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Clean Bills of Health

Thanks to the gentle prodding by my cousin, Tricia, I realize I've been remiss in posting updates on Amy's health condition.  This is actually a good sign ("no news is good news") -- I was posting most frequently when her condition was worse, and have been tapering off as her health continues to improve.

We have had four doctor's visits in the past week or so, and all have been positive (er, that is, they have had only negative results to any tests for the continued presence of her anal cancer -- although none of the tests have been very extensive or conclusive).  We met with a naturopathic physician a week ago Friday, who is optimistic that the cancer is in remission, but who plans more extensive tests to chart out a holistic treatment plan to help boost Amy's energy level, immune system ... and life perspective.  She also predicted that Amy's menopausal symptoms (e.g., hot flashes) will diminish witin the next month, and encouraged Amy to think more deeply about what she wants to do with her life [now].

We met with Amy's chemical and radiation oncologists on Tuesday, who are also very optimistic about the cancer being in remission.  The development of some breast lumps over the preceding weekend had us all a bit concerned, but a mammogram and sonogram on Wednesday revealed that there was nothing to worry about there.  She also met with her colorectal surgeon yesterday, who confirmed that the fistula was healed, the tissue surrounding the surgery site(s) was looking and feeling very good, and she can have the "port-a-cath" removed.

She will have a biopsy in January, which will test whether there are other sites of carcinoma in the vicinity of the original site of detection (and resection), and my understanding is that if none is found, the probability of remission will be reset to 95% (it's currently somewhere between 90-95%).  If no sign of cancer is found for the following two years, it goes up to 98%; and if none is found in 5 years, the probability rises to nearly 100%.  If anyone wants to know more details, there is a flowchart on page 6 of the Anal Carcinoma treatment guidelines published by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network that summarizes the tests, possible results and recommended responses that we will prepare for during the next several years.

Some symptoms from the treatment continue to linger, though most at diminished levels; during one of the oncology followup visits last week, Amy reported her general energy level was at about 50% of "normal" (which is "normal" for this stage, post-treatment).  She continues to experiment with departures from the restricted fiber diet, and still looks forward to enjoying fresh fruit again.  As I've noted before, I am deliberately avoiding the setting of any expectations, and will continue to enjoy the signs of improvement whenever, and for however long, they appear, and accept the periodic setbacks when they appear.

I will probably continue the trend of posting less frequently [about Amy's condition], unless unusual situations arise.  We have another naturopathic physician appointment sheduled for early December, so I may post an update then.  Meanwhile, we remain grateful for all the expressions of care and concern that people have shared with us!

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