Yesterday I went to the eye doctor. For a few years now, I have been noticing white spots on the edges of my cornea. I know I have them even before looking in the mirror because I can feel that my eye is extremely dry and feels like there’s something in there, like an eyelash. My doctor in Vermont really couldn’t diagnose what this is, so I figured now that I live in a real city, I should try a new doctor. Dr. Vicki is my mom’s ophthalmologist – these two ladies love each other. I could see why – she was really nice and I liked her a lot. Below is our pre-exam conversation, to the best of my memory; parentheticals are my commentary:
Dr: Have you ever had any eye disease?
Me: No, but I do have Rheumatoid Arthritis and I suspect that could be related to this.
Dr: Oh yes! Spots on the cornea are often related to autoimmune problems. So what medications are you on?
Me: (I list the meds – if you’ve been reading my blog from the beginning, you know how much I absolutely hate doing this)
Dr: So you take the celexa and wellbutrin – for depression and anxiety?
Dr: Any other illness or surgeries?
Me: Oh, yeah. (seriously, I had forgotten!) I had Stage 0 breast cancer in January.
Dr: I didn’t know there was Stage 0. What is that exactly?
Me: It means they found pre-cancerous cells that would turn into cancer.
Dr: How did they find that? (I see her click the box next to ‘cancer’ on her laptop screen)
Me: Mammogram. Well, they saw spots on a mammogram and then biopsied the spots.
Dr: But how did you know to get a mammogram? Did you feel a lump?
Me: No. I have a BRCA gene mutation. So I’ve known for seven years that breast cancer would be likely, so I’ve been having mammograms regularly for a while.
Dr: But your mom doesn’t have any history of breast cancer. How did you know about the BRCA mutation?
Me: My father’s side of the family. Everyone has it or has had it.
Dr: Oh, I didn’t realize you could get that from your dad’s side of the family. (I wish this was only the first time I’d heard this from a medical practitioner).
Me: Yes, you can. (here’s where I really feel the need to educate…) And thank god I knew – I would have had a tumor growing in my breast for a long time before I’d realized it, because I wouldn’t have even thought to have a mammogram at my age if it weren’t for knowing about my BRCA gene.
Dr: So are you on any treatment for it – Tamoxifen?
Me: Nope. I had a double mastectomy in January.
Me: Because of the gene, I really couldn’t risk it. And I had been planning to do the surgery prophylactically anyway.
Dr: So you were pretty prepared then. That must be why you handle it so well. You don’t seem at all phased by talking about it.
Me: I guess.
Dr: Wow. You have it pretty hard with all this health stuff.
Me: It sounds a lot worse than it is. I honestly never think about any of it because I feel totally fine. It just sounds like a lot when I have to list it all for a doctor.
That was really the extent of it. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that an eye doctor isn’t up-to-date on breast cancer research, but I feel like as a woman, she should be! Next week I go to the dentist – can’t wait to see what she has to say.