Operation Eyeball

Here’s a riddle: What do surfers, agricultural workers and rock stars have in common?

According to my eye doctor: pterygiums (I’ll help you… it’s pronounced tuh-rij-ee-um. As Mr Slager likes to tell me, “The pee is silent, like in swimming.”)

In sunny Australia, a pterygium is jovially known as surf, sun, sand disease. It’s these comical natural elements that cause irritation in your eye until eventually, in pasty fair-eyed people like me, a red inflamed membrane grows across your eye blocking your vision. 

The redness elicits comments such as, “Have you been crying?”  “Were you on the grog last night?” “What’s wrong with your eye?” In other words, “Are you meant to look like a character out of the Terminator?

Terminator. Pterygium surgery. Candace Slager artist blog.

NO, of course I’m not meant to look like that you twit” I think to myself. If I could shoot laser beams out my eyes, I’d be putting it to much better use like shooting the lights out before bed or heating up the bath.

So, you’re thinking to yourself, if you’re not a member of Skynet you must have got your pterygium from being a super cool surfer that’s ridden too many gnarly waves before breakfast?

HA! No. The truth is I got mine from years of staring out un-tinted office windows, wondering if the dignity my workplace had wrenched from my overworked lifeless body would ever be seen again. 


I’ve been putting off surgery for some time. By time, I mean years. As it goes with most health matters, you bury your head in the sand hoping the problem will disappear. Unfortunately, burying my head in sand only sandpapered my eyes further, thus aggravating my condition.

Anyway, the day has finally come where my pterygium and I will no longer be one. Small children will no longer need to run in terror fearing my robot laser apocalypse, and Mr Slager will no longer have to be embarrassed that I wear sunglasses when we’re inside the shops. 

My eye surgeon is the best of the best. At least that’s what the university plaques he downloaded from Google and stuck around the office say. But that doesn’t mean I’m running to be put under the knife. 

My surgeon explained the details of the operation. Basically, after he drags me to his lair and knocks me unconscious with a club, he’ll merrily hack away at my eye with a knife, thus subduing my red superpowers. To be honest, he’d need to work hard to find the front of my eyes as they spend a lot of time rolled to the back of my head. 

Then, in a manner which I’m pleased wasn’t explained in detail, he’ll scrape a slice from the top of my eye and graft it on to the front, stitching and sticky-taping it all back into place. I imagine I’ll come out looking something like a Raggedy-Ann doll from the reject shop.  

Not terrifying at all!

Of course, my trusty supporter, Mr Slager, allayed my fears with cooing statements like:

“I wonder which part of your body would be suitable for harvesting the graft?”

“I might have to divorce you if you you’re in any way disfigured after surgery!”

“You will still be available to make my dinner, won’t you?”

I shouldn’t have been surprised. He did once look on as I drank a cup of cyanide.  

The surgeon tried to allay my concerns by drawing the procedure on a piece of printer paper. Clearly, he hadn’t read my blog post on improving your drawing skills. I just hoped he wasn’t going to keep his amateurish sketch as an anatomy reference during the op. 


After discussing how many years I would have to be cryogenically kept alive just to pay for the surgery, the receptionist informed me I would also need to wear a shirt with “easy access”. Ok? Clearly the surgeon doesn’t like to fuss with anything too complicated when looking for a place to harvest some eye patches mid surgery. 

The receptionist clarified: a blouse with buttons or something I didn’t need to lift over my head to avoid smacking my new eye in the process. 

I thought to myself, the only blouses I have with buttons would make me look like I’m there for a job interview! Can you imagine, lying there in your 3-piece power suit while the surgeon is asking you about your “strengths and weaknesses”, and questioning, “Why I should hire you over the other applicants?”

I suspect I may be a little overdressed for the occasion


Sadly, even a snap lockdown didn’t prevent the inevitable operation day. 

I sat in the waiting room with all the other unsuspecting victims, listening to the dulcet tones of golden oldies radio. I soon realised that listening to Patsy Cline on an unheard-of megahertz station was a stroke of genius on the surgeon’s part. It was aimed at just the right target audience, octogenarians waiting for cataract removal. 

No sooner had I got into the country groove, and it was my turn. I was wheeled in, fists, teeth and buttocks clenched. 


If you’re an Aussie, you’ll know this line from a certain redhead politician. 

I won’t get into politics, but I wondered if I would have to post a similar video to give you all closure after my demise.

But thankfully I wasn’t murdered. When I woke, I was half hallucinating that someone was hammering spikes into my eyes, but I was alive. 

People have asked, “How does your eye feel?” Put simply: like a skewered 1980s party food. 

Pterygium surgery. Candace Slager artist. 1980s skewered party snack.

Cheese and pineapple hedgehog anyone?

When I woke up, I instantly realised why every time I had asked what the post op pain would be like, I was met with vague shrugs. No surgeon in their right mind would shoo away customers by telling them the truth!

Yep, it’s super painful and the stitches are poking out of my eye like a pin cushion. I must say, I’ve grown rather fond of the anaesthetic drops that make my face collapse with numbness. I wish I’d had these drops all those years ago at my day job. I would have doused my whole body in a vat of the stuff.

Between chomping down painkillers with a Pac-Man like eagerness, I must apply various drops and ointments every 2 hours and stay in the dark. Unfortunately for Mr Slager, I’m still wearing my sunglasses inside! Ha ha!

My surgeon seemed pleased with the results, but also seemed somewhat miffed he didn’t beat his Olympic World Record time for removal. It seemed my eye put up a little resistance to his efforts, taking over 2 hours. But overall, I’m on the road to recovery.


We all have some level of concern when a fundamental part of our being and function is tampered with. Will I be able to see to work? Will I need to ask Mr Slager to help me pick colours? Frankly, this would be a disaster given the other day he said my grey shirt was green. 

Thankfully my eyesight will be fine. My surgeon treated my eye with such finesse I have no doubt I will back drawing in no time at all, and now I’m genuinely looking forward to getting started on my next project. 

Anyway, with all this nonsense out of the way, my surgeon now informs me I have the beginnings of a small pterygium in my OTHER eye…Sigh.

x Candy

P.S. Wear your sunglasses!

Subscribe to get all the updates on my latest work

Shop all art

- Before my operation I had the pleasure of completing a few lovely commissions for my clients. Check those out here or commission your own.

Copyright © All rights reserved. Privacy Policy
Using Format