What the eye cannot see, turning fear into gratitude

What the eye cannot see, turning fear into gratitude
Freddie after a nose dive in the snow.

We are a species that trusts what we see. I remember this every time I walk my dog. Sight is important to this creature, too. I love it when he stops to watch the garbage trucks. He stands still and stares, watching every move.

But Freddie’s dominant sense is smell. He has been diving muzzle first into our first snow and sniffing with relish. He rolls in what he smells. He lifts his head and draws in all the smells around him.

I’d love to know what he knows from these smells. I’d love to understand why some smells provoke such excitement and why others seem to be uninteresting.

I, however, am guided by my eyes. Seeing is believing.

Every six months during my cystoscopy, I feel empowered as the tiny camera is guided into my bladder and my doctor describes what we’re seeing. The organs that make our bodies work are pretty amazing.

Last week I got the “all clear” from my cystoscopy. Everything looked normal. One of the great parts of the cystoscopy is that you get the results from the study right then. No waiting. I left my doc's office with a No Evidence of Disease verdict.

However, the urinalysis and molecular test of my urine had not arrived when I had the cystoscopy. Those tests look at the world under a microscope. They see what the eye alone cannot see. Cancer is insidious, in part because it is sometimes microscopic. When you’re that little, you can travel around unnoticed. No one tries to stop you.

The molecular test, however, can see biomarkers. When they reach certain levels they indicate the presence or likelihood of presence of cancer. My test came back positive last Friday.

Those results give me a ticket on the rollercoaster of cancer, another front row experience. On Monday I will have an outpatient procedure for the doc to look more closely at the bladder, the ureters and the kidneys to see if cancer is lurking, a retrograde pyelogram.

This procedure uses dyes that react to tissue differently than to cancer cells and light up the view to help the doc. If anything looks abnormal, the doc takes a sample and then other eyes look through microscopes to see if cancer lurks.

These dyes and cameras and magnifying lenses help us see what the eye cannot see alone. I am grateful for all of these technologies.

My friend Janson Jones is a photographer. A few days ago he posted this photo on Facebook and it just swept me away.

North Peninsula State Park; Volusia county, Florida (30 August 2015, Nikon D7100). Digitally processed on Enlight for iOS, 23 November 2015

North Peninsula State Park; Volusia county, Florida (30 August 2015, Nikon D7100). Digitally processed on Enlight for iOS, 23 November 2015

I love it. After I asked him about it, he posted the original and described the process of how one became the other.

North Peninsula State Park; Volusia county, Florida (30 August 2015, Nikon D7100).

North Peninsula State Park; Volusia county, Florida (30 August 2015, Nikon D7100).

Here's the technical description/caption: North Peninsula State Park; Volusia county, Florida (30 August 2015, Nikon D7100). Digitally processed on Enlight for iOS, 23 November 2015. I usually prefer more-direct photography, but landscapes sometimes reveal fantastic light patterns and textures when they're abstracted and manipulated. I want to wrap myself up in this one!

I want to wrap myself up in this, too, because it reminds me of the manipulations that x-ray technologies, such as PET scans and CT scans, do to our body images. By manipulating what the eye would see, we can see new things and see them in different ways. We can see tissue and cells that look normal and instead find cancer mutations that can harm us if left to grow.

As I wait for Monday to get here, I am working to set aside the fear and feel gratitude instead. Because of these technologies, these new ways of manipulating images, these powerful eyes to see inside my body, my doctor may be able to find cancer before it gets big enough to do harm. Or, he may find nothing, and I can leave again with No Evidence of Disease.

Janson's amazing blog is here. He is an amazing photographer of nature and of life. Take a few moments to immerse yourself in these wonderful images.

I've written about Scanxiety here.

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