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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Back for a Bit

This blog has been very quiet the last few weeks.  One of the reasons is that Eva has been going through a course of radiation therapy for the last 6 or 7 weeks; that's kept me busy driving her to the hospital every day, plus doing the chores that she hasn't been able to do because of the fatigue the therapy causes.  In addition, I've had some medical appointments of my own, as I try to figure out what to do about my back.  But now Eva's therapy is done, and I've come close to having some resolution on my own case, so I expect to be writing more, at least for the next few weeks.

More details on both Eva's and my medical adventures below the fold.

A few months ago Eva had an overdue mammogram done, and the results were ambiguous, so the doctor ordered more tests.   This resulted in several X-rays, ultrasounds, and MRIs, all somewhat ambiguous, and ultimately in a biopsy.  The biopsy showed what's called a Stage 0 ductal carcinoma in-site (DCIS), a small cluster of cancer cells walled up in a cyst in a duct in her left breast.  This is the earliest, and the most easily and successfully treatable breast cancer, for which we are both tremendously grateful.  We immediately scheduled a lumpectomy, which was completely successful; a lymph node biopsy at the same time showed that the cancer had not spread at all.

The standard treatment after this type of lumpectomy is a 6 week course of targeted radiation therapy: a beam of gamma rays aimed just at the area of that breast that contained the cancer.  Statistically, the oncologist told us, this treatment reduces the probability of recurrence of the cancer from something like 18% to around 7% (I'm convinced from what I've read that Eva is on the far low-probability end of the distribution curve for recurrence to start with, so the reduction caused by the radiation makes a recurrence highly unlikely).

So the treatment is done, and now Eva needs a couple of weeks to get over the side-effects of the radiation: some fatigue and a lovely suntan on her left breast.  On the last day of the treatment Eva told the technician that this was the worst tanning salon she'd ever been to: they couldn't even get both breasts the same color.

As for me, I've been talking to spine and neuro-surgeons; the partner of the spine surgeon who did my last surgery (see "A Very Sad Story" for what happened to him) has proposed another operation, somewhat less complicated than the previous one, but at several levels of my lumbar spine, to repair the damage caused by 2 disks that have ruptured, and to open up the foramina (the holes through which the nerves exit the spinal column) which are compressing the nerve roots going to my legs.  I'm leaning strongly towards doing the operation, but I'm waiting right now for the neurosurgeon I saw to consult with the spine surgeon and give him any input he has on my problems.  They're having trouble getting together because they have opposite schedules: when one is in his office the other is operating, and vice versa.  They're working on it.

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