There are a lot of things to do when you have breast cancer: doctor visits, blood tests, chemotherapy, body scans, radiation treatments, nausea, constipation (that takes up a lot of time), possible glaucoma therapy, and panic attacks. The scheduling of all these things was a Herculean effort, which I had to write down in a little leather Day-Timer because I am not Blackberry trained yet.
I can't stress this more: YOU CANNOT DO THIS ALONE. You need someone to drive you, but you also need someone to take notes. You may be savvy and intelligent, but that means nothing because you have CHEMO BRAIN (cue Twilight Zone music). My friends and I laughed about my blond moments – and of course my blond hair was gone. I was bald – and then I found out that the disorientation and stupidity is a real live side effect of chemotherapy. Worst of it was short-term memory loss, but I was so stupid from chemo that it never occurred to me to be worried that the stupidity might be permanent. I kind of liked it.
OH GOD I FORGOT TO HAVE CHILDREN
Of course I didn't forget to have children. I had a beautiful son named Smith who was at my shoulder from the diagnosis through the surgery and the first few chemo treatments – but the U.S. economy tanked and he accepted a job where the money was: Dubai.
He left the hemisphere armed with the email adresses of all my doctors and nurses, but he was gone just the same.
So I didn't forget to have a child. I FORGOT I HAD GLAUCOMA! Scheduling cancer treatments and teaching school and keeping house and feeding the cats, I FORGOT. Somebody should have reminded me.
Somebody did. The eye doctor. I could just see me in a Lichtenstein cartoon. Me, slapping my forehead, when the eye doctor called. I was overdue for a pressure check. I FORGOT!
Now I have cancer and I am going blind and my son lives on the other side of the world where people are dropping bombs and journalists are being kidnapped.
A QUICK INTRO TO GLAUCOMA
You do not want to have glaucoma or undergo glaucoma therapy. You want to have cataracts. Cataracts and catarct treatment are a whole lot of nothing. They just remove the lens of your eye and replace it with an artificial lens. I know that sounds awful, gouging out your eye and all, but it is a simple procedure and you are fixed and you do not go blind.
Glaucoma, on the other hand is NOT fixable. It is irreversible, incurable, progressive, and mysterious. Like cancer, doctors are not sure why some people get it and some don't. It's a crapshoot, glaucoma. Some people are born with fewer optic nerves than others, and they can see just fine with the same amount of optic nerve damage as another person who is blind as a mole. Go figure.
However, the one thing doctors can control is the amount of pressure in the eye that presses on the optic nerve. Pressure can sometimes be alleviated with eye drops, but the pressure must be religiously monitored. If it spikes, that is bad. I asked Dr. Steckel if my eye could explode.
He said no.
THINGS DO NOT BODE WELL
He peered into my eye through a complicated microscope thing; then he leaned back for a moment and did it again.
I knew what that meant. When a doctor or technician repeats a diagnostic procedure, he has seen danger. And any idiot can figure out that when a doctor leaves the examining room to make a phone call it is REAL bad.
"I just spoke to Dr. Libre," he said. "He can see you next week."
This did not look good. "Is he a specialist?"
"Oh yes," said Dr. Steckel. "He's a surgeon. Here's his number."
NO NO, I am thinking. NO. I am busy. I have cancer. I can't have somebody stick a scalpel in my eye right now. I can't go blind right now. I am already bald and I have no eyelashes.
"I can't do this," I told Dr. Steckel. "I have cancer. I can't handle another major body malfunction." I was crying. I hated that, but I was crying. Again, for Pete's sake. Would this never end?
Dr. Steckel looked at me kindly. "Cancer can't be a fulltime job, Sherri. We have to take care of the rest of you." He handed me my glasses. "Call Dr. Libre and make an appointment."
I was lost. I came alone to that appointment. I hadn't expected bad news. On the way out, the receptionist tried to say goodbye and have a nice day, but I told her it was not a nice day. I have to have my eye operated on. You would think cancer would be enough. I could hardly talk through my weeping. I was real tired of weeping, of symptoms and treatments. Real tired of being weak.
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