Diabetes Eye-Screening Clinic

Today I opened a letter from the Diabetes Eye-Screening Clinic. I’m going to go blind.

The only thing holding in hysteria is fear. It’s over isn’t it? Please tell me it isn’t over. I can’t be over before I’ve even gotten anywhere, before I’ve even given up on myself. Everything once so promising has been taken, like a vicious knife attack but slow, far slower, couldn’t really twist it in more. “The first stages of Background Retinopathy.” black print on white paper, an accompanying leaflet listing all the ways it can go wrong from here. I can’t feel anything. I’m less than numb and unbalanced from the knees up. I guess this is the shock. I fold it back into the pile of faceless letters from the bank and hold onto Natasha for dear life, ‘It’s not even highlighted in red. It doesn’t even say urgent on the envelope.’ It’s been laying there for months now amongst a pile of loose bank letters. We stand together frozen, a nightmare where the scream does not come out. White letter and black text.
But how can this happen? I was there at the test; the woman was short and Spanish, she was apologising for the machine having being broken previously and this being a return visit. She put me at ease, told me I’d be fine when I told her how I was scared of eye tests, of how my mum now had glaucoma in the family history and that I was terrified of losing my sight; as my hands trembled.

She said from the first looks of photographs she had taken of the backs of my eyes, that there was nothing obviously wrong, no apparent damage; a couple of marks to be expected following near seventeen years of diabetes. Though nothing of obvious concern and some much needed reassurance these were yearly tests set directly to pick up any early warning signs of decay; so as to give the experts to whom these photographs would be sent much advanced notice. ‘Were they to find anything serious, they can treat a patient in advance with all the wonders of modern medicine and laser eye care therapy. Being able to eradicate it there and then,’ she said. Words taken and held onto like a comfort blanket.

But this letter doesn’t mention any of that; black text on white paper with no personal signature it reads I have the first stages of Background Retinopathy and the accompanying tissue-thin colour brochure states that one direction this may go in can be treated in some instances with laser eye care surgery: that this can work for a small percentage of some people with diabetes. Presenting next on profoundly colourful print another half dozen or so untreatable ways it’ll no doubt accelerate.

Back to the letter, they want to see me again in a year to track what route of deterioration my eyes have taken. A YEARS TIME before looking into possible treatments, if any and in the meantime I am to sit tight and it is most important I should keep my blood sugar(s) level. I can’t deal with today’s letter, it is again sealed, folded then stacked and shelved amongst the bottom end, two-thirds down a stack of white paper envelopes that I’ll never open.

Taken from my book, ‘Persona Non Grata with Diabetes.’ I hope you don’t mind me sharing. P