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I was discharged back into the wild after a total of four Proton Beam Therapy sessions, served straight from that ‘throne of trepidation’ – the chair. The doctors had informed me that my left eyesight would play a vanishing act over time, gradually shedding its seeing abilities. They told me I might still distinguish between light and dark, perhaps even identify large shapes – akin to seeing the world through an abstract artist’s lens. But having one functional eye seemed like a pretty good deal, at least in comparison to the alternative. Plus, slightly wonky vision beats kicking the bucket any day, right? So, with that in mind, I let a flicker of optimism light my way. Life could, indeed, move forward.

However, the universe seemed determined to demonstrate my proficiency in slow learning. At this stage, my life resembled an unusual management project – overseeing the slow demise of the intruder that had made my eye its home. It had received a one-way ticket to oblivion, courtesy of a healthy dose of radiation. Drawing from the Monty Python gospel, my eye invader had ceased to be. It was now an ex-tumour. It had shuffled off this mortal coil, having cashed in its chips and joined the choir invisible.

But in the cruel twist of cosmic irony, the dead tumour was not quite done with me yet. As it crumbled into oblivion, it produced fluid that was unceremoniously dumped under my retina. This fluid threatened to detach my retina even more – a somewhat vexing side-effect. As a result, my calendar was now punctuated with regular appointments at Liverpool Hospital for eye examinations and ongoing treatment.

Every visit was like a grim replay of the previous ones. The routine always kicked off with the vision test – the ubiquitous eye chart with that enormous, friendly ‘A’ sitting at the top like a welcoming beacon. Oh, the folly of my younger days when I would snigger at anyone unable to read a letter that huge! Time does have a way of humbling us.

I would position myself about three metres away from the chart and get handed a pair of monocular spectacles. The idea was to assess each eye individually while keeping my usual glasses on. I found the whole process somewhat befuddling. The nurses would invariably instruct me to cover my left (weaker) eye and read the smallest line possible. After I aced it with my good eye, their hearty congratulations were followed by the instruction that I should now cover my ‘good’ eye and do the same with my ‘bad’ one. The entire exercise seemed ludicrous. I mean, did they truly believe my memory was so fleeting that I’d forget the letters I had just read?

Despite my attempts to articulate this conundrum, I was often met with the shrug-off of “Oh, but that’s the way we’ve always done it.” If there’s one phrase that’s going to piss me off, it’s that one. Well, there are lots, but this one, in particular, gets my goat. “Well, you’ve always done it wrong then!” would be the reply that came out of my brain, but luckily, it rarely made it as far as my mouth.

Eventually, I took charge, stating I would cover my right eye first, leaving no room for argument. Thankfully, I could still decipher the third line from the bottom, so the ship hadn’t entirely sunk yet.

The next series of ordeals was exactly as before – the stinging eye drops, a casual poke in the eye with the pressure-measuring apparatus, a photo shoot of the back of my eye, and finally, a date with the dreaded screechy machine. I’d then play the waiting game before the consultant would stride in, carrying an air of preoccupied professionalism. He would take a seat, adjust his glasses, and engage the high-beam of his slit lamp, practically blinding me with its intensity. It was like being on the receiving end of a police car spotlight after being pulled over, except I hadn’t even committed any eye-related offences.

This unfolding medical saga stirred memories of a different kind of run-in with the law—my first and only speeding offence. Ah, the reckless rapture of youth. I was about 19 then, and as far as I was concerned, I was riding a beast of a motorcycle that might as well have been a rocket ship.

My steed? A Kawasaki KH250, a motorcycle that those in the know will remember for its three cylinder engine and dramatic performances. Picture this: a plume of blue smoke belching out as the beast roared to life, hitting a throaty 6000 rpm and then howling like a banshee up to 9000 rpm. It was as if the bike had a drama degree and was committed to giving a one-bike show on every ride. And when the incline was just right, this cacophony of smoke and noise could launch you into the heady thrills of 100mph.

One particular night, I found myself cruising down a side road within a thirty-mile an hour limit, the weak headlights of the Kawasaki barely puncturing the thick black night. I was clocking a rebellious 43.5 mph—precise, isn’t it? But I can explain.

