It’s been awhile since I wrote an update about my battle with cancer which is, in itself, an indication that things have been going well. There really hasn’t been much to report which is a good thing! Yesterday, we sat down with one of my specialists to discuss the results of recent CT and PET scans. Though we weren’t expecting anything dire, I think we both walked out of his office feeling like a load had been lifted off our shoulders. Yes, the news was that good!
As many of you are aware, I have dealt with two completely separate and unrelated cancers over the past two years. The first good news was that there is absolutely no sign of the acinic cell cancer that was removed surgically and treated with radiation last summer. I have routine follow-up appointments with both the surgeon and the radiation oncologist next week, but I’m certain that they’re going to tell me that everything is fine.
We already knew that my primary neuroendocrine tumour, which is located in my colon, has been shrinking as a result of the radioisotope (Lutetium) treatments that I’ve been having. Yesterday we learned that the other four tumours, three on my liver and one in a lymph node, have not changed in size since diagnosis. That’s a glass half full / half empty kind of statement. While it would be nice to hear that they too are shrinking, the fact that they have not grown and that there are no new ones is actually very good news.
Another indication that the disease is stable, that my tumours are essentially dormant now, is hormone production. Neuroendocrine tumours (NETS) produce serotonin, a hormone that we all have in our bodies. Serotonin is sometimes referred to as one of the happiness hormones because a deficit may to lead to depression, but an excess secreted by neuroendocrine tumours results in carcinoid syndrome which, as in my case, results in symptoms that include abdominal cramping and diarrhea, skin flushing, and periods of rapid heart rate. It can also lead to heart disease and other complications. A 24 hour urine test is used to measure the amount of serotonin in the body. I don’t yet understand exactly what the numbers mean, but I was told yesterday that my level at diagnosis was 150. A year ago, it was down to 69 and now, it’s 42. Apparently, normal is around 40. That would indicate that my tumours are no longer actively producing serotonin which is definitely good news!
So what does all this mean for the future? There is no cure for NETS. Even if my tumours were to disappear completely which happens very rarely, I would not be considered cured, but I am now entering a maintenance phase. For the next two years, I will receive a Lutetium treatment every six months instead of every 9 to 12 weeks as has happened so far. Then, if things continue to go well, we’ll go to a treatment every nine months. Yesterday was the first time we were even told of that possibility!
“I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
Yesterday was definitely a day that gave us hope and a day that gave me greater confidence of a future here on this side of heaven! The battle isn’t over, in fact it never will be, but for now it’s getting easier and that’s enough for me!