Monday, November 3, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008 - An update of sorts

Hiya Bloggy,

Yes, it has been awhile since I last posted here... since the big party, as a matter of fact! I'm not sure how many of you readers have been by since then (Helllllooooo... anyone out there?) but if you are reading this entry and wondering, "What party?" then go back to my Oct 19th entries (2 of them) and it was a wonderful party with friends at the theatre!

Anywho.. now, here we are at the beginning of November. I hope everyone remembered to put their clocks back an hour Sunday morning. Of course you did... well, if you didn't you've probably figured it out by now (grin).

Anywho... a quick (well, quick for me, which isn't saying much) update. I went to see my oncologist, Sharlene Gill, today. Last week she had me go for blood work so that we could get a "tumour marker (CEA)" test done. If you all recall from past blog entries... a tumour marker test is when they measure this substance in your blood called CEA. For the normal person who has no active cancer in their bodies, a typical reading would be 4.0 or under. Various things could fluctuate the reading so unless cancer is suspected you can't just go to your doctor and ask for a tumour marker test (grin). Anywho... this is a good monitoring tool for some people... for others, it isn't all that accurate, hence why it isn't the only tool they use to monitor how someone is doing. With me, it seems to be fairly accurate and it was this test last December that alerted Sharlene to check further as something was "happening"... sure enough, after a PET scan was ordered it showed the lit up adrenal gland and tumour on the lung.

Sooooo... to make a long story longer (grin), just before I had the surgery to remove the adrenal gland and tumour, my CEA level reading was a 30.0... a month after the surgery, it had plummeted to 1.5 (this was this past August. Excellent!! But even Sharlene was surprised that it plummeted so drastically... it was almost like the adrenal tumour was the only cancer in the body and now that it was gone, the body is not reading it anymore... even though we knew there was this small 16mm tumour in my right lung, plus a few other spots that look very suspicious but are very small.

Soooo... I had the blood work done again last week and she had the results for when I went in today. Hooooray!! I passed with more flying colours... this time the reading is 1.2!! I'm sooooo normal when it comes to CEA readings (grin).

Now, she thought for sure I would have heard from the Interventional Radiologist at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster by now... but nope, haven't heard from his office. For those of you who don't know... Royal Columbian Hospital is probably, depending on traffic, about a 45-60 minute drive from my place (which just goes to prove to those who don't understand the Canadian Health Care system... since there is one provincial health care insurance plan, we can go anywhere where the resources are that would benefit us... we are not restricted to a list of doctors/specialists). In this case, this Interventional Radiologist is the only one who does RFA (Radiofrequency Abalation for lung tumours) in the Vancouver and surrounding area. This is a rather neat procedure -- -- and interesting to read about how it works.

Sooooo, Sharlene's plan for me is for this specialist to review my PET and CAT scans to see if I would be a likely candidate for this procedure. If he thinks he can do it, then YAHOO!!! It would mean that he would go in with the guidance of a CAT scanner and a special type of needle and burn out all the small "suspicious" tumours in both lungs, INCLUDING the 16mm one which first showed up on the first PET scan. What does this mean? Well, if he can successfully burn them all out and kill the off, then not only would I not need any chemotherapy, I wouldn't need to go through the major lung surgery either!! Whooooppeee!!!

Of course, until we get the news from the radiologist at Royal Columbian, I won't start jumping up and down quite yet. If he doesn't think it's possible, then we have some back up plans. You see, I'm STILL an enigma to the medical profession and I like it that way (grin)... the two spots that have lit up the PET scan (indicating there is cancer) and the other spots that are so small, they don't light up the PET scan but are considered "suspicious"... are either not growing or are growing so agonizingly slow, they don't know what to make of them. Cancer tumours in the lungs grow much faster than what my spots are doing. So there's also a chance that some of them are just scar tissue or benign growths and we won't know until they either don't grow at all, or grow bigger and don't light up the PET scan. Since they are sooooo slow growing, we might just wait and see what they do, which means I'll be scanned/monitored like a hawk every month or so. Then again, we might do chemo and see if any of the spots shrink or die off. If they do, then we know they are cancer because they are being affected by chemo... if they don't, then they would be considered benign or scar tissue. Then after the chemo... there would always be the option of surgery if one didn't die off completely. But all of these potential back up plans would be something we would discuss in detail and come up with a plan for "Cheryl"... should our first plan of the ablation procedure not be a possibility.

