An attitude

her point of view, by Martin Fisch on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons

I visited Dr H., the glaucoma specialist, today. My eye which formerly had high pressure is doing great with the three different drops I have to use, and hasn’t turned “beet red,” which is what happens to some people. But neither is my need for drops going away. It seems I have well and truly developed glaucoma from the extended use of prednisone eye drops to control the iritis my cancer drugs gave me. My other eye, into which I’ve been instilling prednisone drops for a few months due to more inflammation there, now has high pressure. There is no getting out of this loop, it seems.

I said to the doctor with some bitterness that I’d try to cultivate “an attitude of gratitude” (some might say I’m 50% of the way there). He agreed, without sarcasm. I didn’t ask to develop glaucoma, just like I didn’t ask to have cancer. Now I don’t have cancer, but I will apparently have glaucoma for, like, ever. It is cancer’s little calling card.

I came home and had lunch with Young A and J. Young A listened and chewed thoughtfully while I complained. Then he said, “It’s probably not true that you will have to use eye drops forever. Science might find new ways to deal with this.” It was such a thoughtful and reasonable thing to hear from the mouth of a ten year old. He’s right. Just as I’ve been a pioneer in a new type of cancer treatment, and somehow excelled in my response to it, so might I also have the chance to benefit from new ways of treating this eye condition. It wasn’t that hard of an adjustment to make to my mindset, and I’m grateful my kid helped me get there.

Besides, glaucoma is so much more relatable than what I’ve been through so far. I’ve already been in touch with one friend who has it. It is a condition people have heard of, and the treatment thereof doesn’t require nearly as much explanation as my cancer treatment did.

But it does appear that I’ll need to keep my prescription drug haggling skills finely honed. Forever (or as long as that lasts). I guess that speaks to the small part of me (possibly forged in the time I spent living in Italy) that needs a little bit of daily struggle in order to feel 100% alive, the part of me that needs to triumph against adversity in even the smallest way.

Thanksgiving is coming. Our turkey has been secured, we are planning Zooms with family, and when I think back to the bad old days of fasting three hours twice a day in order to take my cancer meds, having to put in some eye drops a couple times a day really is something to be grateful for. That, and I’m picking up my new glasses next week.

Four eyes.

Another milestone

Five in a row, by Thomas Cizauskas on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons

Five years ago today was my last ride in the gamma knife machine. Since that last surgery. It was one that I like to call a “touch-up,” because unlike my first gamma knife surgery, which was to treat nine lesions in my brain, the second one was in response to a single spot of concern on my MRI.

I remember how tormented my neurosurgeon, Dr. K, seemed at the time. An MRI can only tell you there is bleeding, without giving a sense of what might be behind the bleeding. Metastatic melanoma tumors bleed a lot. They bleed when they form, but they also bleed when they are dying out. Dr. K consulted with many colleagues about my case, and all of them recommended that he cut. Gamma knife being his specialty, however, he wanted to give it another try.

“Another try” has given me, so far, five years. At the time of my last gamma knife surgery, Young J was eight and Young A was five. Dr. K could have been wrong, and I might have missed out on all that has happened in their lives since then: all the major milestones in their lives, but all the minutiae too, like buying them new socks. Like their obsession with sushi (we are making it for dinner tonight. Again.). Like hearing their voices imperceptibly, gradually, lowering to the timbre of adulthood.

I know. I have lucked out so far. I know it could be Otherwise. I try not to dwell too much on these milestones because there are so many of them, and they threaten to overwhelm the emotional buffers. But right now, before I set up the table for our sushi-making and before our evening goes the way evenings go in 2020, I’ll see whether I can write a quick note to Nurse Practitioner A., who works with Dr. K (or at least did in 2015), to make sure they know that thanks to the call he made five years ago, I am still here.