Educating the Eye Doctor

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?

Me: Yes.

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.

Dr: Really?

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.



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