Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Still Mind - Not!

There is a blood test, sometimes I wish I'd never known of, it is call CEA. It is used as a marker that may indicate the recurrence of certain cancers such as the colo-rectal cancer I've experienced. Slowly for the last two years my CEA has climbed from well below 3. 0 to now 8.4. Above 3 is considered elevated. I had a PET scan March of 2013 because my CEA had risen above 3.0. The scan was clear. However my CEA continued to march, but slowly and sometimes it even seemed to take a step back. My oncologist said that is not cancer, if it was it would always progress.

Well several more months went by and I had another CEA test, this time it rose to 6.4. I was in to see the surgeon for a follow-up and when he saw that the office time was over and he schedule a CT scan. That was June 2014. The scan results were clear.

I felt good, I've gotten up most mornings and worked around the homestead, gardening, repairing equipment and moving items to expand my shop and equipment shed. So when I went to my oncologist appointment in early July I was sure my CEA would be down and things were looking rosy. In fact, the Dr. patted me on the arm and said he thought I was doing fine.

Then came the port flush. It is an implant I've had in my chest for years now that gives the oncologist's nurses access to my blood system should I need a steady stream of chemo. Even though I've been cancer free for three years the port has not been removed because five years is the threshold for being considered cured.

I asked the nurse who flushed the port for the report on my CEA, you can imagine my feeling when instead of dropping I saw the number elevated to 8.4 . I was sure and so was the oncologist that the number would go down. It didn't. My heart jumped, my thoughts were Oh Shit!

So a few days later came the call from the nurse whom I've come to know by first name and like very much. She said the oncologist had scheduled another PET scan and another full colonoscopy. The PET scan came first, then the colonoscopy. The PET scan revealed a "hot spot" indicating the radioactive marker in the sugar water had congregated to a spot in what is know as my "presacral" area. I had the colonoscopy a few days later and it showed no sign of cancer.

The presacral area is just between the anus and the tailbone. To have a growth there is very infrequent. Mayo Bros Clinic logged 68 cases in 20 years. Most growths are benign, but with an elevated CEA the possibility of cancer increases.

Next Monday I have a biopsy scheduled in this area. If it is cancerous then surgery will most likely be the method of treatment. In all probability "it" is confined. Surgery, while not often performed appears to be fairly straight forward. But damn, this could make the third time in seven years. All of the previous two cases were supposed to be non-recurring and the prognosis very good for long term survival. Now, I'm not so sure. What does this mean. Is this a metastatic form or is it unique and isolated. Is it malignant?

I try not to worry. I go on about my day as though I have many more left. The damn thought though intrudes and can cause a ripple of fear to roll through my mind. I just retired. I am enjoying my life so very much, I want to enjoy life for a number of more years. Terry and I are working, growing our own vegetables, fruit and fixing the house. I love it. I mow grass with a large tractor I bought and we are clearing woods that is paying off in scenic settings. I love this, it is what I worked hard for all my life. I am not going to give it up without a fight, but it seems like all I can get is about three years of peace.

Oh well, I suppose three years at a time for 7 repeats gets me 21 years and that might be enough.

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