So, all in all, pretty darn good news if you ask me! We still have plans and options to pursue and Sharlene puts together the best teams depending on what plan we will come up with. She is going to track down the radiologist this week (he was not available today) and also talk to Dr. Yee (my lung surgeon) so that we all are on the same page. The stumbling block was she just assumed that I would have heard from the radiologist's office by now and either have had my consult appt. or had one set up. So she's going to kick butt this week and find out what's going on :)

Of course, as much as all the above is good news, positive, and I'm quite happy with it all... it seems every now and again Reality has a way of slapping me in the face. That happened today when, somewhere in our conversation I asked about my "staging" of the cancer. I told her that I knew when I was first diagnosed, back in Dec 2006, I was classified as Colon Cancer Stage III. Now, since then, we know the cancer spread to the adrenal gland (which has been removed) and at least one tumour on the right lung, possibly a second small one... so does this mean I'm still a Stage III or does this mean I'm a Stage IV? In the back of my mind, I knew the answer and even addressed it at the party the other week... but I had yet to see it in writing or have one of my doctor's tell me verbally. So yes, she confirmed that it means my staging is now a Stage IV because it had spread. Of course, the plan is to keep up and keep the cancer under control... and that's what we are doing by removing tumours, removing the adrenal gland, removing the 18 inches of intestine with the original tumour, etc. And if it pops up again, then we can always do the chemo again to shrink any tumours. It's possible what we are going to do with the RFA will then nip it in the bud and I'll be in remission for years... then again, the ugly beast could rear it's ugly head at any time, in any place... and we deal with what we are presented at the time.

Is it curable? Not likely. BUT, I take that as a challenge. If something is IN-CURE-ABLE, then to me it means the only way to cure it is if you have the ABLEity to CURE it from INside (IN CURE ABLE-ity). And that's where everyone's positive thoughts, love and support come into play. That was sooooo evident when my friends all came together to support me and the strength of that love and support alone is going to carry me well into any procedure/process I have to go to keep this beast behind bars :)

Ok.... so there you have it!! As for what else is going on... I'm just loving every day as it comes. I can't really explain that but every day there is something wonderful happening... even if Bridget, CB and I stay home with the intentions of doing a whole heap of Suzy Domestic chores. Hahaha... I never get them done, but I sure have fun putzing about :)

Meanwhile... this entry has turned into a saga on it's own... so I may as well make it a bit longer and add some pictures I took last week. I LOVE the FALL and this year, the rains held off so long, we actually managed to have a gorgeous colourful Fall! Here are some pictures I took in my most favourite park... right around where our TUTS office is. So, before going into the office, Bridget and I took a quick little walk around and took some pictures :D

Aren't they all gorgeous?? And isn't Bridget just acting like her little diva self, not only sitting on the bench and overseeing her yellow domain, but sitting on a piece of cardboard, thank you very much!! Heaven forbid her little bum should sit on a wet wooden bench (grin)

Now I'm going to try doing something here that I haven't tried before. My friend, Karen Kelm, and I have been friends since way, way back when we were in high school... and have remained friends throughout all these years. Well, it goes without saying that I think she is sooooo talented! She always has been and she's only gotten better every year. Karen has written and recorded a song called "I Can Lend You An Angel" and she sent it to me as a dedication to my journey. So I'm going to try and load it here. I'm not sure if it will automatically start playing or if you have to click on the link...

Click here to hear this gorgeous song!