A Strong Third Act Beats a Dead Second One

I’m into strong third acts. Especially when it seems like the freezing cold has wonked out all my veins, dehydrated my skin, and generally stopped the world. This months tumor marker numbers were within what I feel is a tolerable percentage of last months, but went up slightly. CA 15-3 went from 305.6 to 324.0, and CA27.29 from 346.4 to 392.0. Keep in mind that in October, 2009 the CA15-3 was 469.7 and the CA27.29 was 369.5 (that one wiggled around, went down for two months in a row then came up). I’m looking for clear trends here, and it would take a good four months in one direction with some significant increase to cause me to believe things are awry with the medicine. I had a long talk with Flash yesterday, we just need to follow this along for another month or two. I am more than willing to go back into chemo if that is what it will take to drop these numbers. When we started last April, 2009, the numbers were very high, 1000s, and 800+, we have made significant progress here. There are more chemo drugs available to try, certainly, and also more hormones. Facts are facts, I am feeling stronger, and am getting over the effects of the radiation therapy I had in July/August (that alone takes six months). I may never get back to what I was before, but the new normal for me isn’t bad. I can still think, and type, and am mobile.

I may never live to see 80, or even 70, but I believe a good quality to life can be had in the here and now and that more changes are coming down the pike to help Stage IV breast cancer patients like me. Certainly the most difficult thing to combat in this whole ordeal is the ever-present sense of failure/depression that accompanies diseases like this, where the prognosis statistically just sucks. Still, it is combat, a mental one, and on days when you’re not 100%, even at new normal, it can be a formidable adversary. The wonderful men and women at http://www.inspire.com (the advanced breast cancer forum is for Stage IV patients) are a constant source of inspiration. Many have it way worse than I do, and many have survived this disease for quite a few years. So there is some cause for hope.

Right now I have projects going on that are keeping me on the path to recovery, not the least of which is brushing up on my mathematics. In college, I was, I confess, quite lazy. Even though I truly loved certain subjects, such as differential equations, I did not apply myself to them like I could have. I’m making up for that now, and in this area and others (multivariate calculus, linear algebra) am constantly amazed at how much I missed, and how much is now being restored to my comprehension. I am also still keeping on with my German studies and am back reading Wittgenstein, which was always a source of great pleasure.

It is my firm intent not to let Flash or any other oncologist “write me off” while I still have some things to do here. My husband does not feel he is doing that — I take him into the monthly meetings with me because he doesn’t have my paranoid streak and can see things clearly. Flash is a passive talker, he sometimes phrases things in ways that leave a lot of openings for interpretation. Myself, I have a bit of a problem at times deciphering what he is saying, especially to the positive. There is a lot going on in this field, and I expect my oncology team to be up to snuff in what is possible, or even improbably impossible. If there are options, I want them considered. My Medicare kicks in April 1, 2010. At that time I hope to have more tests run to determine exactly what my tumors are doing. Until then, the next blood draw and doctor’s visit is scheduled for Feb. 22.

Joule Watt

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