A Numbers Game

Numbers. I mentioned earlier that I like numbers. I really do … we get along.
And with cancer, there are lots of numbers to look at: tumor marker numbers, liver function numbers, white blood cell counts, etc. A few months ago my NP and I decided we were not going to pay attention to my tumor marker numbers anymore, because the numbers were up (not good) while my scans showed the cancer as steady. Best to just ignore the tumor markers, since they didn’t seem to be very ‘telling.’ This happens sometimes, she said, the numbers just don’t correlate.
Fine, we’ll ignore them.

But yesterday at Dana Farber my tumor marker numbers were down, and we decided to be really happy! So it’s more like … we’ll pay attention when the numbers are good, ignore them when they are bad.
Okay : )

So that blog readers have some perspective … one tumor marker is called the CA-15-3. A person without cancer would have a CA-15-3 of less than 25. A year ago my CA-15-3 climbed to 55. Yikes, that’s more than double normal. A month later it was 90. Another month and it was 248. This was scary. The following months, 1400 then 2212. At 3520 my oncologist decided it was time to start chemo. Remember my chemo phase last summer? Not pretty. I was sick half the time, lost my hair, ended up in the hospital, white blood cells got to zero. But I plugged along because that’s really all you can do. Then 4448 followed by 5026. At that point a CT scans showed visibly that my tumors were still growing, and my oncologist stopped the chemo — it was clearly not doing the trick. Next treatment chosen after chemo was the pricey oral drugs which I am still on now. My CA-15-3 numbers started going down. 4856 … 3950 … 3602 … 2574. And yesterday … 1945!!! THAT is so much higher than 25, but also so much lower than 5026. EVERYTHING is relative, and today 1945 is a great number.

This whole cancer ordeal feels a bit like fighting a dragon. And the dragon is still there. It’s not going away. We all know that this dragon will eventually win, but yesterday and today I’m kicking it’s ass. And that makes me happy.

Over the last couple months I have started to feel quite differently about life, and about cancer. The most important thing I’ve done is to release negative energy from my mind. When I sat down and thought through everything I was holding on to that was negative, about other people or about myself, there was a lot. Finding a way to let go of it all, was astonishing. Partly I’ve used meditation – yep, I’m still doing it, ten minutes a day, and I’m not terribly good at it, but I’m doing it. I have a meditation app, and the man’s lovely voice in the app is soothing and inspiring. And partly I’ve used self-help books. Lots of slightly embarrassing reading.
Three months ago I was not aware that letting go of negative energy was so important. Now I am. I feel different, and whether or not I live longer, I feel better. I like myself more.

Of course, there are still days, that are total downers. For instance, the day before a Dana Farber visit is always a murky time for me. Two days ago, before my DF visit, I realized I was feeling crappy and reminded myself that it was okay to feel crappy. No one feels good every day. No one. Crappy days are inevitable. You just get through them, get to the other side, and carry on. How to ‘get through’ — that’s the question, and I’m not sure what the answer is, except sometimes just remembering that it’s okay to feel shitty helps. And here’s something I use when I can’t get to sleep or when my neck aches lying in bed. I tell myself that I am sleeping on a mattress with springs! That I have clean sheets and no bed bugs. I do not have lice. I have central heating and indoor plumbing. That, in fact, I am living in more luxury than most royalty have lived with in all of humanity. And I live with more luxury than most of the current world too. … … Even if cancer kills me tonight, this bed is damn comfortable!

Not sure how to conclude this. Skeptics might smirk at what I’ve written today, and dismiss me a shiny, happy person. But I consider myself a skeptic, so maybe I am smirking at myself too.
And today I get to smirk at the dragon and the numbers.

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