Wednesday, February 20, 2008

On the cusp

My cancer treatment is nearing a milestone. In November I had PET, CT, and bone scans that were complicated but mostly clear. My CEA also reached normal levels. With clear tests and no symptoms my doctor declared the cancer to be in remission. Our plan was to continue chemotherapy and then scan again in a few months to see if any suspicious activity arose. If not we planned to finish chemo and hope for good health.

That next set of scans will be in two weeks. My CEA has bounced around a little between 1 and 3 ng/mL but is still in the normal range. I went in for an infusion of Avastin today and started another week of Xeloda. There's a chance that this is my last dose of chemotherapy and I can go treatment-free for months or years. A welcome and long prayed for life change.

Or the blips in my CEA could be regrowing cancer and the scans could show that the questionable spots in my liver from last time are in fact new tumors. That would probably mean that my current treatment has stopped working and it's time to consider something else. A darker change that could make the past year of chemo seem pleasant.

My career is also on a cusp. I am now unemployed again since the grant that paid for my part-time work ran out. My boss is seeking funds for another year, but that depends on budget decisions which are out of our control. I expect a decision any day and it could mean returning to work in my research field, especially if I get off chemo and have a return to normalcy. Or it could be time to seek fresh work.

I'd like to stay in science since it's something that I enjoy, am good at, and am highly trained for. But it's been discouraging to make so little progress while I've been ill, during the very postdoctoral years when a young scientist should be rapidly growing and flourishing. I see other researchers accomplishing work on the ideas I had three years ago but haven't had the time and health to do myself. Maybe science just isn't compatible with unstable health and I should move to a field where results come quicker and without such deep investment.

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