Good Cop (Scans) Bad Cop (Marker Numbers)
Would that the tumor marker numbers were as friendly as my recent scans, but they are not. While my last two scans have been excellent, the tumor marker number is trending up, which is not good. Three weeks ago, the tumor marker number was up for the third time in a row, this time up to 7.4. That information was available to me a couple weeks ago at my “patient portal” online, but to be honest I simply didn’t feel like looking it up. I was feeling pretty good, and figured that if it was either disastrous or wonderful, I would have gotten a call from the oncologist’s office. Dr. Devore told me Monday that I figured right – they would have called me.
So while the number itself is not disastrous, the trend indicates tumor growth that scans have not shown (and bloodwork done this past Monday will yield another number this week). Therefore, Doc Devore is ordering a scan three weeks from this Monday past, a round or two ahead of schedule (two more berry-flavored contrast smoothies – mmm!). If the scan shows any visible tumor growth at all, he wants to introduce an additional chemotherapy. Also, we’ve increased the dosage of my oral chemotherapy again to 87% of the original dosage that brought on all those intestinal side-effects back in March-April. I could stand to lose 25 pounds in 21 days again (I did get to wear clothes that had been hanging in the closet for years), but I am under strict instructions to cease and desist the oral chemotherapy at the first sign of a return of those symptoms.
Dr. Devore is also ordering tests on biopsy material taken by the gastroenterologist back in February to see if the cancer is responsive to some available immunotherapies. If the material has all been used up in previous testing, the gastroenterologist will have to obtain more sample tumor material. The doc mentioned offhand that a possible problem could be that the gastro guy won’t be able to see where to insert the needle to take the sample, the tumor having shrunk so much, but he really didn’t want to think about that until seeing the next scan in a few weeks. Jesus was right – each day has enough trouble of its own; why borrow troubles from next month, too?
Please pray for that tumor marker number to go down, or be proven a liar. The doctor says that they are not as reliable as scans, and that especially with the relatively low numbers that I have been having they can bounce around a bit, and that it is possible that we have been catching them at their high points (nevertheless, he also feels bound to believe the trend and act on it). Pray that I’ll be able to handle the most recent dosage increase as well as I have other recent increases. Pray for my strength and stamina as well – the oral chemotherapy is having a cumulative wearying effect. And pray for my spirit – this constant companion of cancer gets me down sometimes, and I shouldn’t grieve my own circumstances as those who have no hope. I’ve got another constant companion in the Lord, who will be with me for all eternity. The cancer is just for now. Pray that I’ll remember that at every moment.