Get a Grip

Last week, a small, black dot appeared in my right eye. No matter which way I looked, the dot moved with my eye, right in my line of sight. I figured it was a floater, one of those annoying little bits of vitreous gel that break away from your retina as you age, liquify and cast a shadow inside your eye. Nothing to worry about.

But it was in the way when I tried to read. And I’d never had one before, and its sudden appearance was unnerving. So, after putting up with it for a few days, I did some research and realized that this sudden onset required a check-up to be sure I wasn’t at risk for a retinal tear.

Of course, because I waited until later in the week, my optometrist was away for the Fourth of July weekend. It never fails that something odd and worrysome happens to me when it’s Friday night or a holiday.

Fortunately, I was able to get an appointment with another good eye doctor for late Friday afternoon, and he did a thorough check of my eyes from every angle. And, of course, the little dot had vanished. Just like that weird clicking noise in your engine that goes silent as soon as you bring in your car for a service check.

But he took me seriously, anyway, diagnosed it as an “incipient vitreous detachment” and told me to have a follow-up with my own optometrist in a month. And, he warned, if you see any more floaters, you need to be checked right away, because the vitreous gel could be tugging at the retina around the optic nerve and cause a tear. If you have blurred vision, see any sparks of light or have pain, you need to be seen immediately. The longer you wait, the greater the risk of permanent vision loss.

Necessary advice, but not great words for the anxiety-prone. So, naturally, on Sunday, I started noticing more floaters in my right eye. Not solid black ones, like the unwanted visitor that appeared last week, but pale, ringlike apparitions swimming around whenever I looked at the sky or a page in a book or my computer screen—like the amoebae you see in a drop of water under a microscope in high school biology, ghostlike, barely visible, until you know what to look for.

I thought, they’ve been here all along, and you’re just noticing them because you’re paying closer attention.

I thought, they’re new since last week and you’re going to have a retinal tear when you’re away on vacation.

I thought, this is ridiculous.

I thought, now you know what to blog about this week.

I thought, call your optometrist first thing Monday morning.

I took Ginger for a walk and made a nice summer dinner of gazpacho and a broccoli-rice-chickpea-carrot salad, with gorgonzola cheese and craisins, to take my mind off my eye.

Just as I finished cooking and turned to put the salad in the refrigerator, the bowl slipped from my grasp. Half the salad spilled on the floor. I dropped the f-bomb about a dozen times, then decided that the floor was clean enough, follow the 10-second rule of contact, the vinegar will kill any germs, and quickly scooped up as much as I could, put it back in the bowl and invited Ginger to lick up the rest. Which she did, with enthusiasm.

My meditation teacher says the one thing we can count on is that everything changes. I can’t keep the floaters from appearing in my eye. I can’t always keep a grip on a bowl full of food. I might have more vision problems on our Maine island vacation. It’s scary. Scleroderma is scary. Life is scary.

All I can do is give myself a hug, take a deep breath, pay attention, and deal.

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at

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