At first, I wasn't going to write about the lump I found underneath my lower left eyelid a few weeks ago. Writing about my own physical ailments just seemed too crass and self-indulgent, not to mention yucky. Then I read David Sedaris's most recent essay collection, When You Are Engulfed in Flames. I figure, if Sedaris can devote an entire essay to a boil growing between his buttocks, what's to stop me from blogging about a lump in my eye?
I was rubbing my eye exactly the way they tell you not to when I found it: a hard, floaty bump just below my eyeball. It wasn't in the skin like a zit, but in the socket, as if I'd dropped a piece of gravel or a frozen pea in my eye and it had gotten lodged.
My first reaction was to start poking around in my other eye in the hopes that I'd find an identical pea-sized lump there and could assume it was just a normal part of my anatomy that had somehow escaped my notice my entire life. But no such luck.
I should say at the outset that I am a lumpy person. Over the years, I've had a number of little thingamajigs removed from various parts of my body, all pronounced "benign," as if they were sweet and unobtrusive elderly aunts. The discovery of one more didn't set off any alarms. I followed my usual procedure: I gave the lump a week to go away on its own, and when it didn't, I made an appointment with my nurse practitioner, Gail.
These things don’t send me into spasms of anxiety the way they do some people. Worry isn't my negative emotion of choice—anger, remorse, shame: that's the carrion I feast on. My basic philosophy about the future is not to panic until I'm sure I have reason to.
Still, lying in bed the night before my appointment, the possibility came up that the lump might be something, as opposed to nothing. I actually thought, if the lump does turn out to be serious, this might be the last night I have to not worry about it.
For a moment, I imagined I was looking down a long hall lined with dozens of doors, behind each of which a different scenario was playing out. Like a more complex version of "The Lady or the Tiger," the doors got progressively more distressing. Behind the first one, Gail was shrugging nonchalantly as she stuck her finger into my eye socket. "Oh this," she was saying. "I see several of these every day. It will disappear within the month. And I must say, you're looking especially youthful and vigorous these days."
Behind a second door a little farther down the hall, she was less cheerful. "It's probably just a cyst," she was saying. "But we'd better have an ophthamologist look at it to make sure."
Behind one door, there were lots of tests and uncertainty, and behind another I was being told the lump would have to be removed, which meant anesthesia, pain relievers, an eye patch, and, god forbid, a scar: on my face.
Way down at the very end of the hall, barely visible in the dim light, stood two doors made of gray stone and covered in cobwebs. On one was etched the word "Blindness"; on the other, "Death." But they were very far away and in disrepair. Almost impossible to see from where I was standing. Quietly, I turned out the light in the imaginary hall and read myself to sleep.
In the end, I didn't get my first-choice door—the one where Gail tells me the lump is nothing and compliments my youthful vitality—but I did get a very close second-choice. No tests, no surgery, no worry. Just a “probably nothing” diagnosis from an ophthamologist and the ironic instruction to keep an eye it.
A few years ago, my sister went to the doctor with a stomach ache and fatigue that could have been any one of a dozen minor ailments, but wasn’t. It was pancreatic cancer. Six months later, she was dead. So yes, the slight pain, the unexplained malaise, the little floaty lump. Sometimes they do end up killing you. It happens, even to the healthy eaters, the nonsmokers, the runners, the vitamin-takers, the young.
But not to me, not yet. I just keep racking up reasons to be grateful.
Causes Jill Jepson Supports
Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, Interational Society for the Protection of Burros and Mustangs, National Wildlife Federation,...