Why is my iris partially missing?
I'll tell. Because my partner looks into people's eyes, she noticed that the fleck in my iris was getting bigger. One Doctor passed it off as just a freckle, yet it was rapidly growing. Fortunately, before long, the fleck in my iris was correctly diagnosed as melanoma.
If not for removing "that thing"- this is how my surgeon and I refer to the melanoma; I would have departed this earth years ago. Though I was lucky and the result was encouraging, my surgery in 2001 left me with a disabled eye in many respects.
Since that time, I have lived with a vastly oversized pupil that doesn't function normally. Pupils typically contract with the incoming light. My left pupil does not. It's permanently dilated at magnitude due to the excision of the melanoma, causing glare to be a permanent problem. To lessen the severity of this problem, I wear heavily tinted, wraparound sunglasses at all times when outside, even indoors, if conditions warrant it. For instance, I have to sit with my back to the windows at restaurants, which can sometimes be tricky to negotiate.
In conjunction with sunglasses, I often need a round brimmed hat, too, for extra protection from sunlight, all of which isn't very comfortable after a while. Unfortunately, this occurs more often indoors than I would like. It'd be a welcomed change if window blinds could be closed wherever I go, I wouldn't need to wear the paraphernalia then, but that isn't practical for others.
Sometimes people forget about this surgical event in my younger life and wonder why the headgear is necessary for nearly every environment. Few have even assumed that my eye should have returned to normal because my operation was long ago. Partially amputated irises and beyond – it was an Iridoscycletomy that I had - don't reconnect or regrow after any measure of time. Gosh, if only my Ocular Oncologist could work that type of magic. He is a magician, after all. Though my surgeon is a magician and a physician, he doesn't possess such powers, as sharp-witted and thorough as he is.
My early aversion to covering up may be why I developed melanoma in the first place. I swam every day in summer during my formative years for pleasure, but I also liked being heavily tanned. Sun protection wasn't a part of my life then; Reef oil was because I thought I was indestructible.
While I appreciate when people remember my permanent wrestle with the glare, I admit I have a unique problem there - a small price to pay for life. As for people forgetting the events of others' lives, we can all do that, and people aren't looking through my eyes.
I continue six-monthly consultations with my ophthalmologist for two reasons: to ensure the melanoma hasn't returned and to enjoy the rapport we've developed over the past nineteen years.
Despite the good news concerning my eye, I still experience a healthy hint of trepidation when my scheduled appointments arise. This morning is no different.
Now that my Doctor's sidekick has checked my vision and eye pressure, I remain seated in the exam chair, legs dangling, waiting for my surgeon. As Dr is light on his feet, I never hear him approaching the room. He glides swiftly in and out of rooms in a flash.
I patiently look around the room at the ophthalmology equipment. I always do. This space is familiar to me, and every device has its place. The large microscopic slit lamp dominates the area in front of me. On the cream coloured desk to my right is the Binocular Ophthalmoscope, which is quite a contraption. It's a type of headset with a piercing bright light at its fore. We use it once a year for transillumination of my eye, but not today.
The row of lenses positioned in their open cases draws my attention. I like the inner fabric of velvety red that the lenses rest. As I drag my eye away from them, past Dr's gold pen, my patient file lays open, which is almost upside down from my angle. On the white-lined, A4-sized paper of recorded dates and notes is a get-well card. I lean forward slightly and see that the card is inside clear plastic and fastened to the centre of the folder. The pair of red boxing gloves on the front of the card takes me back to how long I'd spent in my local Newsagency choosing just the right card for my "Favourite Doctor" when he underwent heart surgery.
"Hello, favourite patient," my surgeon said energetically, blinking and smiling broadly.
"Hello," I said in a relieved and measured tone, mirroring his grin.
Dr closed the door behind him and sat on his stool with perfect posture.
"I didn't keep all of the cards I received. This one's special. You're a friend," His warm expression acknowledges he knows I have something to declare.
"That's lovely…. you know, this may sound odd, but when I was waiting in reception last time, I instantly knew you weren't here,"
Dr repositioned my file slightly as he listened closely.
"I'd hoped you were dealing with something minor, anything other than what it was. And I remember you telling me about your Dad. How do you feel now?"
"Never better," Dr blinked. With his usual rapid speech, he is keen to reassure me.
"I thought I was losing some fitness. I was getting a bit short of breath, and so I thought, I'll swim even more than I already do".
He paused briefly, moving the position of my file once again. "My cardiologist didn't like what he saw."
After inserting drops into my eye and handing me a tissue, Dr described his medical procedure in a confident voice. He continued explaining while gradually moving his stool toward the slit lamp. I try and take in his every word as I automatically move to the edge of the exam chair. With my chin on the chin rest and my forehead against the forehead band, Dr checked my right eye momentarily before focusing on my left eye.
"Look straight ahead,"
I hear Dr skillfully rotating various controls that are part of the microscope.
"Looking up now------- looking down------- looking here now,"
Dr raised his index finger to his left ear, inspecting my eye with the utmost care.
The wheels keep rotating. I wait with bated breath at this stage.
"There's nothing there. You can sit back." A sigh of gratitude escaped from my mouth.
I remain quiet as Dr rolled back to my file to write a note.
Before my next thought, Dr planted his pen on the desk and looked at me enthusiastically.
"When you get to my age, you start collecting doctors. I've got three specialists." Dr spoke in an upbeat tone. And for a moment, I think about how time waits for no one. Dr closed my file.
I'm about to get to my feet. My surgeon beats me to it, springing to his and stepping directly in front of me.
"Now, something's about to happen. You're about to see some magic."
"This is a surprise," I remain seated, looking up at him.
"I like to practice on special patients,"
Dr psyched himself up to perform a trick.
I'm happy to see that Dr's in fine form here, too, as he retrieved coins from under his arms and from behind his ears. Where magic is concerned, I know he's made many a sick kid grin at Children's Hospitals, but this is the first time I've seen my surgeon in action.
"I'm privileged. That's some impressive trickery."
Dr's face beamed with glee as I dropped from the exam chair. I grabbed my handbag sitting on a nearby seat. He still has my undivided attention as I throw it over my left shoulder. Dr opened the door, and the cheerful farewell between us played out once again.
We gradually head to the reception. Dr walked backward down the hallway to face me and doesn't stop engaging with me until I'm at the front counter. Dr stands graciously beside the counter, swiftly moving files to the just-so position. He takes one step backward,
"Thank you," he said, smiling, blinking, and all the while connecting directly with me.
"Thank you." I haven't yet acknowledged the receptionist in my periphery, yet I know she'll be making my next appointment.
Amid Dr's second step backward, he let out another "Thank you" in a tone suggestive of how nice it was to see me.
"Take care of yourself, and I'll see you next time," I said brightly while taking my reminder card from the receptionist.
"See you then," Dr stepped back for a third time before making an about-face and set off up the hallway so smoothly his grey hair seemed like it was floating.
How many times can I leave this place on a high? I never get used to it. I think so highly of the man that saved my life.