The "Hotel Melanoma" moniker is a metaphor for living with my particular brand of cancer. Except for those lucky few of us deemed "cured", all we cancer survivors are guests of one of the many, many branded hotels in the "Hotel Carcinoma" chain. We can check out any time we like, but we can never leave. Meanwhile, let's be livin' it up; and please support cancer education, prevention, and treatment research.

Tutu Brothers

Monday, November 1, 2010

Better Living Through Visioneering

Earlier this year I experienced another one of those periodic diagnostic fire drills that seem to be common for most all of we lucky survivors. A routine eye exam by an optometrist uncovered evidence of bleeding on my left retina. Silly me, I’d just thought it was time for stronger reading glasses to counter the phenomenon experienced by lots of fellow ‘boomers— my arms have gotten too short to extend out a menu far enough to be in the optimum focusing range of aging eyeballs.

It likely wouldn’t have been any big deal if I’d lied in response to the optometrist’s questions about my medical history. My spouse wasn’t chaperoning me that day, and I could’ve gotten away with it. Instead, I told the truth and the optometrist sort of freaked out on me a bit, immediately voicing his suspicion that a tumor might be the underlying cause.

So, within a few hours I found myself in the hands of a retinal disease specialist at my favorite university medical center and undergoing some mildly unpleasant scanning procedures. (I’m a firm believer in the “one-stop shopping” approach for all medical needs in the hope that one doc might actually talk to another when they practice medicine under the same roof.) But for a rookie resident who, under the annoyed eyes of the scanning technician, couldn’t seem to find a vein for a scanning dye injection, the scans would’ve been fairly easy. I much prefer it when nurses or technicians do this sort of “hands-on” thing, since they’re almost always far better at it than most young doctors who chose a specialty other than surgery for good reason. Maybe it’s good that I didn’t know what’s in that dye, since after a previous scan I couldn’t see the disclosure and consent form placed before me by said resident before injecting said dye. (I may be a recovering lawyer but, honest, this is the only legal document I can ever recall “robo-signing”.) All I know for sure is that it is never a good thing when the rules require a doctor rather than a nurse or technician to inject some substance into your veins.

The scans and examinations showed no evidence of a tumor, thank heavens. The retinal specialist voiced his suspicions that the bleeding might have something to do with prior radiation treatments. However, the radiation oncologist has opined that this is next to impossible, since he’d fired very focused beams of radiation at a target several inches away from the left eye in question. In yet another foolish research expedition on the ‘net, I uncovered an obscure medical journal article about a melanoma survivor whose retinal problems turned out to be early evidence of a recurrence. That sort of iced a decision to listen to my inner paranoid hypochondriac self and dutifully touch base with the melanoma specialist to report a potential symptom. He opined that it was possible but highly unlikely that my retinal bleeding had anything whatsoever to do with melanoma or melanoma treatment. So, the diagnostic bottom line is that the condition is “idiopathic”, i.e. nobody has a clue what is causing it and we’re watching it. And so it goes. Being a longtime resident of the Hotel Melanoma, I’ll take idiopathic any day.

I wonder if anyone else out there has experienced a similar issue?


  1. Hi Rich

    I saw the link to your blog on a comment you made on a post at AiM on Facebook. Glad I checked it out. My daughter has just checked into this hotel (crappy accomodations by the way....and hugely overpriced). I love the humour you have in your posts (only read a couple of them so far). I'll be forwarding her a link to your blog. Amongst all the
    dark stuff out there on melanoma it is nice to have a balance of experience, facts and smiles.

    Best to you


  2. Sue, I've been wondering how your daughter is doing? Thanks for your kind comments on the blog. Best wishes.