OK or if it needs to be taken out?

I walked away, tugging my phone out of my carefully packed bag for the day. I leaned on one of the columns right in front of three policemen with a dog and texted my husband and two friends through my tear filled eyes. I needed someone to be sympathetic. Someone to understand.

I rode the subway back, feeling hollow. I managed to call the doctor’s office and leave a message with the answering service that I wouldn’t make it that day.

I got back home around 9AM and began the long process of re-scheduling my appointment and train ticket. I was going to have to wait two more days. I sat at my desk, uncomprehending the fact that instead of now knowing in five hours, I wouldn’t know until two days and five hours from that point.

I sat down in the living room, on the floor, and cried for at least half an hour. I felt completely mentally exhausted and I hadn’t even gone anywhere yet. Through the rest of the day, I marked the hours and had another crying meltdown around 2PM because that was the time when I was supposed to know.

Thursday morning arrived and once again I got up, took my dog out and headed for the Union Station. I felt like a puppet, my legs being jerkily lifted up and down, my arms swinging by my side. The Amtrak ride was uneventful except for my stomach tightening with every mile that put me closer to NYC. As we whizzed through Secaucus, I knew I had less than 15 minutes till the city would swallow me and spit me out in front of the doctor’s office.

Dr. F’s office was packed with people and I got the last seat available. I was by far the youngest, as always. When Dr. C. called me in, I got up and dropped my bag. I hoped no one could see how much my hands shook. I sat down in the chair, the doctor looked at my eye and then started taking close up photos.

“Look up to the left.” She instructed.


“Look down to the left.”


“Look all the way down.”


“OK, straighten up.” She released me and turned to the right to look at my eyeball pictures on the big TV screen on the wall.

“OK, come back again and look up to the left again.”


She looked at the monitor.

“OK, I am going to take one more. Up to the left please.”


My insides went cold. Something was wrong. Something must have been wrong. She never asked to take the same picture that many times. It was also the area where the original bigger tumor resided.

I tried to control my body as it started trembling.

She dripped dilating drops in my eyes and sent me to the waiting room, saying Dr. F. would call me next..

“OK.” I croaked my throat completely dry and squeezed shut.

I sat in the waiting room, the world becoming blurrier and blurrier. Strangely, my stomach pain subsided. I felt heavy and given up. So this was going to be it. There was no other cure for another re-occurrence besides taking the eye out.

I listened to the hum of the office and hated the receptionist girl who bounced around in her expensive Anthroplogie style short dress and high pony tail. I could tell by her voice that it was the same one who dismissed me on the phone two days earlier and almost didn’t give me that day’s appointment. Did she realize she was dealing with people who may be losing their sight?

Dr. F. called me in. This time I didn’t drop anything. I felt like Anne Boleyn, marching to her execution.

Prepared. For days. Prepared.

Dr. F. looked at my eye with all his apparatuses and then turned to the TV screen. Here we go, I thought. I held my breath.

“Well, it looks pretty good…there is…blood vessel…” He mumbled.

“I am sorry…what did you say?” I leaned forward in my chair.

“Oh…well, there is this bundle of blood vessels but they were there before. Besides, radiation damages them…so it’s good.”

It was good? I sat there, seeing the blurry outlines of his face.

“I am good?” I asked, my voice shaky.

“Yeah, and your ultrasound is good too.” He referred to the eye water boarding that Dr. C. performed about half an hour prior by inserting a plastic cup in my eye while I was laying down, pouring water in it and then sweeping the ultrasound wand over the water surface.

“So…” Dr. F. paused. “I’ll see you in four months?”

“Yeah…” I said. “Four months.”

I walked out, my legs wooden, my head spinning. I just got four more months with my eye.

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