Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake
jaylake

[cancer] Half the way to another season in hell

Still staring down the barrel of the cancer gun. Yesterday I received the test results from my carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) bloodwork. That's the test that checks the level of potentially tumor-related proteins in my blood. (Almost everyone has some non-zero level of CEA markers. An irritated bowel can produce them, for example.) Though my levels are roughly twice what they were two months ago, they're still low-normal. The difference is well within the test's normal variation, and the result is well below the minimum level required for clinical significance.

If my CEA levels had spiked, that would have been nearly certain evidence of new tumor activity. So this result is not definitively bad. It is, however, not definitively good, either. We know from my prior cancer history that I sometimes have tumors which do not produce a significant amount of CEAs. In other words, pending further detail from the CT scan, this is still Schrödinger's tumor.

Only for a few more hours, though. I see one of my oncologists at 10 am, and the other at 11 am. Sometime between right now and sitting down with them, I'll know the scan results. They could also be good, bad or ambiguous. A good result would be the disappearance of the liver lesion, or its continued presence at the same size +/- <5mm (the margin of error in a CT scan). An ambiguous result would be its continued presence at around +5mm compared to the prior size of 5mm. Did it grow or didn't it? A bad result would be the lesion's continued presence at well more than 5mm of growth compared to the prior size.

My expectation is that for an ambiguous or bad result we'd probably order a PET scan to check metabolic activity. Though we might not bother for a very bad result, but instead just proceed with treatment. CT scans reveal structure within the body through density variation, but they're not always good at distinguishing the causes of the variation. The PET scan would tag variations in metabolic activity, which can be indicative of tumor presence with a high degree of confidence.

In other words, I'm still waiting to find out if I need to book another season in hell. I'll know sometime this morning. As always, there is an enormous amount at stake, potentially up to and including my very life. The stress is mind-numbing. I hurt in weird places. My lower GI function has been even quirkier than usual. I've gained weight from stress eating. I've been both vague and irritable these past few days.

On the plus side, I managed to pull 2,900 words of Sunspin out yesterday, despite it all. The waiting is the hardest part, and the waiting is almost over. That's what my writer brain was telling me.

Tags: books, cancer, health, personal, sunspin, writing
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