Terry’s Challenge with the loss of an Eye
This is the story of my husband Terry Oldfield, a musician and composer who has lost his eye this summer due to the discovery of a Choroidal Melanoma. I hope that this is helpful to others facing the huge challenge of enucleation (Eye Removal) and Monocular vision.
A Shocking Diagnosis
It was just Christmas we discovered that Terry had a malignant choroidal melanoma in his right eye.
I still remember the night before, we were sitting on our deck in the semi-dark sharing some philosophical musings from the day. Terry said he had been seeing lights flashing across his vision on and off for a few weeks now, and that in this soft light he had a dark spot of obstructed vision.
“Do you think I should get my eyes checked?” he asked.
“Absolutely, tomorrow.” I replied.
It’d Been A Huge And Wonderful Year
It has been a huge and much celebrated year with our Music and workshop Tour through Europe. We had launched our new album Namaste – Songs for Peace. I had also published and launched my memoir “Shining Through: From Grief to Gratitude” . In Shining Through I shared my journey through the grief of losing my son to suicide. It has been seven years since losing my son and I am now living a life of absolute gratitude.
Life I have come to realise can never be taken for granted, each day is a gift.
We’d been aware of a freckle on the choroidal area of Terry’s right eye. He’d been having six monthly check ups by the optician. So the next day we organised his overdue eye examination. The optometrist told him the freckle had doubled in size and had changed form. Concerned, he referred Terry on to a specialist immediately. I drove the car to the next appointment as Terry’s pupils were dilated like saucers from the drops administered prior to the eye examination. He was feeling like the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland.
After further examination the specialist announced in a very flat and matter of fact way that Terry had a choroidal melanoma, that he was 99% sure was malignant. “I’m Sorry.” He added.
I was standing on the other side of the room. We were leaving for India in a couple of days and this was a real Sneaky Louie. We looked deeply at each other. I felt calm for it all seemed surreal.
“And how is this treated?” Terry asked.
“I will refer you on to a cancer specialist for eyes, but I think he may suggest enucleation, or removal of the eye. Unfortunately, the melanoma is wrapped around your optic nerve, which makes it more difficult to manage otherwise.”
What To Do?
We explained we were heading to India in a few days to run a retreat and he told us to cancel the retreat and see the specialist as soon as possible. Terry and I walked outside and I held his hand and told him whatever he wanted to do was ok with me.
“Remember our policy though.” I said quietly. “Nothing has to happen in a hurry, don’t be bullied into rushing this.”
“I want to go to India. I need time.” Terry replied clearly.
We made the appointment with the oncology specialist on our return from India and headed home to digest the impact of the news.
Has The Cancer Spread?
The one thing that concerned us more than anything else was whether it had metastasised to other parts of the body. We had been told that Choroidal Melanoma usually moves into the liver and lungs first. To put our minds at rest we immediately organised a PET-CT scan and liver ultrasound. As a mindfulness teacher I understand we only have this moment now and this is the gift.
Thankfully, our doctor rushed the tests through, still the two nights of waiting left Terry digesting the impact of a terrible uncertainty. He was living with the very real possibility that the melanoma could be in his lungs and liver already.
We promised to support each other in remaining present and not going into what ifs. Yet living with the mind and its nature of thinking is always challenging. Terry was left feeling his life was on the line and any future plans for our music touring were out the window. This was a daunting and dark place to be and over the next few nights Terry experienced disturbing dreams and there was no getting around the fact that his life would be changed forever by this.
Mortality is a fragile thing and never before had everything seemed so uncertain. Definitely time to accept the impermanence of all things. .
To our relief the tests came back all clear which offered the peace of mind we had hoped for to enjoy our time in India We headed off, keeping the news of Terry’s eye to ourselves. India always feels like coming home to us and we share a mutual love for this land of fakirs and mystics.
India and Ayurveda
Our India Retreat creates a heart space where we delve into the mysteries of life with our group. Each attendee also enjoys the nurturing of daily Ayurvedic treatments and fantastic healthy food. With morning yoga, meditation, mindfulness, singing and music we relaxed into life by the Arabian Sea. We always enjoy sleeping to the sound of the waves rolling on in. Together with our group enjoying visiting Temples and Ashrams. A gentle gratitude and acceptance of surrendering to the path ahead settled into our being.
Terry received two weeks of Ayurvedic therapy with the wonderful Indian doctors. If he had to have the operation, we wanted him in peak health for the best outcome. India provided us time to digest the impact of the news and come to terms with a possible enucleation or removal of his right eye. There is nothing like your life being challenged to help you see what is really important in life
Back in Australia
Back home again, we visited the specialist and surgeon. They announced that the only way to preserve of life was to remove the eye. This would ensure no seeding of the tumor (metastases). This seriousness was due to the optic nerve involvement. Our Indian surgeon in Australia, was a kind, intelligent and quiet man, who patiently answered all our questions. He was the head of a whole team of doctors specialising in this rare form of Melanoma.
Very little is known about choroidal melanomas as yet, but it seems it is not sun related like other Melanomas. Terry agreed to donate part of his eye and Melanoma to further study being carried out right here in Brisbane.
We had three days before the operation and so we made the most of it. Terry wanted to enjoy his last three days of binocular vision. We walked in our favourite forest on the last day and I shot this video.
Face to Face With Our Mortality
As we age we come face to face with our mortality, and we can see things quite differently. The carefree sense of immortality may either fade into a calm acceptance of the natural ageing process or raise fears around the loss of youth and facing death.
I have to say each moment is a bonus. Life can only be now so being fully present and making the most of each moment is even more important now.
This year great artists of our lifetime have passed over including David Bowie, Prince and our beloved Leonard Cohen. Being a 9 year it’s the end of a cycle. We wondered what it would hold for us.
Growing Old Gracefully Together
Terry and I talk about growing old gracefully together. About happily embracing the wisdom that comes with age. We’ve both been drawn to spiritual life, the esoteric, to nature and awakening to self-realisation since our teens.
We still hope to grow older together but more importantly is enjoying every moment we have now.
Please leave your comments or questions below and I will answer as best I can.
with Love Soraya