April 2018

Friday, June 11, 2010

NL #39: Double Trouble

NL #39: Double vision was the key to the discovery of my brain tumor. For about a year, I saw my doctor and opthamologists about headaches, slight balance issues, and vision difficulties. I followed their advice: got glasses (all reminded me: you are getting older) and drank more and more water.

Then I started seeing double while biking, and finally, intermittently, while teaching (very disconcerting to suddenly have 25 sets of identical freshmen twins in the room.) When I told my students about the tumor and the double vision, they didn't really understand the seriousness of the tumor, but they were fascinated by my double vision. Roger and Danny constantly asked me, "How many of me do you see now?" before talking about their writing or their reading.

Immediately following surgery, I don't think I saw double. I did start seeing at 90 degrees. In the Intensive Care Unit, I thought my bed was at a 90 degree angle. This seemed to me a bad design. I was impressed I didn't fall out, which I attributed to gripping the bed sides. I thought I must be very strong after surgery. This seemed like a good sign.

When my primary care doctor, Dr. M, came to visit me in recovery, my parents escorted her into the room. I heard my mom say, "Look who's here!" and I turned to see my doctor, flanked by my parents, apparently lying on the floor. This simply would not do.

Doctors use a measure called a diopter (how many meters--that can't be right--maybe centimeters?) things are off at one meter away. They generally recommend surgery when the eyes are 20 diopters off. After brain surgery and before eye surgeries, mine were about 70 diopters off. That's a lot.

After eye surgeries, my eyes were off about eight diopters each. (For those of you who struggle with math, that makes 16 diopters.) Prism glasses can correct vision up to about 18 diopters, so I've since been wearing prism glasses for the last two years. Radiation exacerbated the eyes again, and so for now I'm closing one eye most of the time to function. I'm hoping that this will be temporary.

If you're wondering what this experience of double vision is like, it's kind of like living in the Blair Witch Project. It's pretty  cool at first, but after a while it's just nauseating.

See you (or two of you) Monday! Mary

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