Tuesday, June 12, 2012

CEA Stable

Exhale again! My CEA is stable! 

So, no chemo and I get a blood test in July and a CT scan in August.

More specifics, if you are interested.
Last CEA was 12.0
This CEA was 14.2

Though a five-year-old can tell you that 14 is bigger than 12, my doctor considers that change to be stable. I'll take it.
Also, the tumor in my lower abdomen that was causing bleeding shows up only on MRI and PET, but not on CT. We wouldn't normally do the MRI and PET anyway, so comparing CT to CT, my oncologist would say things are stable. 
And, a tumor in that specific area is not typically treated using chemo. 

So, all that convinced me that chemo would do more harm than good.

The first thing I did (I hope - it is a bit of a blur) was to give thanks to God. One of the next things I did was to sign up for sculling lessons. 

Two funky-fun happenings that I want to share with you:
- When I got my blood drawn, they typically leave a line connected to my port, so that they can hook it up to chemo a few hours later. I was futzing over what kind of tape they should use to cover the needle and the nurse said to me, "I don't need to leave this in here. You won't be getting chemo today. I can feel it." I just LOVE that kind of vibe. Especially when he was right.
- Also, he drew quite a few vials of blood, each to check my red count, white count, protein, etc. Every vial filled without a problem. but each time they drew blood for the CEA, the blood flow would stop halfway into the tube. He had to restart and draw the vial for my CEA three times. Another nurse stood watching it, too. They finally asked me to not breathe while he drew it, and it worked. I guess I was a bit hesitant to learn the number.

Thank you so much for being there. Really and truly. Enjoy this amazing day!


Monday, June 11, 2012

PET CT results and upcoming blood test

Thank you for celebrating my birthday with me! I love hearing about the things that are so awesome in your life, and I love that you recognize that your life is awesome, whether or not you decide to share the wonderful aspects. I hope you can keep going with the gratitudes awhile longer. Me, I'm having trouble with the intentional acts of kindness, but I suppose there is always something to work on. And many thanks to those of you who brought hostess gifts!

To celebrate my birthday weekend, Tiron, the boys and I traveled to Kripalu, a yoga-retreat center in Western MA. The boys participated in a weekend-long Tribal Jam workshop (drumming, dancing, etc.) while Tiron and I got some R&R and spa treatments. During the breaks in the workshop, we spent time together walking the grounds, swimming in the lake, eating the amazing food, and playing games. We had a great time, individually and together, making a beautiful and memorable birthday for me.

I also learned that my 50th birthday was on Pentecost Sunday. How incredibly cool is that? AND my husband's cousin had a baby girl that day, too. So many good happenings converging!

When we returned, I got the results of my PET CT. Please know that I appreciate your patience in sitting with me while I waited for these. I couldn't write about them because they were confusing and difficult to process. Here is the scoop:

Three doctors read the study and shared their three different points of view:
- Stable 
- Slight growth in one of the nodes but basically stable
- New "activity" but liver node is inactive and does not appear to be cancerous. GREAT NEWS.

After a bit of fretting, I finally decided that I choose "stable" combined with "liver node does not appear to be cancerous."

I especially love the "liver node does not appear to be cancerous" part, because all my outside work - prayers, meditation, energy healing, Tong Ren, etc. - has been focused on that liver node. The night before I got my results, I prayed for some sign that healing is indeed possible, and I feel encouragement in that statement. I'm in awe of the work and power of God, and in awe of your role in that, too. You really do carry me through this - I can't say that enough - and your prayers help enormously in my healing.

On Tuesday (June 12), I return to Dana Farber for a blood test to check my tumor marker (CEA for those of you familiar). My tumor marker generally provides a good indicator of what is going on inside my body. Despite the recent apparent sign from God that healing is possible, I am uncharacteristically nervous about learning my CEA number. I don't want to leave my little land of "stable." 

Life continues outside the medical arena. My six-week, learn-to-row class ended and everyone scattered for the summer. I wanted to keep rowing, so a kind friend arranged an instructor for me and a friend so we could go sculling. Sculling means, out in a boat by myself. 

I am not naturally drawn to the water. I learned to swim when I was 35, and water still evokes fear in my heart.. Rowing with friends provided safety in numbers. Going in a boat by myself made me both excited and nervous. 

The morning started out cloudy with rain off and on. In rowing culture, rain is not a reason to cancel, so I pretended to be hardy, grabbed rain gear and made my way to the boathouse. There, I connected with my friend and our new instructor, Brenda, a lovely, patient woman my age with a sense of humor. 

We walked to the boats, which were stored upside-down on a rack. Brenda gave a few instructions, then told us which boats to remove from the rack and carry to the dock. The boats looked heavy, awkward, and, if dropped, both expensive and embarrassing. My weakling arms shuddered. My pretense of being hardy evaporated. But I took a deep breath and knew I would give it a try because, if I wanted to row, I didn't have a choice.

Just then, Brenda glanced down at the dock and said, "Look, someone is coming in. Go down there and ask to use their boat."

Big exhale. Fortunately, TWO people were coming in so my friend and I didn't have to have that polite conversation of, "No, you take this boat and I'll get another." when really, I'm sure that neither of us wanted to carry it.

Once we took ownership of the boats, Brenda showed us how to get ourselves into them, and how to use the oars in sync. I stared at the boat thinking, "This is it. I will rock over and fall into the water."

As if she read my mind, Brenda said, "The water here is only four feet deep. Even if you fall in, you will be fine."

Again, big exhale.

Climbing in and strapping my feet into the boat, I thought, what if the boat tips? Again, Brenda responded to my unspoken question. "Put one oar into the water and lift the other into the air."

I hesitatingly did as instructed. I felt the boat rock sideways, but my body was in no danger of falling into the water. I could even lean into that direction and be fine.

"Now switch. Put the other oar into the air."

Still a bit scared, I did as she asked, and again, I didn't fall in. Hmmm. Maybe this boat is more stable than it looks.

Though a bit more confident, a piece of me remained unconvinced. Should the boat tip over, despite all odds, how do I unstrap my feet and get out? 

Brenda was done reading my mind and told me to push off and get rowing.

I mentally reviewed: The water is shallow. The boat is fairly stable. Yes, I could potentially fall in, but that is not an immediate worry. And if I did fall in, I could hopefully figure out the strapped-in feet. 

Again I exhaled, then took a deep breath and pushed off from the dock.

I row slowly, which coincidentally provides time to actually enjoy each stoke and my surroundings. The calm water under cloudy skies felt lovely and relaxing. No rain. I was happy to focus on keeping my strokes precise and steady and could think of nothing else. I did steer into some trees along the side of the river and got stuck in them. It took a moment, then I calmed down and figured my way out of the tangle. 

All too soon, the lesson was over and my worries started again. How on earth will we lift these boats out of the water and carry them to the boathouse? I pushed the thought out of my mind and focused on just rowing the boat to the dock in the first place.  Once there, I climbed safely out of the boat and suddenly, someone appeared and asked if they could use our boats. Problem solved! 

So, maybe I can swing that again, this time, with the blood test - hoping that, while things may feel wobbly, they are actually pretty stable. Perhaps all these worries will not actually come to pass, but will be handled in wonderful and unforeseen ways. 

Much love to you and more blessings than you can count,