I sobbed on the way home, squinting at road signs through the roll-up sunglasses wedged between my glasses and my face. The plastic clung to the edges of my forehead; my dilated pupils ached in the afternoon sunshine.
By the time I pulled the car into the driveway, my husband had already emailed his boss and claimed a personal day. I opened the door and my husband stood in the center of the dining room, my kids on the floor playing beneath him – they turned to look at me.
“Mommy!” said my two-and-a-half-year-old son, while my four-year-old daughter hid beneath the table, giggling.
“Hey, bud,” I said to him.
“Hi,” my husband said to me.
I closed the door and walked toward my husband. I rested my head on his chest, and he embraced me. “Are you okay?” he said.
I stood up straight and said, “It looked like an explosion in my eye.”
“Surprise!” said my daughter, crawling out from under the table and jumping up with arms waving.
“Hey, hon,” I said to her.
“Mom, why do you have those glasses on?” she asked.
“Well, I just went to the doctor to see if my eye is broken – and he told me it is,” I said.
She frowned, trying to understand, then covered her left eye with her hand. “My eye is broken, too,” she said.
I smiled, “Oh, yeah? I’m so sorry to hear that, hon,” I said.
“Can I have some glasses like you?” she said.
“Listen,” I said, “I want to finish talking with Daddy, okay? So how about you guys go play blocks in Zeke’s room?”
“Okay!” she said, and she sprinted down the hallway just off of the dining room, her brother following at a trot behind her.
I looked into Jeremy’s face. “There is literally a cloud in the center of my retina. That’s what the photos showed us. That’s why I can’t see.”
“Did the doctor know what it was?” he said.
“He mentioned that he thought it wasn’t macular degeneration, but he wouldn’t speculate about anything else – which I mostly appreciate,” I said, shrugging. “Of course it’d be nice to have some idea of what this is, but I’d rather hear the right information than a guess that might be wrong.”
“Right,” he said.
“All I can think is that it must be cancer – I keep thinking about your brother’s eye cancer from a year ago, when he had to have that gold radioactive disc surgically placed behind his eye for a few days to kill the cancerous cells. Wouldn’t it be weird if I had the same thing?” I said.
“‘Weird’ isn’t the right word,” he said. We heard a crash – presumably the collapse of a block tower – and my son began to wail.
“I was terrified that it’d be a brain issue, but he said my optic nerve looks healthy. It’s got to be cancer,” I said. “After all, I have a freaking unidentified growth in my eyeball!” I leaned my forehead into Jeremy’s chest again, and he wrapped his arms around my waist.
He said, “I hope not, but we don’t know for sure.” I sighed. He continued: “All we know right now is that something’s wrong. We don’t know anything else yet.”
“I know, you’re right,” I said. “I’m just afraid.”
“Me too,” he said.
“Oh! I need to call to make a follow-up appointment – he referred me to a specialist.”
My son’s crying reached a pitch neither of us could ignore any longer – “I should probably check on that, anyway,” Jeremy said, grimacing.
“It’s nap time,” I said. He nodded, his eyebrows wiggling up and down in agreement, and then strode toward the hallway, as I reached for my phone in the pocket of my jeans.
To be continued…
This post is part of my “Through A Mirror Dimly” series about a health issue I’ve been experiencing. I’m telling this story through the season of Lent as a way to make sense of the ways that my own suffering teaches me about the suffering of Jesus Christ.
I also invite you to engage with your own suffering through this series: how does your personal pain illuminate the suffering of Jesus for you? And what can your pain teach you about the life of faith?
If you have any thoughts to add, comment below!