By Tim Hayes
Some 25 years ago, the diagnosis first came down. Type 2 diabetes. Not really knowing all that the news would entail, life moved on. A new doctor added to the mix, some advice about diet and exercise, blood tests every few months.
Not a huge imposition or swing to a radical alteration of lifestyle. Not at first, anyway.
Years went by. More pharmaceuticals, more testing. Eventually, insulin injections made their first appearance. “Don’t feel as if you’ve failed,” I can recall the endocrinologist saying. “This disease progresses as your body continues to fail in producing its own insulin. These shots will keep you alive.”
Well, goodness knows, I was all for that.
But the shots and the bloodwork and the pills – I could handle all of those. The way-too-cheerily named “complications” were mostly kept well at bay. The one potential pitfall, though, the one that always hovered menacingly, like the Sword of Damocles over my head, was damage to my eyesight. That one scared me.
Once a year, sitting in the ophthalmologist’s office, looking through that enormous contraption, having a brilliant white light shone into each eye at point-blank range, I lived for the words, “Everything looks good.” Then I could exhale, safe in the knowledge that the diabetes had not impacted my vision or any of the optical and muscular mechanisms inside.
About two years ago, however, the doc said something else. Something I thought I had been ready to hear, but which still came down on me like a hammer blow. “I’m seeing some swelling behind your eye. I’d like for you to start seeing our specialist.”
Now, don’t get too concerned, dear reader. My eyesight is just fine. It was actually 20/20 with my eyeglasses this morning at the doctor’s, as I write this. But the swelling and pressure caused by small blood vessel damage from the disease has to be stemmed and reversed as much as possible, to avoid real and lasting damage later.
Which leads me to the real point of this essay. Part of the treatment regimen for the swelling behind one of my eyes requires a monthly injection. And please understand. This is not a shot into the arm or the rear-end that somehow reaches the eye. Not a shot somewhere near the eye. It’s not a cream or a drop or a lotion. No, we’re talking about inserting an actual needle into the eyeball.
When the specialist introduced the idea of starting the injection treatment at the next visit – well, let’s just say my reaction was not one of euphoric jubilation. It scared me shitless. And then I made the most crucial, most misbegotten, most imbecilic decision – to do my own research on the Internet. So instead of feeling informed and prepared, all that half-assed research based on half-assed comments from every yahoo out there, only increased the anxiety.
The day arrived, and my state of mind was hardly conducive to what would soon transpire. The staff got me prepped, the eye dilated, numbed, and sterilized. Then the doc came in, talked me through what would happen, and quickly got down to business.
Ready to explode in fear and dread, before I knew it, the whole thing was over. Granted, it still was no picnic. My eyeball would be sore the remainder of that day, but sleeping for a couple of hours once home did wonders.
I’ve probably had close to 10 injections in all so far since that first one. And believe it or not, it has almost become normal. I know what to expect, I trust the doctor and his staff, and we’re seeing good progress in reducing the swelling. I’d rather we didn’t have to do it, but it’s become part of the treatment now.
My point is that ideas and actions that appear intimidating or frightening at first can become normalized – especially if they ultimately produce positive results. Conversely, ideas and actions that give pause and cause concern over their seeming inappropriateness also can become normalized – even when they produce negative results.
It’s up to each person’s sense of tolerance, acceptance, and listening to his or her conscience, as to what could and should become normal. So, even though I’ll never enjoy it, because my eyesight is so very important, I nonetheless echo the lyrics sung by Alexander Hamilton in the play named after him: “I am not throwing away my shot.”
Copyright 2019 Timothy P. Hayes