"Tumor markers are substances that can be found in the body when cancer is present. Ideally, a tumor marker would always be found in the blood in higher-than-normal amounts, but only when a certain type of cancer is present. In reality, tumor markers are rarely like that.
"Some tumor markers are found in blood, but others are found in urine or other body fluids. Still others are found in tumors and other tissues. They may be made by the cancer cells themselves, or by the body in response to cancer or other conditions. Most tumor markers are proteins, but some newer markers are genes or other substances.
"There are many different tumor markers. Some are linked only to one type of cancer, while others can be found in many cancers.
"One of the most important uses for tumor markers is to monitor (watch) patients being treated for cancer, especially advanced cancer. If a certain type of cancer has a tumor marker, the level of the marker may be able to be used to see if the treatment is working, instead of doing other tests like x-rays, CT scans, or bone scans.
"If levels of the tumor marker in the blood go down, it’s almost always a sign that the treatment is working." http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003189-pdf.pdf
The tumor marker that has been consistent for the cancer in my body is known as CEA. It's normal level is <3.8 for non-smokers and <5.5 for smokers. At the beginning of my current treatment, my CEA level was 62.6. It has steadily dropped since starting Xeloda (the chemotherapy I'm on) and the last blood test showed it to drop even more, down into the single digits. It now stands at 7.7.
I gasped when I saw the number and then I cried. Then, I wanted to scream for joy but couldn't do so for fear of scaring Michael and for fear of interrupting Art who was taking an online course here at home. So, I stood up and did a silent, but spirited, dance right at my desk. Then I started to send emails and text messages to friends. Eventually, I stuck a note under Art's nose and danced out of his study. The look on his face was one of extreme joy as well.
No, the cancer isn't gone, nor am I in remission. When I was first diagnosed with bone mets (in every vertebrae but two of them) back in January 2013, the CEA level was 6.2. However, the metabolic activity in most of the bone mets was miniscule at that time, something we're hoping for again.
My next imaging scans will be on September 22. I will be having a PET scan, which will check for metabolic activity to give us a clear picture of what's happening. Wouldn't it be great if all the lesions were gone or "dead" by then? Wouldn't it be great if none of them were active?
Will you join me in praying for that result? Dormant tumors ... sleeping tumors ... dead tumors ... non-existent tumors ... no evidence of disease! I am praying for that result.
I just returned from a 16-day cross-country trip during which I saw (shared meals with) 39 people (including one uncle, two sisters,two brothers-in-law, one niece, one nephew, one niece-in-law and meeting my grand-niece for the first time ... just in time for her first birthday!). Actually, the total was more than that because of parties with other people in attendance, but I only counted those I knew before such events. I had an amazing time! I felt well the entire trip and slept reasonably well the entire time. I exercised as much as possible and kept a close eye on my food plan. My biggest splurge was sweet potato pancakes with a caramel glaze in Denver. I.must.learn.to.make.those.myself!
While I loved seeing everyone, I was most touched by seeing our adopted grandmother from China. She lived in the northwest and is very, very dear to all of us. When we left China two years ago, she and I never dreamed we'd see each other again. Between her age (now 77) and her heart problems, and my health, we thought our farewell then was the last one on this side of eternity. Imagine our joy when we heard that she was only 1.5 hours south of where I was staying in Michigan! We both cried when we saw each other.
I didn't do any studying or reading (didn't even finish the novel I brought along!) during my trip, but I'm already back into my Biblical studies. I missed them. One of my sisters challenged me on my understanding of Old Testament theology, which has encouraged me to look at some things in a different way. Additionally, Rob Bell's series, "What is the Bible?" is proving to be very helpful. I had printed it out (It's on Tumblr) before I left on my trip, but I hadn't started to read it yet. I encourage you to check it out: http://robbellcom.tumblr.com/archive Part 20 (where I am now) has a good list of books to check out (some of which I've already read) that you may find helpful as well: http://robbellcom.tumblr.com/post/69191707388/what-is-the-bible-part-20-questions-questions
And there we have it. I'm a work in progress. A very flawed work in progress who earnestly believes that God will complete his work in me. I've been gifted with another day of life and I continue to ask myself, "How then shall I live?"
My friend, Bryant, is dying. He is in his final days/weeks, or if we're lucky, months (more than one?). There's not an hour that goes by but that Bryant is in it. While our lives aren't to be measured by the years we live, it just doesn't seem right that he is going to leave us at age 27. His sister writes the following:
Most urgent requests
- Good pain management for all Bryant's current pain symptoms (back, stomach, chest, coughing, swollen feet and legs.)
- The ability to get quality sleep at night.
- Bryant will be able to die peacefully at home (and not need to go to the hospital because of uncontrollable pain management.)
- Bryant will be completely at peace and not afraid of dying.
- Peace, hope, ability to make more memories.
I don't understand God's ways and I'm quite open about my lack of understanding. I do still claim God's goodness, in spite of the pain and sorrow this life brings. He truly is good, all the time, and that doesn't change just because the circumstances around me are not pleasant.
So I'm in a "twixt and tween" world of being overjoyed with my own health results and overwhelmed with sorrow with Bryant's decline. There truly is a time to rejoice and a time to mourn, but it's hard when both times happen simultaneously.