It’s Fall in Colorado. It’s a beautiful time of year here. A quick drive to the mountains and you can see the aspen trees changing color, hear the elk bugling, and feel the coolness in the evening air that makes for great sleeping. It even snowed a bit at The Maroon Bells already. Yes – change can be beautiful and serene. It can also be heartless and chaotic.
As someone with Metastatic Breast Cancer, a/k/a Stage IV Breast Cancer, change such as elevation in tumor markers, increased pain, and higher fatigue, can all signal a change for the bad. The P-word: Progression. It was just July when I had my last PET scan; something we “Metsters” do about every 6 months to keep an eye on the beast inside of us. The report came back that I had improved overall, with a bit of progression, but nothing alarming. My oncologist was optimistic. Everything seemed to be going well, except for those pesky tumor markers. The CEA and the CA 27-29. Normal for the CA 27-29 is <40 and >100 signifies cancer is present. CEA is normal at <2.5. In late August, I rang in at 137.3 (CA 27-29) and 1425.6 (CEA). That last one kicked me right in the gut!
So what did that mean? My numbers had double in just 2 months. The docs will always tell you that these markers are just one of many indicators about how you are doing. How do you feel, are you sleeping, normal activities, your last scan, it’s all a story to be pieced together. And how did I feel? Well, now I was stressed out and not sleeping… and all of a sudden my back seemed to hurt. Were these psychosomatic symptoms? Am I a terminally ill hypochondriac? WTF?
My oncologist wanted more scans ASAP – a CT Scan and a Bone Scan. Ugh. Was change here? If so, it surely wouldn’t be for the good. Time to batten down the hatches and prepare for the upcoming shit storm.
And then, the skies cleared. Both scan reports were okay. I’m holding my own – no soft tissue involvement and some improvement and slight progression in different areas of my bones, but we’ll call that “stable.” Hold the course – that’s what the doc said. Am I relieved? Of course, I mean mostly… but still keeping my eye on the skies and my finger in the air… after all, it’s just like the weather in Colorado.