Tumor Markers

Thursday was my fifth infusion, which is kind of a turning point. My symptoms intensify, I lose a lot more energy, and my weight starts to drop. So, by all counts, infusion number five should be a sad day.

But Thursday brought an unexpected surprise. The week before I had asked for my tumor markers and had then forgotten to pick them up. I got them Thursday.

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For those of you who don’t know what that means (ie if you’re not an oncologist or oncology nurse), this is AMAZING NEWS. What that little, wonderful piece of paper shows is that, in the time before my first infusion and my third, my tumor markers (blood counts that measure the presence of cancer in your body, basically) were SLICED IN HALF. After only THREE infusions (the sheet, oddly enough, reads chronologically right to left). My CA 27-29 is even hovering right around normal. CEA should be closer to 0, but hell, look at that drop. I’ll take it.

This means the taxol is working, which is excellent news. If we can get rid of the tumors on my lung and liver, we can take me off taxol in July and just keep me on infusions of herceptin and pertuzumab every three weeks. That should be enough to keep the cancer at bay for awhile. And I can start feeling better.

At the same time, I know this drop isn’t permanent. On the same day that I found this news out, a good friend found out that her third chemo trial isn’t working. And that awful, humbling news is a reminder of something that you can never lose sight of when you have cancer. Cancer is unpredictable. It learns to mutate and will always come back fighting. Even women who turn up NED can die within 6 months when the cancer returns. And I say when, and not if, because that is the reality.

So this is excellent news, but it is not permanent. It does not change my prognosis, but rather gives me more good years within that prognosis. And for that I am endlessly grateful. I’m not looking to falsely believe that my life is suddenly longer, but I am looking to harvest as many good years out of that time as possible. And the sooner I can get off chemo, the sooner that can happen.

So let’s go taxol. Seven more infusions to go.

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