I debated long and hard about this blog entry but thought I would write a brief note so as to alleviate some of the concern a few people have raised over the last week or so.
In the first week of August I went for a regular opticians appointment. You’re supposed to visit the opticians every two years if you’re a regular wearer of spectacles apparently. Unfortunately it had been a long six years since my last eye test! What can I say? I’ve been a busy man.
In all seriousness though, I’ve moved house twice, gone to work for three different companies, quit two bands, got engaged, got married, bought two cars and taken up groundhopping in that time. I’m a busy guy.
My eyes hadn’t got that worse over the six years. I needed a little but of a stronger prescription than I previously had but the optician still described it as ‘quite a weak prescription’ for someone of my age.
The optician raised a bit of concern about what she described as ‘very swollen optic nerves’ at the back of my right eye and asked how whether I knew I had an ‘optic nerve drusen’. Going into the appointment I’d never been aware of such a thing and such was my unfamiliarity with what a drusen was I actually had to have the optician spell it for me so I could Google search it when I got home.
Apparently you tend to be born with a drusen or you don’t. They affect under 1% of the population. If you have a drusen and you attend optical appointments regularly you should know about it. It’s usually pointed out to parents at birth and any decent optician worth their salt should be able to spot a drusen from a mile off in any eye test.
Given that prior to my six year hiatus from eye tests I’d regularly been having them every three years or so, the optician was a little concerned why I’d seemingly suddenly developed this swelling at the back of my eye.
She asked me about my general state of health, the work I do and asked me whether I suffer from headaches on a regular basis. To which I answered ‘yes’. She grew concerned and stated that she was going to refer me to my local hospital to rule out a brain tumour.
My reaction was probably similar to what yours was when reading that sentence. I don’t know whether it was a language barrier thing but she seemed excessively calm when talking about a potential drusen, but then her tone changed immediately to one of horror when she started describing how I was ‘75% likely to have a brain tumour’.
I said my farewells to the optician and awaited news of an appointment at the hospital. I furiously Googled ‘brain tumour’, ‘optic drusen’ and all manner of optic related matter.
Apparently a growth at the back of the eye or a ‘gathering’ of blood vessels such as these can present themselves as drusens. On the contrary of this, they can also suggest the possibility of a brain tumour pushing on the eye.
So I took the potential diagnosis away, I told my family and I tried to push it to the back of my mind, after all the optician did say ‘The specialist will have better equipment than I have here and should be able to confirm pretty quickly whether it’s anything sinister or not’.
Three weeks later I found myself sitting in the outpatients department at the new Ysbyty Cwm Rhondda in Llwynypia, only a stones throw across the road from its predecessor Llwynypia Hospital where I was born only 33 years earlier.
I’m not a big fan of eyes to say the least. A teacher in primary school for some sick reason unknown to me tried to actually teach us during a Science lesson that at some point during our fifties or sixties our vision would slowly start to fail and we would need to visit the optician to have the plaque scraped from the back of our eyeball, much in the same way a dentist would during a normal check up. The optician apparently would do this by actually pulling your eyeball from its socket, just casually like.
Regardless of how stupid it sounds now, it set about a long standing fear of ever 1) touching my own eyeball 2) letting anyone else touch my eyeball 3) watching anyone else touch their eyeball 4) contact lenses in any shape or fashion 5) laser surgery.
I squirmed, I moved away when he tried to poke about my eyeball, I begged him to just put me under general anaesthetic so he could examine my eye but he sadly declined. He put a series of eye drops into my eye (somehow) that would temporarily enlarge my pupils to make his examination easier.
‘Your eyes will just look like you’re on drugs’ he stated.
Now call me a boring bastard but I’ve never done a single illegal drug. I’m boring like that. The most drugs I’ve ever done in my life was taking 4 co-codamol instead of the recommended 2 when I had 5 fillings in the one day as a teenager (incidentally, dentists don’t scare me in the slightest!) So I had no idea what walking around with enlarged pupils was going to be like.
The doctor looked surprisingly disappointed in me when I told him about the most drugs I’d ever done in my life.
He examined my eye and tried to calm down some of the fears the previous optician had put into me. He attributed this down to the language barrier between myself and my optician. Although he did state that he couldn’t be certain and needed to send me for a CT scan, an ultrasound and a field of vision test to decide whether I had a plain old boring optic nerve drusen or a slightly more threatening deadly brain tumour. He told me to stay calm and relax and try not to think about it, but realise that he was sending me for a scan to ‘rule it out’, rather than ‘confirm it’.
So I got home and my wife and I kind of agreed to keep everything low key for the time being, at least until I had the CT scan and things were either ruled out or confirmed. After all, there was no need to worry people without any need.
The problem was when faced with a keyboard, I tend to forget things like that and since I hadn’t uploaded my Penybont vs. Barry Town blog in my usual 24-48 hours I felt some kind of responsibility to at least mention why I hadn’t done so, especially when I’d promised both teams I’d have some photos for them within that time scale. So like a dick head I only went and broke my ‘keep it low key’ agreement within about an hour (as you can see above). A couple of people (and I’m eternally grateful for this) raised some concern about the eye test and I stated to one or two people it was just a case of ruling it out and the chance of me actually having a brain tumour were quite small anyway.
A few others started sending me messages asking whether I was okay and expressing concern, which was very very heartening and I will always be eternally grateful for the friendship, love and general nice-ness shown by some of those people who did express their concern. I also worried that perhaps people were getting a little too worried a little too early over something that turn out just to be a normal degenerative eye condition at the end of the day.
So I’ve written this blog entry as a complete break from my normal blog entries to try and at least alleviate some of these worries and concerns people may have had on reading my Twitter feed.
I’d like to thank everyone who raised their concerns for my potential situation during the last week. It was very heartening and really quite surprised me. The fact that people out there were concerned shows just how important the idea of community is in the Welsh football scene and the ground hopping scene throughout the United Kingdom.
I will confirm on this page what the CT scans come back with to put people’s minds at rests but at the moment I’m just running with the eye specialists view that we’re simply going through all of these checks to rule the tumour out, rather than confirm there is one there. I feel fine, I’m healthy, I just have a few more headaches than the average person – probably not helped by the fact I work in IT and have been looking at a laptop screen for 45+ hours a week for the last ten years.
Plus, it would take more than a tumour to stop me reaching 100 matches this year.