I know I haven't posted in a while, but that's a good thing in a lot of ways. I haven't posted recently because medically there hasn't really been that many new developments, which I see a a really good thing. I'm tired of all the "excitement" that comes along with cancer.
Today I did receive some news that does require sharing. It requires a little set-up first though.
One of the characteristics of the type of cancer that I had is that the tumor cells create chemical compounds called tumor markers when they are active. The two compounds that they create are Beta-HCG and Alpha-fetoprotein which can show up in the bloodstream and the cerebrospinal fluid (if the tumor is on the brain or spine) for a total of 4 measurable tumor markers. Just before and during my treatment, the levels of these compounds were well above the normal levels for humans, but they slowly decreased with each stage of treatment. After the stem cell rescue procedure, all but one of the tumor markers, Beta-HCG in the spinal fluid, were down to normal levels. The tumor marker was only slightly elevated, but it was enough to cause suspicion that there might still be active tumor cells. Because of this my radiation dose was increased to the maximum limit, in the hopes of reducing the tumor marker to a normal level. Also, as part of the stem cell rescue clinical trial I was involved in, I needed to start taking Isotretinoin in the hopes that it could halt any remaining tumor cells from growing. The past few times I had had my tumor marker levels measured, the Beta-HCG in the spinal fluid had still been just slightly elevated. The level had stayed at pretty much the same place since the end of my stem cell transplant.
The news that I received today was that my latest blood and spinal fluid draws showed all the tumor markers to be in the normal range! I'm incredibly happy with this news. Before, even though the tumor markers were constant and did not rise, there was always the ambiguity of the fact that one was slightly elevated. There was always the chance that at some point in the future it could rise, the horrible thought of the possibility of a second recurrence. Now, the fact that all the tumor markers are normal is a huge relief. I'm still going to continue taking the isotretinoin just because in this situation I would much rather be safe then sorry, but hopefully when that's over I'll be done with this whole extravaganza and it'll just become a memory and I'll be able to continue with my life.