I had a 3 week follow-up with my surgeon and as far as surgery healing goes, things seem to be right on track. Yay!
Before surgery, my calcitonin number was 624 and my CEA count was at 5. These high numbers are what informed my surgeon that I had Medullar Thyroid Cancer.
More than focusing on numbers though, specialists will watch my numbers over the months and years ahead and be more concerned with my ‘calcitonin doubling rate‘ which is how quickly my numbers are… doubling over a longer period of time.
The normal range for calcitonin in females is 14 or less… and CEA (for a non-smoker) is less than 3.
While my blood levels are completely back to normal post-surgery, my surgeon did go ahead and test for these levels at my 3 week check-up.
I was excited to hear that my calcitonin is currently at 10!!! This is good news and we pray that it continues going down to an amount that is undetectable. My CEA is now at ‘undetectable’ which is very good news as well. This number could spike back up, continue decreasing, etc… which is why in my previous post that I emphasized the importance of not focusing too much on these numbers. But again, for now — we take these numbers to indicate that my surgery was successful in getting the majority of cancer cells out of my body. Yes, there are still some inside of me — but our hope is that the slow-growing nature of this cancer will be true for me as well. And I fully believe that God can completely heal me of this, if He so chooses.
Thank you for praying and sitting with us in the ambiguity of all of these unknowns.
What are our next steps??
* Learn:: We are going to meet with a team of specialists in Houston, TX in a couple weeks where I will have more scans, blood work, education on what to expect and how to proceed with this diagnosis. Our hunch is that our next steps will be blood work and scans every 6 months/year unless crazy blood count numbers and tumors start popping up and demand more attention.
* Avoid:: Because chemo and external beam radiation are not a proven effective treatment option, I will not be going through that anytime soon. The only reason this would be used on my specific cancer is if a tumor or place of cancer spread was infringing on my quality of life. In this case, it would be used to minimize this effect although there is no curative effect of this treatment.
* Keep living and actively waiting:: Because of the lack of effective treatment options, the only real line of defense is surgery, when necessary. If the cancer becomes more advanced in nature, I will look at clinical trial drugs that are relatively new in the area of cancer research.
* Trust and stay faithful:: We fully anticipate our ability to return to Turkey in September and resume a new normal in our lives with an adjusted approach to life overseas. Tony will get back to learning language and serving as a marriage and family therapist to foreigners and I will probably slow down a bit on language and focus more on my personal health and our overall family health by being more with the kids at this critical time in their lives. We are still praying and asking God for wisdom in details of this new normal — so your prayers would be very welcomed and appreciated.
How are we feeling/doing??
I, Christen, feel somewhat normal… besides the extreme fatigue, low energy, and mild depression and mood swings, it doesn’t ‘feel’ like I have cancer inside my body. (And that list were all things I struggled with since our daughter was born, so it doesn’t seem abnormal) My hope is that my energy will return and my emotions will stabilize a bit more with increased physical activity and a better diet. I am completely at peace with God’s hand in this and I am greatly encouraged by ways we see evidence of His grace in the community around us. I am working through the emotional aspect of having cancer, but my hunch will be that this will be a life-long process. I’m praying God will redeem to shape me into His image and likeness and I will draw closer to Him in the months and years ahead.
We, as a couple, are doing alright. We are thankful to have the support of family and friends – especially with our kids – as we have had so many medical appointments over the past few months. We are committed to seeking God, as a couple, that He would strengthen and heal our marriage in ways that we can both see and not see. Overall, I think we are a bit weary and tired from all of this and feeling ‘out of sorts’ from being away from our home and new ‘routine’ overseas… but God has been faithfully meeting us and revealing Himself to us in scripture, conversations, the quiet, and the noises of our children shrieking from laughter. Life is good and beautiful. It’s hard and messy too. But somehow, the blend of brokenness and beauty makes perfect sense in light of eternity.
Tony is having foot surgery this next Tuesday. He has been in a lot of pain for almost a year and a half, so we are ready to see healing for him! I’m nervous to be temporarily losing Tony’s physical strength in our home as I tend to lean into him a lot when our kids are melting down and need to be scooped up and held. But again, this is an opportunity to rely more on God’s strength as Tony will be on crutches and completely off his foot for 6 weeks after surgery. Thankfully, he can still sit and read to the kids. I walked in on Tony watching an infomercial the other day about this crazy new contraption that is a cross between the knee scooter and crutches. Leave it to my husband to find the latest invention for his medical restrictions and be excited about it. I’m sure he’ll provide a link for you all to see it too!