Living With One Eye

Actually this post is about living with one real eye and one made of acrylic! It follows the previous post, Losing An Eye.

I had chosen enucleation (removal of the eye) in order to get melanoma out of my system. Since there was no proof it was totally OUT, the blood donor service didn’t want to see me again (they’d been collecting my blood all the years the tumour was developing, and that fact has bothered me ever since).

I had been warned about loss of triangulation of vision, so wouldn’t be accurate about judging depth and distance. It was suggested I buy safety goggles for whenever I was to do anything dangerous. No other information or advice was offered: the medical system didn’t appear to be able or willing (probably not funded) to collect and pass on the like.

Especially helpful for me in deciding what to do, had been speaking to three people who had lost an eye and could tell me exactly what to expect. Nothing detracted from my decision to lose the eye, since I preferred to remove the visual impediment as well as lessen the threat of metastasis.

Yes, some of the slight blurring that was present previously has remained. The problematic light glare also has remained, maybe to a greater degree — I cannot see an object clearly, or watch a person’s face if it/they are between me and the light source, so I have to make apologies and place myself or angle my chair accordingly. For the same reason I can’t find things inside cupboards or in dark corners, cannot detect well white objects on white, or black-on-black… any colour against a similar colour! (Gardening, it’s hard to tell weeds from the good stuff, and I recently destroyed tendrils of my treasured purple clematis!).

Without triangulation you’ll have to concentrate fully when dealing with stairs, especially when descending. I find a hand-rail and take my time until I get the rhythm. Sudden changes in levels on footpaths or pavers can catch you out (so you are looking down, rather than out, as you walk). I have often placed down a glass of beverage only to have it tip, or fall and shatter, because it didn’t land where I thought it would. Better to place one hand first where you intend to put the object, then the other hand will find the spot.

Maybe some skills have to be re-learned. Because I dislike aerosols, I made stellar use of a fly-swat this last summer. One day I saw two flies in close proximity and felled them both in one blow (made easier by the bench being a pale colour). The following day I repeated the feat once, then again — made easier by the fact they were different flies. Six in three blows is OK for monocular vision!

Some skills just remained. As a pianist I was worried it might affect my performance but it didn’t in the least (kinaesthetic sense finely tuned over fifty years) and in fact  the steps leading to the concert instrument were a more likely source of embarrassment.

In filling a jug or glass from a tap, don’t take it for granted you’ve got it lined up. Yesterday I got a flood on the bench before I realised the jug wasn’t quite under the filter. I now have separate glasses for various focal distances: one for driving, watching TV and most of the day, one for using the computer and another for reading music at the piano.

You may not be very good at housework, either! Rely on others to point out the pot you ought to wash again, the windowsills and cupboard doors that are getting grotty.

The other factor to deal with is the prosthetic eye. I tend to remove mine weekly, leaving it out overnight (in lens solution to remove body proteins) to rest the socket. Since having it OUT doesn’t feel any different from having it IN, my husband may have to remind me the next day.

My second (bigger) prosthesis is big enough that it is not likely to fall out, unless I rub my lower eyelid too vigorously: I can always feel if the bottom edge protrudes and can simply push it back behind the lid. It requires suction removal. It normally goes in correctly but sometimes wants to make me look up or outwards. These are only minor things. Once a year I visit the ocularist who painted the eye, to get it polished.

You will find on YouTube some videos of people demonstrating the extent of eye-tracking that is possible. I made a video of myself and was disappointed that the prosthesis had very restricted movement. That convinced me that I needed to make a habit of always facing a person directly, otherwise they’d likely see cross-eyes or divergent. When in company, turn the head rather than just glance sideways.

However, I was able to come across as some sort of super-being when, seated beside a student, I was pointing out notes in the music book in front of us. She must have looked sideways at me, because she blurted in astonishment: “But you’re not even LOOKING at it!” Well, the other eye that mattered was.

I didn’t explain. I’d rather she believed I had super-powers.


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