When doctors don’t smile, the conversation isn’t going to be good.
My husband, pale but resolute, nodded his head.
Ocular melanoma. We’d never heard of it before.
He had a freckle on his retina near the optic nerve in his left eye. Probably a birthmark, the optometrist said. We’ll just watch it.
They watched it for six years.
It was growing now, spreading, causing light flashes, changing color, leaking fluid.
The retina specialist looked grim. Maybe a radiation chip could be applied to slow the growth of this thing, but it would still be there. The sclera would have to be cut and peeled up for the chip, which would stay in for seven days.
The research hospital wanted to wait and see what the tumor – not a freckle anymore, but the tumor – would do.
Everything we read online about ocular melanoma said Do not wait.
There is no cure.
The cancer doctor we consulted said, By the time it’s found, it’s usually metastasized. Radiation and chemotherapy have no effect. It’s nasty.
My husband looked at me. I could see myself reflected his big, beautiful brown eyes.
“I want the eye out. As soon as possible.”
The optic nerve is connected to the brain, you see, and the pictures showed the lesion -the tumor – reaching for the optic nerve like a hand reaching for a piece of savory fruit, for juicing.
“Okay,” I said, without even blinking.
We found a surgeon, a highly respected one, who agreed. “I have to tell you enucleation is an easy surgery to perform, but it’s an extremely painful recovery.”
My husband said: “Let’s do it.”
On the night before the surgery, I kissed his left eyelid. It was the last thing, the only thing, I could do for that beautiful eye which would be no more.
It was a long wait at the hospital. When the orderlies finally came, my husband’s sister, our niece and I told him we loved him, kissed him good-bye. As the gurney rolled down the hallway he was sitting up in his gown, waving at us, grinning from ear to ear in his usual gregarious way.
He knew he would come out of there without an eye, that the recovery would be rough, and he was smiling.
That’s profound courage, I thought. The bravest thing I’ve ever seen.
I waved back, tears blurring my vision, until he vanished from my sight.
(To be continued tomorrow).