As I navigated the dark road, a dim, flickering red light came into view, bobbing and weaving like a drunken firefly. At first, I mistook it for a cyclist, so I manoeuvred to the other side of the road to bypass it. As I drew closer, I realised that this wasn’t any cyclist. This was a policeman, armed with a torch and a black cape, wildly gesticulating in the middle of the road, like a poorly lit interpretation of Swan Lake.

How I managed to swerve in time without bowling him over like a rogue tenpin, I will never know. Rather than appreciating my admirable reflexes and awarding me a medal for not turning him into road kill, he decided to present me with a speeding ticket. Talk about ungrateful. If he’d known that my front Yokohama was as bald as a baby’s bottom, he’d have been doubly impressed.

After surviving the initial assault of light, I’d follow the standard routine: squint, blink, squint some more, and finally, begrudgingly, resign to the torturous glare. It was like the retina equivalent of a marathon. I swear my eye was shedding ‘sweat’ in the form of tears.

Then, like an absurd dance, the dreaded screechy machine would make its entrance. You’d think by now I’d have made peace with it, but no such luck. Every encounter was like the first – uncomfortable, unsettling, and just a smidge panic-inducing.

I felt as if I had enlisted in some ocular boot camp, complete with obstacle courses and tests of endurance. The end of each visit was like emerging from a tough gym session, complete with strained eyeballs instead of aching muscles.

My regular visits to the hospital for these eye rendezvous became like a hauntingly familiar ballet performance. Each act followed the previous with the precision of a Swiss watch, and I was the reluctant soloist at the centre of it all.

In the end, these treks to Liverpool Hospital became my version of a twisted ‘Groundhog Day,’ minus the romance and witticism. The routine was monotonous but necessary, a medical ritual played out in a cold hospital room, while I awaited the day when my retina would finally declare independence from its unwanted fluid squatter.

The familiarity of my medical routine was starting to take on the surreal feel of a strange, dystopian game show. There were no glistening prize cars or exotic holidays on offer, just the thrill of competing against the eye photo machine that seemed bent on stealing my dignity, one awkward pose at a time. My competitive spirit spurred me on, determined to win against this mechanical adversary with its unreasonable demands for the perfect eye-to-camera distance. Oh, the sweet triumph of two consecutive green lights! It was like acing an obstacle course designed by a cyborg Cirque du Soleil performer.

Then came the sobering prospect of ‘The Avastin Challenge.’ The instructions were simple, if grotesque: Take a needle, insert it into the eye, inject a dose of Avastin. Simple, right? Just the casual risk of blindness and an array of other potential complications that read like the world’s least appealing buffet menu. Who in their right mind wouldn’t jump at the chance to sign up?

Yet sign up I did, and soon enough, found myself perched in a sterile side room, my eye anaesthetised, iodine-soaked, and uncomfortably wedged open. The ensuing needle prod was a uniquely unsettling sensation, the likes of which only a mosquito could relate to. After all, not everyone can say they’ve had an extreme close-up encounter with a sharp object approaching their brain.

Photo courtesy of the American Society of Retina Specialists

The nurse, displaying the kind of optimism only medical professionals seem to possess, held up three fingers and quizzed me on their count. As if I’d suddenly morphed into a toddler learning to count, I proudly delivered the right answer and left the room with a strangely triumphant sense of accomplishment.

But the medical odyssey didn’t end there. Next, I was enlisted for routine MRI scans, my liver under close surveillance. They were checking for advanced melanoma, a sneaky, organ-trotting menace. These tiny insurgents could break away from their origin – my primary ocular melanoma – and colonise distant territories of my body.

Oddly enough, they said, the liver was like the ‘go-to’ destination for these ocular melanoma cells, the Ibiza of metastatic melanoma. A 50/50 chance of coming down with something terminal. A grim revelation that nobody had previously bothered to share.

But such a fate wouldn’t befall me, right? After all, it’s just a mere coin flip chance – heads, you’re in the clear; tails, well…you don’t want tails. Despite all the oddball challenges and daunting risks, I still had to ask myself: Do I feel lucky?