“People often get scared when they hear the word ‘glaucoma,’” the woman on the video at the doctor’s office said knowingly.
Um, yeah. That’s because it’s REALLY FREAKING SCARY, I thought, trying my best not to throw up in the examination chair out of panic and fear.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let it be known that as a general rule, I’m not afraid of pulling the “doctor” trigger when it comes to the kids. I generally err on the side of caution. Baby G’s bellybutton looks a little weird in a way I can’t possibly describe? Off we go to the pediatrician (bellybutton diagnosis negative). R’s balance looks a little off? Let’s go to the ENT and the orthopedist and check it out (and find out he needs to get ear tubes, yet the fact that he doesn’t listen has no medical explanation).
But when it comes to my own health, I’m not so quick to make myself a doctor’s appointment. It’s possible that that is rooted in some weirdly wrong idea that the parent is supposed to be the healthy one and have no problems. And ideally, that would be the case.
So when I started seeing spots dancing in front of my eyes on a regular basis, I ignored them. Well, that’s not entirely true, because it wasn’t actually possible to ignore them. Whenever I look at a computer screen (as I do to make a living), or drive on a highway (as I do at least once a week to take my boys to see their father), I see gray-to-black spots which cross my line of vision at will. They’re unpredictable. Sometimes I see them when I close my eyes to sleep at night.
While I couldn’t ignore the spots, I could certainly ignore actually doing something about it – and that’s almost as good as ignoring them entirely, right? After all, between working, the needs of three kids, a husband, friends and extended family, to say nothing of Facebook, there’s always something out there clamoring for my immediate attention.
Weeks passed. The spots didn’t leave. Life went on.
One morning, the baby was napping and I was reading the Science Times when I came across an article on floaters – which, as it turns out, sounded a lot like the problem I’m talking about. While generally benign, the article said, they could be indicative of a retinal problem which could, possibly, lead to total loss of vision.
Well, that was a real poke in the eye.
And that was when I realized yet another way that being a parent adds a completely new dimension to being a person. Sure, my entire livelihood is based on my ability to see. And sure, seeing is generally a great thing, even if you are a music critic or something where it doesn’t really matter professionally. And sure, a rational and organized human being who didn’t resort to avoidance tactics on a daily basis would have made an eye doctor appointment a long time ago.
I put down the article and I looked over at my baby girl, now awake and drooling all over her overpriced rubber giraffe (if you don’t know, don’t ask). She smiled at me – a big, gummy smile bearing a strong resemblance to a Muppet. She’s going to look so different in a matter of months, let alone years, I thought. How can I take any risk that would prevent me from seeing her future face? Or my boys’?
So I called the doctor. It was only as I drove to the appointment the next day (cancellation!) did I realize all the things I hadn’t thought about when envisioning the worst case scenario. I hadn’t given a second’s thought to how much I love to read, for example, and to travel and see new and unusual things, and how two of my favorite pastimes would be irrevocably screwed up without my sight.
No, being a parent had clearly changed my proverbial focus. I imagined missing seeing G’s first steps, or Z and R’s first awkward hints of mustaches. It wasn’t my present that concerned me as much as their future, and the idea that I might miss seeing even a part of it.
And after the glaucoma scare video that nearly made me throw up, and a retinal scan that had to be redone four times because I am a blinky mess, the doctor told me that my problem would in all likelihood go away on its own, and that there was no indication of retinal damage.
And now, I see things a little more clearly.