Today I have an update tracking the concentration of that protein in my body over the past five years.
When chemotherapy stopped holding down the cancer in late 2008, I traveled to Baltimore for a heroic surgery to remove the two big tumors and apply heated chemotherapy drugs to kill any stray cells. My surgeon was pleased that he was able to remove the tumors without too much destruction, but there was one area at the back of my pelvis where he worried that some cancer cells might still be hiding.
So our plan was to let me recover from surgery and then follow up with chemotherapy or radiation to clear out that trouble area. The big drop in CEA in January 2009 shows that the surgery was effective in reducing the tumor load and a CT scan in February looked good (for a person who has been reassembled a couple times already).
In the following months my CEA climbed back up to the limits of normal (5 nanograms per milliliter), solidly abnormal (over 10 ng/mL), and now stratospheric (633 ng/mL). Scans in May showed a tumor at the back of my pelvis eroding my tailbone and another sitting on the pubic bone in front of my bladder.
I've spent the last few weeks scurrying to figure out the current situation and choose the best plan of attack. The leading contender right now is radiation, first to the tailbone and then to the pubic bone. I'm hoping that those areas are the only ones with cancer and that the radiation will be at least as effective as it was on my pelvic mass in 2007.
There are other options to consider too: Taking the chemotherapy drug Xeloda during radiation to increase its effectiveness. Trying another chemotherapy drug like Vectibix (which is related to the drug Erbitux which brought me much suffering and little benefit). Or entering a clinical trial to try re-engineering my immune system to attack the CEA-laced cancer cells.
The rapid rise in CEA and the sudden worsening of pain is spurring me to move quickly. I was looking forward to summer travel, more time with family, and gainful employment; but those plans are postponed now. The next stage of treatment – six weeks of radiation – is scheduled to start in five days.