One morning recently, when we were trying to get Asa to put on his socks, he asked us, seemingly out of nowhere: “What does it have in it, my right eye?”
It was clear he wasn’t in discomfort; it wasn’t that he had a piece of grit in there. He pointed up at his eye with his index finger.
“Well, it’s got jelly in it,” I said. “And a retina, and a lens. And lots of other things we didn’t know about two years ago.”
“And what does it have in it, my left eye? Does it have a lens?”
“No, your left eye doesn’t have a lens.”
“What happened to it, the lens?”
“The doctor took it out, because the eye was poorly.”
“Was the lens poorly?”
“It had gotten --”
“Cloudy,” Selam offered.
“Yes, it had gotten all cloudy, and you couldn't see well through it. So he took it out.”
“Who took it out?”
“The doctor took it out.”
“It doesn’t have any lens.”
“No. That’s why you have to wear glasses sometimes, so you can see better. And that’s why Mummy patches your right eye sometimes. Because we want you to see as well as you possibly can.”
|Asa with patch and spectacles|
That was about as complete a discussion as we’ve had with him about this topic. We’d been prepared for it, in part, by advice from the play therapists at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, and a children’s book that they put together, which we’ve been reading at bedtime.
|from 'When I come to Birmingham Children's Hospital'|
But Asa’s questions went far beyond the content of the book, and drew on conversations that he’s overheard us having with doctors, and among ourselves.
He clearly understands more of what’s been going on around him than we’d assumed. And now, at three-and-a-half, he’s getting articulate enough to feed some of it back to us.
Soon he’ll doubtless have other questions: Why are the tumours there? and When will they stop growing?
How should we respond to questions like these, when nobody knows the answers?
The point at issue
Two months ago, one of Asa’s routine exams showed that the tumours in his right eye had relapsed. After a couple of blissful months when the tumours were relatively quiescent and the interval between check-ups had lengthened to four weeks, we went back to a schedule of three-weekly examinations.
At each of the subsequent exams, there have been signs of continuing tumour activity.
Tomorrow we travel to Birmingham once again, ahead of an examination under anaesthetic on Friday morning.
We pray for good news. And for guidance in answering Asa’s questions as best we can.