Skip to main content

My mistake / Wonderful life


A few days ago I wrote that, compared to other animals we are born early, and do an unusual amount of developing after birth.  

On reflection, it would have been more accurate to say, "unlike other mammals".  

Animals in general have a lot of weird and wonderful ways of managing the early stages of development -- laying eggs, for instance, and either sitting on them until they hatch, like most birds, or trusting them to their own fates, like frogs do.

But even among mammals, I've realised, we're far from being the only unusual ones:  

The platypus and echidna are mammals, but they lay eggs.  

Marsupials are mammals, but they emerge from the womb in a very rudimentary shape, and migrate to their mothers' pouches, where they spend more time developing than they do in the womb.  

Left: kangaroo at 5 weeks gestation, fastened on his mother's nipple soon after birth.
Right: kangaroo surveying his kingdom at 5 months.


A more appropriate comparison would have been between us and the rest of the placental mammals, including rats, bats, cats, and whales.  

Other placental mammals give birth to little ones who are livelier than we are in the days and weeks after birth, variously scurrying, flying, or swimming around while we're still lying on our backs, like Asa's doing.

So it's in respect to them that the "fourth trimester" idea makes most sense.

Wonderful life

These reflections may seem weird.  

All the work Jed was doing on that dissertation went to his head, some of you may be thinking.  

He has finally lost it completely, others of you may have concluded.

Here's the inspiration for these thoughts: 

Thinking about the stages of development that Asa has been through over the past months -- thinking about Asa in general -- gives me a new sense of the wonder of life.  Not just ours, but all the humming, buzzing diversity of life that animates this planet.  And a new sense of my own kinship with it.

On another level, these thoughts distract me from the sadness of being away from Selam and Asa.  Today, for instance, I found a sponge in the shape of a fish that Selam and Kuri had used to scrub Asa with when he was here.  That gave me a pang of nostalgia. 

But in a few weeks, I'll be with them again.  

Then the blog may become a bit more concrete.  

Or maybe Asa will continue to inspire me to write about how wonderful life is.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Mixed results

Last Wednesday Asa was put to sleep and underwent an eye exam under anaesthetic. 
The first since the beginning of the new chemo, the exam showed that the drugs have had a "partial effect."


In Asa's left eye, the tumours responded well to the chemo. 
But in the right eye, there's been a slight increase in tumour activity.
And in the left eye there's a cataract developing.
A mixed bag
This was not what we'd hoped to hear.
We had reason to expect that the TVD (topotecan-vincristine-doxorubicin) combination would lead to shrinkage of the tumours in both eyes. 
And the appearance of a cataract -- a clouding of the lens -- at this stage is unusual: puzzling to the doctors as well as us.
While cataracts can be removed through surgery, cutting into the eye when there are active tumours inside is not advisable. So treatment for the cataract itself will have to wait until the tumours are stable.
The main risk in the near future is that the cataract may make it difficult to moni…

Hard questions

One morning recently, when we were trying to get Asa to put on his socks, he asked us, seemingly out of nowhere: “What does it have in it, my right eye?” It was clear he wasn’t in discomfort; it wasn’t that he had a piece of grit in there. He pointed up at his eye with his index finger.
“Well, it’s got jelly in it,” I said. “And a retina, and a lens. And lots of other things we didn’t know about two years ago.” “And what does it have in it, my left eye? Does it have a lens?” “No, your left eye doesn’t have a lens.” “What happened to it, the lens?” “The doctor took it out, because the eye was poorly.” “Was the lens poorly?” It had gotten --” “Cloudy,” Selam offered. “Yes, it had gotten all cloudy, and you couldn't see well through it. So he took it out.” “Who took it out?”  “The doctor took it out.” “It doesn’t have any lens.” “No. That’s why you have to wear glasses sometimes, so you can see better. And that’s why Mummy patches your right eye sometimes. Because we want you to see as well as …

Relapse. Birthday.

Wednesday'sExamination Under Anaesthetic yielded some unexpected news.
In Asa's left eye, which had been stable since the end of primary chemo in June, there were 4 or 5 new tumours, and one previously treated tumour that was growing slowly. There were also some new seeds.
In his right eye, moreover, the tumours that had earlier responded well to Melphalan had started to relapse.
These areas are at the front of the eye -- as the doctor put it, "almost where the retina finishes."
And the seeds that were there last time had not responded to the cryotherapy.


Treatment options
When Selam picked Asa up from the recovery room, both of his eyes were red and swollen from cryotherapy.
Cryo is a stop-gap measure: Since too much of it can cause retinal detachment, this approach doesn't hold much promise for controlling the tumour growth in the long term.
The area of tumour activity is also too wide for the more gentle kinds of radiotherapy -- such as radiation delivered through a …