I have a major phobia about my eyes. Call it an extreme sensitivity. Not only can I not stand the thought of someone or something touching my eyes — I can’t even watch someone else put in their own contact lenses or apply eye makeup (good thing there isn’t much call for the latter in the radio business).
I was once urged to do live commercials for a doctor who specializes in Lasik surgery. The salesperson took me to the doctor’s office, where his assistant gave me a full tour and described the procedures he did. Hearing her descriptions while surrounded by photos of eyes in various states of distress, it took every ounce of willpower for me not to throw up. I knew I couldn’t do these commercials — how could I convince our listeners to visit a business that freaked me out so much? To our salesperson’s horror, I had to politely decline to be the doctor’s radio spokesman.
You can imagine how I feel when I have to get my eyes checked annually to see if I need a new prescription for my glasses. It’s one of the most anxiety-producing things in my life. I have no problem getting in front of a huge crowd to make a speech, or driving on icy roads through blizzard conditions, or any of a number of things that might make other people nervous. But sitting in the examination chair while drops are applied to dilate my eyes, or when the doctor has to reach over and move my eyelid as he uses the machine that touches my eyeball to test for glaucoma — it’s all I can do to keep from running out of the room at high speed.
Still, I can manage to get through it once a year, albeit with a slight increase in blood pressure. But a few days ago, I noticed a small growth on my left upper eyelid. This can’t be good, I told myself. Even if it was nothing dangerous, the thought of having someone do something about it started getting to me. I called my eye doctor, who agreed to see me that afternoon. He immediately recognized it as a sebaceous cyst, kind of like a pimple. He told me it was usually harmless (I liked hearing that), but I might need to have it removed (not so much), so he got me an appointment for today with an ophthalmologist who could better determine what needed to be done.
This afternoon, I drove to the ophthalmologist’s office in a building topped by a sign containing two words I never want to see together: Eye Surgery Center. I got there early so I’d have time to fill out all the paperwork, then sat among a dozen other patients until it was my turn. A half-hour later, a nurse took me into an examination room, had me do a quick reading test, put some notes in a computer, then escorted me to the next waiting area, where only six other patients were sitting. Anticipating the wait time, I’d brought two newspapers with me. Finished them both. Then checked email on my iPhone.
Fifteen minutes later, a second nurse took me into yet another examination room. “The doctor will be right with you.” Back to my iPhone to check Twitter. If the idea was to exercise my eyes, mission accomplished.
Nearly an hour after I’d arrived, there was a knock at the door, then I was finally in the same room as the doctor. Before he got started, I explained my crazy eye phobia. He smiled, saying I wasn’t alone, and he’d be gentle. With a minimum of eyelid-touching, he checked out the cyst and declared that as long as it didn’t hurt, wasn’t in my field of vision, and wasn’t bothering me, then it wasn’t a big deal and he didn’t have to do anything about it. In fact, if it didn’t change in the next six months (or six years), there was nothing to worry about.
For the first time today, a smile crossed my lips. I was about to stand up and walk out, but I couldn’t help myself: “I’m probably going to regret this question, but what if it does change?” He replied, “Then we’ll have to inject a little anesthetic into the lid, puncture the cyst with a very small needle, and drain the fluid.” I stopped him. “You had me at inject, Doc!!” Seeing how I’d recoiled at the thought, he reassured me that I was fine for now, that he wouldn’t go anywhere near my eyes again until I told him it was necessary.
Good enough for me. I happily coughed up my co-pay at the front desk, then got out of there as quickly as I could, breathing easily with eyes intact.