Ma underwent round 4 of 6 of systemic chemo treatment this week and did very well. The oncologist, Dr. Mueller, had to rewrite her chemo orders because, like last time, she weighed more than 10% her previous body weight. Not a bad problem to have for a cancer patient!
She also went under anesthesia to have her remaining eye examined. The eye surgeon, Dr. Demirci was pleased to see that the tumor is shrinking! He did some more laser therapy on it to accelerate the shrinking process. While she is still walking a thin line as to whether or not her remaining eye can be saved, Dr. Demirci is feeling a little more optimistic.
Ma has a long road ahead of her. She will complete her 6 rounds of systemic chemo, which should take until January. The current plan is to then follow-up with 6 rounds of intra-arterial chemotherapy. Dr. Demirci may also do some needle-directed chemo into the vitreous portion of the eye where some of the seeds from the larger tumor have migrated. Best case scenario with no set-backs, she should finish her treatments some time in July 2014, exactly one year after her arrival in the States.
Assuming all goes well and to plan, and that she is cancer-free when the treatments are complete, Dr. Demirci will want to see her every month for the first year, then every 1-2 months for the second year, then every 3 months for the final year until she is 5 years old. She is at high risk for the tumor to return in the first year following treatment, and is at increased risk until she turns 5. If she remains cancer-free until then, her prognosis going forward is good.
Ma was also fitted for a prosthetic eye in October and should receive it within the next couple of weeks. It requires some care with which her caretaker (i.e. me) will need to become comfortable. It will need to be removed every 4 weeks, cleaned and replaced. Yikes!
As I've mentioned before, Ma has mild hearing loss. The decision was made to not give her hearing aids because they need to be refitted and adjusted as she grows. Since she will be returning to Africa, this follow-up is nearly impossible. However, the audiologist here did some research and found some new hearing aids that do not need to be refitted. She's currently looking into them and seeing if there is a donor to pay for them so Ma can have hearing aids after all!
The hearing aids will hopefully help with her communication as she currently only says a few words. Her lack of communication does not come as a surprise to anyone since she has been through so much in the first 16 months of her life! However, the audiologist does not want her to fall too far behind in her developmental process. Along with the hearing aids, she may start some speech therapy as well ... bearing in mind that English will not be her first language when she returns to her home.
Finally, Ma has begun to walk over the last couple of weeks and is happy to be keeping up better with Bizzy and Pippa. She has also mastered climbing up the stairs and does pretty well at coming down too. She had her first glimpse of snow this week and didn't seem to be too bothered. The average temps in Ivory Coast range from 70-90 year round, so a Michigan winter may be a bit shocking!
Please continue to keep Ma, her family and ours in your thoughts and prayers. The news of her expected length of stay in the States came as a shock to us this week. I can only imagine the shock it will send to her family back home!
Please continue to pray that Ma beats cancer and remains cancer-free forever.