I always swore I would never let any surgeon near my face with a scalpel or a laser – thus my age-appropriate weathered look. But I’d known for months that I needed cataract surgery. My right eye had more or less stopped working, so reason finally prevailed: since I was losing vision in that eye in any case, what more did I have to lose?
I made the appointment, did all the testing (20/240 in that eye, so yes, a new lens just might be called for), made the date for the ‘procedure’… and then went through three weeks of terror.
Everyone I knew who’d had cataract surgery – and only once I started talking about it did I find out how many people had, from close friends to casual acquaintances to my own brother — assured me there was absolutely nothing to worry about. It’s a snap, they said. It’s over in ten minutes. You won’t feel a thing. You’ll be so glad you did it.
But while reason said that they knew what they were talking about, terror kept yelling “Yes but…“ and “What if…?”
But someone’s going to stick things in my eye. He’s going to suck the lens out of it. He’s going to poke a new one in. What if his hand slips just a millimeter? What if I move at the wrong moment? What if…
Then last Wednesday, the day before surgery, I prostrated myself full-length on the floor of the Pilates studio and begged a fellow mat-class student who’d had the procedure to tell me she’d been scared beforehand. She looked down at me in astonishment. “But of course I was!” she said. “I was terrified for weeks.”
It was such a relief. The terror was still there, but at least I no longer felt a total fool for feeling it. It was normal. It was rationally irrational. I wasn’t a freak of wimpishness after all.
So yes, the surgery took place; no, I felt nothing (I’d stuck my arm out begging for the sedative the moment I walked in), though I did see some beautiful colored lights; and now, two days later, I’m experiencing the somewhat disconcerting feeling of having the use of two eyes instead of one. This’ll take some getting used to, but it feels like it’ll become the new normal in just a few days.
And I realize now why everyone told me not to worry. They were simply trying to calm me down. To reassure me. To tell me it’d be okay. They were being kind and supportive and doing what friends do.
It’s just that they’d left out an essential phrase.
If only they’d prefaced everything they’d said with “Yes, I was terrified too, for weeks beforehand, but…” then I might have believed them when they said there was nothing to be terrified of. Well, believed them a little bit, at least.
Or maybe they weren’t terrified? Maybe it’s just me and my fellow Pilatesian (do only wimps do Pilates?). Maybe everyone else is courageous and/or stoic and/or blithely unaware of the damage scalpels and lasers can do?
Maybe I really am a wimp?