We just got some disturbing news from Dr. Loukas. Maggie’s CEA* has crept up to 3.8. Now, that alone isn’t bad but it’s definitely ominous because of what it might represent – it’s possible that The Cancer has started growing again.
Ever since Maggie and Chris’ Visit to Hospital Camp, Maggie’s CEA has steadily dropped. Since she started out deep in the thousands a 3.8 certainly isn’t an earth-shaking result. Those who have read Lance Armstrong’s book will remember Lance visualizing his CEA dropping daily. It’s definitely the one number, the “bottom line” if you will, that we can fixate on or, if you are like Lance, obsess about (Maggie is not, in case you are wondering, like Lance… and she’s a lot prettier. No offense, Lance.) What’s worrisome is the direction of movement. We want less “up” and more “down”. What we’ve got today is lots of “down” but suddenly one “up”. Oh, oh!
Maggie was pretty upset after the phone call but not about the CEA results. She was driven to tears because of the statement “…so we are going to continue treatment.” That was just a solid gut punch right to the feelers. She was so looking forward to the cessation of chemo come October, despite the implications. She is so tired of being worn down and beat up. Those two weeks off of chemo really drove home how much the treatments are affecting her daily. Heck, even I was surprised! She was so, so different for a few days – truly herself for the first time in maybe a year. And I fell in love all over again.
Alas, it’s funny and yet so sad. When we first started The Great Cancer Adventure we could not imagine why someone would ever refuse treatment. You hear about it but it just didn’t make sense. Now, it’s hard to figure out which of these two things toys with my emotions the most – finally understanding why someone would refuse treatment, or the thought that someday maybe we will be that someone.
* CEA, or carcinoembryonic antigen, is a tumor marker used to evaluate the “activity” of cancer in the body. Basically, the higher it goes the worse it gets. It’s like golf. Play for a low score. A REALLY low score. And frankly, 3.8 ain’t that high (< 2.5 is normal, <5.0 for smokers.) It's the direction that's worrisome.