My optometrist is one of my favorite humans on the planet. How many people can say that? A lot of people don’t even have an optometrist. To anyone who has ever helped with my eye health, from my radiation technologist to my neuro-ophthalmologist to the 20 different desk receptionists I’ve encountered: I’m either forming an acronym out of your names for my first born child or I’ll write a non-fiction fiction piece and my heroes will be based off of you all.
I have what’s called an optic nerve sheath meningioma (not to be confused with some sort of flower species), which means I have a benign (non-cancerous!) tumor wrapped around my right optic nerve. My optometrist is the one who noticed the abnormality about two years ago and I’ve had it monitored with MRI scans and vision tests, and thus far it hasn’t really changed. About a month ago in early June I went in for another routine neuro-ophthalmologist visit and vision field test. Shelly, who always administers my vision field test, greeted me and we chatted about the weather as usual (“Last time I saw you it was snowing!”). The test has always been a bit of a struggle for my right eye, but this time I could hardly see any of the light flashes. Shelly, God bless her, was trying to root me on but I could’ve been looking at a Clydesdale horse or the Taj Mahal for all I knew. So then I met with my neuro-ophthalmologist, who administered more tests and looked at my results and told me that my vision was deteriorating in my right eye, and eventually I’d go blind in that eye. A week later I had another MRI, which was fun because I got to go to this swanky hospital in Indy and visit the radiation technologist, Eddie, who wears a Crucifix necklace and talks to you like you’re the most important person in the world. The MRI rocks because they put a cage on my face and stick me with contrast dye IV fluid, so I feel like a cross between a NASA prototype experiment and a football player. I asked Eddie if the dye made my blood a different color, but alas it only turns up colored on the scan. I also told Eddie to feel free to tell me a few jokes in the microphone while I was getting my MRI (they talk to you via microphone to make sure you’re not freaking out or anything), but he said he didn’t have any good ones. It’s okay though, because otherwise Eddie is the perfect radiation technologist. I went back to the neuro-ophth after my scans and received good news that the meningioma looked the same as past scans; however, the tumor seemed to be squeezing my optic nerve, resulting in the vision loss.
For those of you whose eyes glazed over while reading all that jargon, I’ll give you a comprehensive analogy: imagine a pig in a blanket, with the mini hot dog as my optic nerve and the delicious buttery crescent roll as the tumor. Now picture the crescent roll squeezing the hot dog. That’s what’s happening in my noggin, except for the fact that tumors aren’t buttery and delicious.
Now if I sit here and twiddle my thumbs I’d probably completely lose sight in that eye. BUT thanks to modern medicine and geniuses and probably Ben Franklin, I have the option of radiation therapy. BoOyAh! The next step from here is to undergo proton beam radiation treatment which is a little freaky because isn’t that Spiderman stuff?? Anyhoo it’s five treatments a week for about five weeks, so superpowers must come at a cost. The thing about proton radiation therapy is that I won’t regain any vision in my eye, but it will hopefully smack the tumor in the face and stun it for a while. This way I’ll preserve what vision I do have in that eye for a bit. Another thing about having my eye radiated is that there’s a slight chance that I might lose my eyebrows and eyelashes, so if you see me out and about with half my face shaved, DON’T PANIC. I haven’t been playing with flamethrowers! (But if it ends up looking trendy then by all means follow suit.) Since the therapy is so extensive, I have to miss the first two weeks of school this coming semester, so Marquette better not do anything too cool without me. My friend Rose told me that she’ll “break in sophomore year and have it all ready to go” for me and my friend Maggie said when the day comes she’s buying me a bleeping monocle, just in case you were also wondering how awesome my friends at ‘quette are.
Some really great things have come from these eyeball adventures. First, like I said before, every health professional that I’ve encountered has been amazing to the point where eye appointments are my favorite. Second, I was sitting in the oncology waiting room the other day and felt immensely grateful for my health since I was probably the healthiest one in the room. We have some control over our well being but tumors and other diseases can have a mind of their own and freak out and go ape crazy. Third, I’ve been bouncing from appointment to appointment and it makes me think of all the parents of children with severe sicknesses and health complications and how that’s how most of their days are spent, with these wee ones that should be playing outside and not in waiting rooms. I also can’t help but think that those parents must have carpal tunnel from filling out all the paperwork.
I should also mention how great my fam has been in all this. My parents chauffeur me around to appointments and act as insurance translators/should I sign this? confirmation. My siblings make the occasional blind joke and throw things at me to test my eye-hand coordination. It’s great.
Since my appointments have been all over the place, I’ve gotten to learn how to navigate downtown better, and by that I mean shouting, “CRAP THAT’S A ONE WAY!” as my mom and I try to find Natural Born Juicers on Mass Ave. (Quick note about that place: Go to there.)
The day I visited the neuro-ophthalmologist in early June was the same day that The Fault in Our Stars movie came out. It was also the same day that this Humans of New York picture was posted. Coincidences are fun, aren’t they?
The body is so dang cool. I’m not gonna tell you how you should take care of your own, but if I’ve learned anything it’s that I’m not invincible. There are days when I feel strong and days when I’m like “I better not do anything to piss off the tumor in my eye.” I’ve also learned so much about the eye that I feel like I should earn an honorary degree in optometry by now.
And the best part about all of this? God gave me two eyes.