Jan Offermann – Have You Got A Glass Eye Miss?

Ten years ago, I was diagnosed with melanoma of the iris in my right eye. My case was extremely unusual. They have no idea of the cause.

Over the next nine years, I had about seven or eight operations and many therapies to try to save the eye. About two of these operations were to remove the growth, four or five were for glaucoma, and one was to give me a corneal transplant as the growth was intruding into the cornea. During this time, the melanoma recurred twice.

It was my decision to have my eye removed. In a way, it was a relief. No more surgery and treatment to endure. I think I’d faced losing it a long time before it actually happened, even after the very first operation. So I had a long time to get used to the idea. I didn’t fall apart when the doctors told me the bad news. By then, my eye had become quite horrible-looking, and all I could see was light and shadow, no details.

There was also some trepidation though. My biggest fear was that I’d lose my other eye. I searched on the internet and found a site that listed the top ten things feared by people who have one eye. And the number one thing was the same as mine: fear of losing the other eye. I think it’s because sight is so precious, a finite resource. For adults who lose an eye, I think it is more scary because of how much we value our sight. I actually had an uncle who lost both eyes, one at a time, through separate accidents, so I suppose that’s why I was worried. It helped me to know that other people felt like this.

That’s why I like Paul and Jenny’s website – it’s a great venue for reading other people’s stories.

I’m a teacher/librarian at a school for years 7-12. I sometimes get comments from the younger kids like, “Miss, have you got a glass eye?”. I answer with the truth: “No, I haven’t”. I don’t need to tell them it’s acrylic! And sometimes they ask me, “Miss, how do you do that, keep one eye still and turn the other?”

I don’t often have problems with my artificial eye. Once, in the early days, I rubbed it and made it turn, which shocked a colleague. I don’t go on waterslides anymore and 3D movies aren’t worth it. Seeing out of one eye means having to turn your head a lot, like something out of the Exorcist. Maybe I’m a better driver because of it. Sometimes, when I’m rushing around, I forget to double-check, and so run into things. The answer? Don’t be in a hurry.

As told to Janet Shaw. Reprinted with permission from Jan Offerman. You may link to this story, but please do not copy or otherwise circulate.