Sherryl's appointment with her oncologist today went very well. He said she is making "great progress!" The key piece of information we were waiting to hear is a number, the tumor marker.
"A tumor marker is a substance found in a person's blood, urine, or tissue. A high level of a particular tumor marker in the blood or urine may indicate the presence of a particular type of cancer. There are different tumor markers for different cancers. For example, one tumor marker for breast cancer is called CA 15-3. A tumor marker cannot be used alone to diagnose cancer, and is generally not accurate enough to be used to screen for cancer." (Guide to Quality Breast Cancer Care website, 2006).
Prior to undergoing any type of treatment, Sherryl's oncologist reported the tumor marker for her breast cancer was 113. Following the combination of Femara and two series of radiation therapies, her doctor hoped to see this number drop below 100. Sherryl has been dreaming about this number for quite a while and anxiety was high today in anticipation of learning new results. Was the treatment working? Did the number go up or down? More questions were asked, compounded by the uncertainty of not knowing if progress was being made or not. Sherryl was told today that, following all treatment to date, her tumor marker has dropped to 34.4!!! WOW!
- Blood tests show blood counts look good. The white cell count is a bit low but is expected to return to normal.
- Both the breast tumor and the lymph node under the arm have reduced in size; the tumor is still fairly movable, which is a good sign as we look ahead to surgery.
- Tests also showed the liver function is slightly abnormal and will be monitored over time.
Moving forward, Sherryl will continue to take Femara and will also undergo biophosphonate treatment which involves intravenous infusion of Zemata once per month. The purpose of this treatment is to stimulate laying down new bone in areas treated by radiation; Sherryl's oncologist calls it "bone glue." No chemotherapy is indicated at this time. Sherryl will return to see her oncologist in one month, and a bone density test may be scheduled at some point in the future as Femara stops production of estrogen in the body and this activity needs to be monitored in the future.*
Sherryl's next appointment is Thursday, this time with the doctor who is treating the fractured vertebrae. And she is scheduled to see the surgeon on April 17th.
As for her spirits, you can only imagine what a relief this good news was to hear. Sherryl burst into tears upon hearing that magic number, 34.4, and her spirits are higher than they've been in quite some time. She is walking without her walker, will use it only when absolutely necessary, and has every intention of resuming a schedule at Day Care.
One of the nurses who cared for Sherryl today was amazed that she runs a day care and applauded her for her patience. Sherryl's response to the nurse was, "I can't wait to get back to work. Spending time with those children is the best medicine in the world."
Thank you all for continuing to send your wishes of wellness, devoted prayers, and positive light to our sister. Please know that every ounce of energy you spend is working! We just can't thank you enough for loving our sister so very much.
Arleen and Nadine
* Edited March 28, 2007