CEA Blood Test

With my next scan only four weeks away, my anxiety is growing with each passing day. Thankfully, I can’t remember the last time I cried all day, so that’s a positive. I am trying to stay in the mind set that there is nothing I can really do to have the results I wish. The holidays were hard on my body. More alcohol than I have drank in the past three years combined, and enough sweets and salts to go along with it. But that was to be expected and I do not feel like I over indulged. I have to constantly remind myself that I have to quit the “blame game”. If my scan results are bad, that is not because I had a larger piece of pie for Christmas, or because I had two glasses of wine with dinner – there was nothing I could do to prevent it. I am starting to truly believe that. I am cleaning up my eating again because I was to stay consistently healthy for a longer period of time than just three month periods.

I’ve decided after this next scan to change up my follow up schedule. When most cancer patients enter the NED (no existing disease) stage, they all have roughly the same schedule. Two to three years having a CT scan and blood test every three months, the following two years it drops to every six, and at that beautiful five year mark it goes to once a year. This is because with each passing year, your chances of reoccurence technically lowers. Of course, every body is different, but overall this seems to be the case. I however would like to do things differently, as I always seem to do. With colon cancer a good indicator that something is changing is when your CEA (carcinoembryonic antigen) levels in your blood are increasing. This isn’t a perfect way to tell if your cancer is back, but it is usually pretty accurate.

Just in case you have no idea what I am talking about – the CEA test measures the amount of a certain protein that may appear in the blood of some people who have certain kinds of cancers, especially cancer of the large intestine (colon and rectal cancer). A healthy person should have CEA level under 4. A smoker is typically under 6. In the late summer of 2015, after my lung surgery, my CEA level was 4. Fast forward to Spring of 2016, when my cancer was back in my liver and lungs, my CEA level was 44.

At my last check up in October my CEA level was 0.3. Yep – that was a shocker. So this month if my levels have increased a significant amount, then something very well could be going on inside. However if they remain very low, I will feel confident that I am on the right track. So I will switch things up and only get my blood taken in May. If that level is also low then my new CT scan and CEA test will be in July – at the six month mark. If my levels are raised in April then we will scan away. I figure I will save myself the stress, and the radiation, if I push it to the six month mark. I haven’t really been able to unwind and enjoy my life in the NED world because my scan is always looming in the back of my mind. So maybe having it every six months will help with that. I guess we will find out.

Fingers and toes crossed that this scan and blood test is clear!

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Magic

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iPads look even cuter when they have a little keyboard attached to them. (Is that really going to be my first sentence?)

I find it a tad ironic I am sitting here having a hard time finding a way to start this blog because I am having the worst acid reflex attack. My acid reflex attacks are what started this crazy life I lead today. Returning from beautiful Punta Cana in January of this year, I began having 4 straight days of uncontrollable acid reflex. Being the paranoid person that I am, I immediately thought I must have a parasite. After a visit to the walk-in, he gave me an abdominal exam where he felt underneath my right rib cage. It was tender. “Must be gallstones”, he said as he ordered me an abdominal ultrasound. By end of week I was in for that ultrasound. Laying on the table the tech began her examination. The first words out of her mouth were, “When was the last time you had a blood test?”. “Um, no idea”, and she carried on. Two hours later at home I received a phone call from the walk-in letting me know my ultrasound results were in and the doctor would like to speak to me. Obviously, I was nervous. I have never once received results back in such a timely manner. Heading into the office, all I could think of was that I must be pregnant. That would be the only logical reason why she asked me about a blood test….. which I actually have no idea if that even makes sense, but it did to me.

Hemangioma – a birthmark that most commonly appears as a rubbery, bright red nodule of extra blood vessels in the skin (www.mayoclinic.org)

“That is what I believe you have. Nothing to worry about, but I would like to send you for a CT scan just to be sure.”

 

I should probably write the entire first part of my story in one piece. I mean, it would make sense to explain everything that happened leading up to my diagnosis in one blog post, but I am not a writer and this is my blog so I make the rules. I have told my story to my friends over and over so many times I truthfully thought this would be a walk in the park. Surprise, I am wrong. I just found my self staring at “April 3rd, 2014 – CT Scan” for the past 15 minutes. Reliving the day in my head with a vivid memory of everything I felt. No thanks, it’s Friday morning and I need to eat something more than banana bread.