Good news: No cancer

I have good news to share with you, dear friend and reader. But I am struggling with how to draft it as an entry that makes your time reading it not wasted with useless drivel.

So, in case you want to skip the read, let me start by blurting out the news: there’s “probably” no cancer in my eye.

And that news alone is worth celebrating! Do a happy dance with me!

The rest below are mundane details. For curious friends and my own record.

I realised my life would be full of mundane physical suffering, and that there was nothing special about it. Suffering wouldn’t make me special, and pretending not to suffer wouldn’t make me special. Talking about it, or even writing about it, would not transform the suffering into something useful.

Sally Rooney

You may recall that starting about four months ago, my left eye suddenly developed a cloudiness that severely shrank my range of vision. Since then, I’ve been examined by four ophthalmologists, including two of the country’s top ocular oncologists, who all, and particularly after seeing the first sonograms, diagnosed it as a tumor caused by metastasis from my breast cancer.

When my medical oncologist continued to express his doubts about that diagnosis, I had complete body PET-CT scans done. His deduction, which sounded logical to me, was that I couldn’t have a metastasis (spread) without having a primary cancer site. Those scans, plus a subsequent breast ultrasound, clearly showed I had/have no cancer site anywhere in my body. They didn’t even pick up the raised retina, but it was explained to me that an eye tumor would be too small to be detected.

Science is more than a body of knowledge. It’s a way of thinking. A way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility.

Carl Sagan

So last week, back I went to the second ocular oncologist who had recommended in January that he personally does an eye ultrasound. There was a few months’ delay in getting it done because I first wanted to do the other scans and then he was out of the country, but that delay didn’t disturb me.

I went to the clinic last week with two distinctly separate concerns:

  • The state of my eye: I was and am prepared to accept that my vision would be permanently impaired, or even lost. It’s no fun seeing the world less than crystal clear when I look with both eyes open; but there is no pain involved and my right eye is still fully functional. So I can face a new normal if I have to.
  • The state of my entire body: cancer in one place increases the risk of it spreading to other areas of the body. That is what I have sought to minimize and avoid in all the medical procedures I’ve undertaken since my breast cancer diagnosis in July 2021.

This second set of sonograms exposed the detached retina as appearing less solid than on the earlier ones; that’s what the good doctor said. That evidence, along with all the scan results, as I’ve already revealed, made him now think that the detached retina is not cancerous. But his written report did include a “cover his ass” statement that “the risk of intraocular metastasis is, however, not absolutely ruled out.

That means, in a nutshell, that I still have to deal with my first concern, a bum eye. But for the time being, not the second. That’s a lot to be grateful for, and I choose to be so.

Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.

Helen Keller

The next question, of course, is what the treatment options are for my clouded eye. I was given two:

  1. Retinal reattachment surgery (pneumatic retinopexy). This involves shooting a gas in my eye as I lay face down and staying that way for a week. The gas bubbles up towards the back of the retina and pushes the detached section back up. Then, with a hope and a prayer, that section reattaches itself to the retina.
  2. Observation.

For now, the ophthalmologist and I agreed to keep observing.

I don’t know whether I should be concerned that I subsequently read that retinal detachment is a medical emergency and the surgery should happen as soon as possible. But hey, I’m going with the flow.

I’m elated to share this good news with you and to once again express my appreciation for the encouragement I’ve received throughout this journey from friends around the globe, here in the comments and privately. I’m thankful for the unwavering support of my honey, for my caring friends (like Heather, who gifted me her time to drive me to my appointment), and for the doctors for being open to changing their minds and to dialog with me.

While there may still be unknowns and uncertainties ahead, I’m choosing to focus on the present moment and the many blessings that surround me.

The suffering itself is not so bad; it’s the resentment against suffering that is the real pain.

Marion Woodman

I hope this news brightened your day as much as it did mine. I’ll be doing a happy dance every chance I get!


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