Regular readers have surely noticed my lack of engagement with this blog for the last few weeks, and I think I’m finally ready to tell the back-story of October, which was probably the longest month of my life.
Sometime during the first week of the month, I noticed that the field of vision in my right eye was diminished ever so slightly. This is the same eye that turned swollen, red and angry on two separate occasions in 2006, and was diagnosed both times (by two different doctors) as an “allergic reaction”. Now I thought it kind of strange that an allergic reaction would affect a single eye (not to mention the same eye both times), but it responded to the meds they prescribed, so I really had no reason to question it any further.
This time the doctor at the emergency eye clinic thought my retina was detaching, which surprised me because I always associated retinal detachment with a traumatic head injury of some kind. As it was Sunday afternoon, he set up an appointment for me to come back early the next morning to be seen by another opthamologist. As I left the clinic, I thought, “Gee, my right eye REALLY hates me.”
The next day I found out just how much when the opthamologist calmly and matter-of-factly said, “It looks like you’ve got a tumor.”
“Tumor” is word that no one ever wants to hear…and had I not been sitting down at the time she said it, I’m sure my knees would have buckled underneath me. She asked if I could stay for some additional tests, which of course I could. After a set of eye x-rays with contrast and an ultra-sound, I was turned loose with an appointment to return on Wednesday for the formal diagnosis.
Then I got to go home and tell Dr. Darling.
“Well, Honey, the good news is, my retina isn’t detaching!”
The look on her face when I told her what the doctor suspected marked the second time in less than 8 hours that my knees wanted to buckle.
The diagnosis we had to wait almost 48 agonizing hours for could go one of three ways, in this preferred order: 1) it was a benign tumor, 2) it was a malignant tumor isolated to the eye, 3) it was a malignant tumor that was secondary to an undiagnosed cancer located somewhere else in my body.
I was SO terrified of option #3 that I was practically giddy with relief after learning the diagnosis was option #2, a malignancy called Choroidal Melanoma. Dr. Darling, who accompanied me to the appointment, actually asked me, “How can you be so happy when you’ve just been told you have cancer?” (And she accuses me of exaggerating?)
It turns out that Choroidal Melanoma is fairly rare…the eye clinic here in Sweden’s third largest city only see an average of three cases per year…so my doctor sent my records up to an ocular oncologist in Stockholm for confirmation and treatment options. She also told me that she felt the tumor was too large to be successfully radiated, which I suspect was her way of preparing me for the possibility that I might lose the eye completely. The earliest appointment I could get in Stockholm was October 31. Just the way I’ve always dreamed of spending Halloween!
In the meantime, I got to experience a chest x-ray and a liver scan (ultrasound with contrast), since those are the locations where Choroidal Melanoma is most likely to spread. Both came back clear, thank God. Now all I need is to receive similar results over the next 5 years.
When Dr. Darling and I finally met with the specialists in Stockholm, we were both expecting them to recommend a course of action. Instead, they gave me two options…both of which sucked. The first was radiation, which they felt had a 50% chance of being successful…and their definition of successful did not involve saving my vision. Radiation could also result in other complications due to the size of the tumor. The second was an enucleation, or complete removal of the eye.
I took 36 hours to think about it, but I really didn’t need that long. I see no point in hanging on to an eye that doesn’t see, especially if it could cause other health issues for me down the road. So now I’m waiting for a surgery date, shopping for shatter-proof sports glasses (to protect my left eye) and investigating whether or not I can get my prosthetic eye in a colour other than dark brown.
Wish me luck.