Back in January I had SRS to beat back the cancer that had returned to my liver. A week ago I had blood drawn to have my CEA (carcinoembryonic antigen) levels tested. Colorectal Cancer can produce this protein in abundance, however it doesn’t do so in all cases. When it does, it can be a very reliable early indicator of recurrence. In my case each recurrence was accompanied by a rise in my CEA. It does take several days for the test to be run, so I didn’t get my results until yesterday. The results of this test would dictate whether I would have surgery or go back to monitoring with scans. As you have probably surmised from the title of this post, I had outstanding results, so it was well worth the wait.
My husband and I sat in the room waiting for the doctor while our daughter sat outside in the waiting room, fiendishly trying to finish the puzzle that was out that day. I can’t pinpoint why, but this time the wait was different. There was no scanxiety (the elevated levels of anxiety one has while waiting for the results of their scan for the return of cancer) for either of us. We sat there chatting about the lamb shanks that we had slow cooking in the pot at home and battling each other in rounds of “Scramble with Friends” as we waited for Dr. Care Bear to come in. Finally, the moment of truth. He came in, sat down, and opened my file. “WHOA!” And he sat back in disbelief. I generally assume that my doctors will review my tests before coming in to deliver the results, but clearly that was not the case this time. Dr. Care Bear was dressed in his scrubs, so I supposed that he had just come back from his rounds in the hospital and did not have the time to look at them beforehand. My husband inquired “whoa good or whoa bad?” It was “whoa good.” I think it takes quite a bit to surprise a doctor of his caliber and experience as I’m sure he’s seen it all, but it was heart-warming to see that he had been rendered speechless for a moment. As he wrangled his surprise, he looked at me and said that the results were far better than he expected. My CEA level was <0.5 which means that it is so low that it is “undetectable” by the test. He had expected them to be decreased from my last test, but this was an unbelievable drop.
I can understand that there are doctors out there who keep an emotional distance from their patients. After all, when you’re in the business of dealing with cancer, the cold hard facts are that you’re going to lose more patients than you will with other specialties. I have been so fortunate in the team of doctors that have me under their care. Every one of them are fully invested in my care and I am the beneficiary of not only their knowledge and expertise, but also of their kindness.
So we waltzed out of the office full of smiles, sharing high fives and hugs with our daughter in the waiting room. We returned home to have a lovely pre-Easter meal of lamb shanks, broccoli rabe, and baked potatoes. We were happy to walk the meal off with a nice long walk with the dog and danced our hearts out into the wee hours of the morning.