As I was approaching my appointment with the eye cancer doctor I was starting to border on mild hysteria. I think the lack of food (I dropped a dress size. Every cloud and all that) and lack of sleep made me swing between floods of tears and absolute laughing hysterics over things that were funny, but perhaps not that funny. One of the things I remember laughing at, for at least ten minutes while my kids looked on was a film I was watching with them. We all started laughing together, then they were laughing at me laughing so much, then they just stared at me a little concerned, thinking perhaps I’d lost the plot and maybe they should call an ambulance. The film was 50 first dates and the scene, if you google it, is Ula taking a beating. I just watched it again now. And yes I laughed, it is funny, but 10 minutes? The kids were starting to suspect that something strange was going on.
I had now told a very close friend what was going on but in a very nonchalant way. If I showed no concern, she would have no concern and I could feel this was just a silly mishap. I made plans to meet for coffee dates and a BBQ at the weekend. All of which were about to be cancelled.
Monday morning arrived. The kids were dropped at school. I don’t know who by. I could have done it but I have no memory of that whole morning. My memory starts in the consultants’ office. I felt sick. She was asking questions, I was running through the story to date. I was hoping for reassurance that it was rare, very unlikely to be anything etc. but none came. A quick eye test was done. Bad left eye was slightly weaker than the right. This can be normal. She asked my eye colour, paler eyes are more at risk. Stupid green eyes I thought, but at least not the more risky blue. I was then told I would have drops put in both eyes which dilate the pupils. The drops sting. Dilated pupils mean you can’t read anything. Books, texts, numbers on the phone. I have had this done at least seven times now to date and I still turn up with a book to read! All prepared? Yep, I have my keys, phone, purse and a useless book.
Anyway I had to sit outside with my husband for fifteen minutes waiting for my pupils to dilate. This is where I was really starting to feel scared. I was apologising to my husband for the worry I had caused him and everyone else. He had taken the morning off work and I was feeling bad. This was just stupid. There was nothing wrong with me but I had scared everyone with my panicking. I had caused a scene for no reason. My family and friends were waiting to hear the all clear. They told me numerous times to call them as soon as I came out. They wanted to know what time I was going in and trying to work out when I would be out. I had caused all this worry. I just wanted to go home.
She called me in and sat me at the contraption where you rest your chin and forehead against the plastic rest. She started with my good eye. It probably took forty seconds. Then she moved onto my left eye. My heart was racing and my hands were sweaty as I prayed for her to tell me nothing was there. She told me to look in different directions and suddenly there was a pause. I stayed looking in that direction as she was counting. Measuring. She had seen something and I knew it. I tried desperately not to cry as perhaps she wouldn’t see through the tears. I needed to take a deep breath as I think I must have been holding it. She moved away and asked me to sit on the chair on the back wall. There was a small ultrasound machine. She told me that if I closed my eye she would put jelly on it and could look at my eye on the screen. Before she started she said, “Ruth, I have seen something in your eye. It was right that you were referred to me. You have a melanoma.” She had said what I had been scared of hearing for the last two weeks. It was out there. Cold and real. This wasn’t going away.
You know when little children try not to cry? They have little downturned wobbly lips. I had that. I look back and think I must have looked so stupid. A forty-year old woman with a wobbly lip! But I bet she’s seen all sorts in her cancer office. I was trying to hold it together and ask something, but I didn’t know what to ask and was scared to move my mouth in case I started blubbering like Muriel in Muriel’s wedding (google it). My husband broke the silence, asking for clarification, what did she mean? Your wife has cancer he was told. The jelly went on, the measuring continued as she told me very matter of factly what would happen next.