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Worrying was hard, but surgery wasn't

Life is a series of experiences. I had an experience recently that I was not looking forward to: cataract surgery.

Most of my friends have had cataract surgery, and they assured me that it was a piece of cake. Still, I have never had the option of deciding when to subject myself to the knife. My hospital stays have been mostly for childbirth. My only other trip there was for my mastectomy. When you are faced with cancer, you usually don't hesitate _ you don't have much choice. But cataracts _ well, there was no hurry, so I waited for nearly three years after my ophthalmologist told me it was "ready."

Was I a coward? You bet I was. The thought of having someone working on my eye gave me the shivers. But I realized that it was time when I could no longer look up numbers in the telephone book. My telephone bill looked like the national debt because of operator assistance. Then, when I couldn't enjoy doing my daily crossword puzzle, I knew I had come to the end of the line. I made the appointment.

The doctor was very patient with me as he answered my questions and explained exactly what he would do. I'm sure he went home to his wife that night with a tale about the obnoxious little old lady who took up his time seeking assurance that this wasn't a life-threatening procedure.

The dreaded day came and I marched into the day surgery area like a brave soldier, looked around the waiting room and saw several other women looking very calm. I hoped I looked as confident, because my insides were dancing a jig. The nurse called my name first. I kissed my husband and walked into the inner sanctum as if I were going to the guillotine.

All my fears were unfounded. The nurses treated me as if I were a celebrity. I didn't even have to take off my shoes. They put drops in my eyes, talked to me and offered me a tranquilizer, which I refused because so far, there was no discomfort.

My doctor came in, looked at my eye and said, "We're ready." The nurse helped me off the gurney, and I walked into the operating room. In no time, it was all over. Secretly, I was ashamed of myself. Everyone told me how well I had done, and I just smiled like a trooper. Other than the patch over my eye, everything was the same.

The patch was removed the next morning, and voila! I was able to read the smallest print on the chart. I couldn't wait to get home to look in the mirror. Did my eye look the same? Yes, but I was shocked to see that overnight I had aged! There were a million lines on my face.

"Tom, were these lines on my face before my cataract surgery?"

For a moment he was at a loss for words. Then he stammered, "You look the same to me, dear."

Many years ago I read a quote from the actress Helen Hayes: "Mother Nature is very kind. She dims our eyes as we grow older so we can't see the ravages of time." How right she was.

Cataract surgery? Let me tell you about it. It's a piece of cake.

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