If you've been following my involvement with my mom's health issues, I have a positive update. We went to a follow-up visit at Johns Hopkins that started early and ended late, but yielded some good news along the way. The whole story is in the middle, but jump to the end if you want.
In review, my mother had a stroke two years ago that primarily damaged her language and cognition centers. She recovered language elements pretty quickly and improved steadily. The cognition aspects made some basic things confusing, but again improved quickly and steadily. Two years out her language issues are primarily in mixing up names or having some trouble finding the right word, but is generally good. The cognition problems are minor in everyday life as they are established with routine. New things can still be a challenge and numbers are difficult for her.
In the MRI for the stroke, they found a large, benign tumor that caused the stroke by closing a main artery. The slow growth of the tumor probably constricted the artery over time, allowing other arteries and blood vessels to compensate. Otherwise the effects from her stroke would have been worse. However, the tumor was pressing on her optic nerve, and unless it was done growing would eventually damage her vision, perhaps entirely.
Thus started two years of visits to one of the premier medical institutions available to us, Johns Hopkins, which is about an hour and a half away from my house. After numerous visits, tests, and consults, the best advice was to watch and wait, hoping that the tumor didn't grow and press further on the optic nerve. Surgery was extremely risky and radiation would be very difficult, given that she would have to live in Baltimore for weeks.
Things didn't change significantly with the tumor until this past spring, when a deterioration in her visual field was noted. At this point she could do nothing and accept that she could go blind or go through the radiation process with hopes of stabilizing her vision. Over the summer she went for radiation treatment every day for six weeks. Since neither of us live in Baltimore, it involved an expensive hotel stay and a series of extended visits from my brother and me to help. It was not pleasant for anyone and we couldn't even know if it worked.
But finally,good news. While the new MRI didn't show a significant change in the tumor - which would be vaguely positive - the extensive visual tests show a slight improvement in her visual field and in the image of the optic nerve itself. The best we had hoped for was a stabilization, which would have always left the question of whether the radiation had stopped/shrunk the tumor or not. But the slight improvement, while not obvious to my mom, shows that the tumor is not pressing on the optic nerve as much as before. So the radiation - and that terrible summer - was worth it.
She will continue with six month follow-ups, but hopefully we are done with this aspect of her health issues. It's a great relief and an answered prayer.