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Another lesson

Since the last blog post, I've been to Ethiopia, we walked across London to raise awareness of eye cancer, and we moved house.

Things have been kind of busy.

But really the biggest news is that the treatment Asa's been receiving -- a combination of chemotherapy (using a single drug, Carboplatin) and aggressive cryotherapy -- seems to be working.

He has had two exams under anaesthetic in Birmingham since the treatment began, and the results have been more positive than we felt beforehand we could hope for.

At the Carrots Night Walk, with Cathy and Edith

The tumour load in the right eye has decreased to less than 10% of what it was before the start of this treatment.

In the doctor's words: “We're not there yet, but we're definitely headed in the right direction.”

In addition, Asa had a cataract operation at the end of September.

That went smoothly, and with the cataract out of the way it’s possible to show that there was very little new growth of the tumours in his left eye during the time that they’d been hidden from view -- more than 3 months.

No more chemo

The qualification to this catalogue of good news is that Asa had a severe allergic reaction to his last dose of chemo, two weeks ago, at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

We had just finished our lunch and were settling down for an afternoon in the out-patients' ward (the full dose takes 3 hours to infuse) when Asa suddenly became grouchy and sleepy-looking, and we lay him down on the hospital bed.

Within five minutes he was running a high fever, had vomited, and his blood pressure was plummeting -- heading into anaphylactic shock.

Thankfully the response from the medical team was almost immediate.

Within half an hour he was stable, and though he and Selam stayed in hospital for observation overnight, he was all right from there on.

The upshot, in any case, is that he'll receive no more chemo: No more Carboplatin because of his allergic reaction to that drug; and no more of the other drugs because he's already had as much of them as the doctors think he can tolerate.

Talking and reading

After this traumatic experience, Asa regressed for a few days, and stopped using his potty. (Did we mention he toilet-trained himself a few months ago?)

But that was a passing thing, and within a short while he was back to his normal routines, and chatting away happily to anyone who'd listen.

A typical conversational gambit for him is:  
“[The] 345 [bus] to South Kensington [goes by] King's College Hospital.”

Delivering a speech

Admittedly it’s not the best conversation-starter. But the enthusiasm with which he conveys this kind of information!

One of the things that strikes me about his language development is how many words he takes on board without having any notion of their real meaning.

What South means, for example, or King, or College.

Without knowing these things, phrases like this one nonetheless bind together memories -- in this case of an outing on the bus, and visiting King’s College Hospital for a flu jab.

A passion for symbols

This aspect of Asa’s language learning -- the ready use of words whose accepted meaning is obscure -- is surely common to all children.

More unusual, it seems to us, is his passion for numbers and letters.

He sees them everywhere:

  • Two manhole covers next to each other in the park are an 8
  • A piece of toast he ate at lunch yesterday became, at various points in the meal, an E, an F, an r and a 1.


The joy he takes in seeing things makes our latest piece of homework difficult.

We've been advised to patch his eyes on alternate days -- the right one, one day and the left one, the next -- to give his brain a chance to readjust to input from the left eye. (For 3 months before the recent cataract surgery the left eye provided little input at all.)

We started this on Saturday, patching the left eye -- which was no problem at all -- and yesterday we patched the right eye, leaving him with only the very impoverished vision from his left eye.

Chilling with one eye patched

Wearing glasses with a +12 lens for the left eye to compensate for liquid removed from his lens along with the cataract (and with the right eye patched), he is still very far-sighted: able to see things from across the room, but almost blind to things that are right in front of him.

We were unsure how he'd take to this -- Would he pull off the patch, and insist on using his ‘good eye’?

Remarkably, he didn’t. 

Instead, he tolerated the impaired vision all day, groping his way from room to room in the new house; occasionally bumping into a wall or a door, whereupon he’d reorient and take another tack; and generally taking it all in his stride.

Selam reported, after a short time that she spent wearing an eye patch to keep him company on Friday, that even with her 20:20 vision in the seeing-eye, she felt handicapped.

It’s yet another lesson in adaptability from our little tutor.


Thanks to everyone who has contributed to our fund-raising for eye cancer research.


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Maybe it's all the to-and-fro'ing we've done on the trains between London and Birmingham for his eye exams, or maybe it's due to some kind of innate fascination with large moving things, but Asa loves trains.

I post these drawings of his partly to cheer myself up. It's been a pretty rough week, watching the US elect a con man as President.

Asa is an American citizen, and in 13 years time he'll be eligible to vote. I'm grateful that he's healthy, and that he stands an excellent chance of living a full life. But I worry about the world that he and his generation will inherit.

Let us pray for wisdom in our leaders, and for strength and resolve for those who resist them in the cause of the greater good.