Wednesday August 27, 2014

Look at this: Man auctions logo space on fake eye

Murray Mitchell

Robert Lee holds a mask used during proton radiation treatment before losing his left eye to ocular melanoma in August. Presently fitted with a spacer on top of a prosthetic, Lee will get an artificial eye in October, which he is offering advertising space on.

In among the eBay listings of people offering advertising opportunities on their car and bulk email addresses, and business card magnets, Robert Lee's item stands alone.

He is offering, with a starting bid of US$5,000, to have a 12-mm oval logo displayed on his prosthetic eye for at least 30 days.

"A minimum 30 days. I'm willing to go longer. It's not a tattoo, it's not forever," he said Thursday.

His goal is to cover some of the medical expenses he incurred while travelling between his Kamloops home and Vancouver. His other goal is to raise awareness about ocular melanoma — a cancer that's rare, and that has the potential to be fatal.

It's an unconventional approach, but then Lee — who runs a dating advice website as well as working full-time at Rivershore Chrysler Jeep — doesn't balk at being a little offbeat.

"I've been talking about this since I knew when my eye was coming out," he said.

Right now, he's at home recovering from appendix surgery just weeks after having his left eye removed.

He got the idea from his ocularist, who makes the half-shell eyes by hand. That shell goes on top of the prosthetic that's in place in the socket where his eye was.

"She said someone had a Harley Davidson logo on there," he said.

Lee, who bought a red Dodge Challenger in February, tried to convince his employer to buy the spot. So far, though, it hasn't happened.

His eBay auction is on until Sept. 24. So far, he has no bids, but it's still early.

"It's going to be better than what's there now. It's a prosthetic that's there," he said of the clear plastic space holder that sits on top of the reddish prosthetic implanted underneath.

Lee has created a blog about his experience with ocular cancer.

The short version is that several years ago, he began to lose the vision in his left eye.

"All of a sudden my eye was blurry. I went to the optometrist right away. He saw a freckle."

He was referred to the opthalmologist, then to Vancouver for monitoring. The freckle was too small to indicate whether it was cancerous, and doctors can't take a biopsy sample from an eye.

For three years, they watched the spot grow. Then they determined it was ocular melanoma.

"Most other cancers you don't feel well, or something starts to go wrong. With eye cancer, unless it starts to disturb your vision — and half of them don't — you don't notice anything," he said.

The only option was to lose his eye. By the time it was taken out this past summer, Lee had adapted and accepted the loss.

"I was losing my vision for a long period of time, so I gradually grew used to it. I do find I have to walk with my left hand out a little bit further," he said.

He's on his own to cover the cost of the prosthetic eye, which will run about $2,000. The auction will help offset that cost.

Lee said at least two other people have had their eyes checked as a result of reading his website. It saved their sight, he said.

He urged others to do the same.

"I want them to get their eyes checked. It seems like such a small thing, but why wait until your vision is affected to find out there's something lurking in the back. It's a very aggressive cancer and without proper treatment it will spread," he said.

"If it hadn't affected my vision, I'd probably be dead right now."

Lee's eBay auction page is at and his blog is at

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