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Jeremy continued the conversation without me as I focused on my “ratty” retina: “You said it’s not treatable…?” he asked.
“Right,” Dr. Patron said, “It’s possible that the lesion could just get better on its own and that the eye could heal itself, so we feel the best way to deal with this is simply to watch it closely, particularly because we’re not sure what it is.”
Zeke coughed and nuzzled into Jeremy’s arm pit. I looked at Jeremy, aghast. He looked equally amazed.
“You have more questions?” Dr. Patron asked, motioning toward my notebook on my lap.
“Yes, I do,” I said, skimming the list of questions I’d written the night before: 1. Is there any doubt about the diagnosis? 2. What are the possible treatment methods?
“Of course most of these don’t seem to apply,” I said, still studying my list.
I settled on number 3, firing off every iteration of the same question all at once: “Okay – I’m wondering, is this issue hereditary? Is it possible it could happen in my other eye? Do we have any idea how this happened?”
Dr. Patron sighed. “I consulted with our hereditary physician on staff, and he was also unsure about this – he confirmed it was not hereditary though. Because you don’t have any family history of this, you’re healthy, and it’s not bilateral, there’s really no markers that indicate a genetic disorder,” he said.
“What’s bilateral?” I said.
“In both eyes,” he said.
“Got it,” I said.
“This doesn’t resemble any genetic eye issues that he or I are aware of,” he said.
“Okay,” I said. “So that means it’s unlikely that it could occur in my left eye or that it could be passed to my kids?”
“Exactly,” he said. “And I’ll ask my other colleagues as well to see if they have any idea what this might be.”
I nodded, then asked, “So as far as how it formed, do you have any guesses about why this happened, or even how to prevent it happening to my other eye?”
“None,” he said. “It looks as if it formed spontaneously. So there’s no reason why it happened and there’s no way to prevent it.”
“Okay,” I said.
“I wish we had more to tell you,” he said, grimly.
“That’s okay,” I said. “I’d rather have the truth and just deal with whatever it is than nothing at all.”
He smiled sadly. “Do you have any more questions?” he asked.
“Let me see,” I said, as I took a deep breath and returned to my notebook, blinking back the well of emotion that would spilling over any minute now.
“Can I still drive?” I said.
“Yes,” he said. “You can keep driving legally.”
“Good,” I said, grateful.
I decided the rest of my questions are irrelevant, and when I look up, the doctor is patiently watching me, hands in his lap, and I feel emboldened by his calm.
I asked, “I guess I’m wondering… I mean, would it be best if the lesion went away on its own? Where it is in the eye…I mean, would it be better if it stayed or if it healed and disappeared? It’s in a sort of precarious position, right?”
He sighed and spoke slowly, seeming to choose his words carefully, “We don’t know for sure what would happen if the lesion went away. There is the possibility that its disappearance could damage those already-damaged retinal layers further. So in my professional opinion, I think it’d be better for you if the lesion stayed put.”
“Say the lesion does go away,” I said, “Could you fix the damage to the retina – like with surgery or medication or something?”
He said gently, “No, we can’t fix the retina.” He paused, and then said, “I’m sorry.”
In the silence that followed, I heard what he was not saying: my retina is irreplaceable, one-in-a-million. Which means there’s no reversing the carnage already enacted on my ratty retinal layers, and in fact, it could get worse. There was no going back.
To be continued…
This post is part of my “Through A Mirror Dimly” series about a recent health issue I’ve been experiencing. I started telling this true story during 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?