Many of you have been asking how I’m doing after my eye surgery so I’ve put together an update. Feel free to pass this on to anyone else who may be wondering….
Back in early May as I was building a deluxe treehouse (picture on the left) for my grandson I noticed that my eyes were having trouble adjusting when I would come inside the house from the bright sunlight. I went to the eye doctor and was referred to a retina specialist. The preliminary diagnosis was choroidal melanoma (cancer of the retina/eye). (Of course when I heard this I thought I was going to die immediately!)
Since it was in the early /small stage and my retina doctor (Dr. Tang) could not be certain of the diagnosis without a biopsy (which you can’t do in the eye), we took the summer to “watch it.” When I returned in September the tests showed that it had grown already by 50%, so we needed to talk about treatment. In my case, because the tumor was near and around the optic nerve, radiation was not an option, and would most likely cause me to lose sight in that eye anyway. The only viable option was to remove my eye. It was a difficult decision until my kids reminded me: “well Dad, you can die with two eyes or live with one… not really a hard decision.”
TREATMENT AND SURGERY
There were many anxious days during these three weeks but we moved quickly and completed prep and tests and scheduled surgery for three weeks later, Oct. 7, The surgery was performed outpatient, and I went home later that afternoon. My surgeon, Dr. Mohktarzedeh, implanted a synthetic marble and attached the eye muscles to it so both eyes will continue to move together, whichever way I look. I had some moderate pain and headaches for the first 4-6 days but started going on walks again after three days, hanging on to Mj, while we made our way around the block. Dr. Mohktarzedeh removed the large bandage 5 days later and I started to adjust to monocular vision. (It takes about a year to get fully adjusted.) The eye that was removed mostly stays closed for now. On Dec. 14, I have a series of appointments to get a prosthetic eye.
RECOVERY AND ADJUSTMENT
I’m feeling fit and healthy overall, but still wake up every morning a little surprised that I can only see out of one eye… until I remember. I’ve been out mowing the grass, raking the leaves, tending the garden, reading and doing light projects around the house. I started driving about 2 weeks after surgery—short trips around the neighborhood to start with—then longer trips. I hauled my boat up to the storage facility two weekends ago, with Mj as my copilot, in case I ran into difficulty. The hardest part is getting used to seeing without much depth perception.
Last Thursday I received encouraging news! I went in for an MRI as a follow up to a “soft-tissue mass” that showed up on my initial CAT scan before surgery. It was unrelated to my initial diagnosis, so we feared I might have two cancer issues going on at once! That was unnerving for the past few weeks to say the least. But the news today was good—so far it does not appear to look malignant or show any of the typical signs of a malignancy and has not grown or changed. I have one more follow up PET scan in Dec. to—hopefully—confirm that it’s nothing to be concerned about.
The other piece of good news had to do with the pathology from my cancerous eye. It showed that the malignancy was considered in the “small stage,” had not advanced into or through the eye wall, and most importantly, had not broken through the “Brooks Membrane” into the area of blood vessels where it could more easily be transported to other parts of my body. Of course there are no guarantees, but Dr. Musibay, my oncologist felt very positive about the pathology report!
I am feeling very relieved, to say the least since we were initially told that “in 50% of people who get choroidal melanoma, it spreads (metastasizes), showing up usually in the lungs or liver after two years, and in 50% of the people it does not.” Chemotherapy is not effective with this kind of cancer and in those cases where it spreads the outcome is not good. So I feel like I’ve been given a new lease on life and am feeling very grateful. My Christian faith and community have been an incomparable source of strength throughout.
Now, I just have to turn my attention to learning to live with monocular vision and a lack of depth perception, and asking for help when I have to tie on a new hook or lure to my fishing line.
I want to say a special “Thank You” to so many of you for your acts of kindness, your prayers and support, your calls, visits, cards, flowers, invitations to have us for dinner and conversation, texts and emails. They made such a difference for me and were SO encouraging and uplifting. I can’t tell you how important these messages, visits, prayers and support are to people who are hurting in some way. Keep doing good! Bless you--