By early 2008, I had endured 18 months of chemotherapy with Xeloda. My CEA was down to normal and my scans were clear. When my CEA came back up a bit, we decided the chemo had done all the good it could and it was time to set me free. We would just watch closely and hope that cancer would stay away, at least for a while.
It felt great to get away from the grind of chemo. I didn't have to plan my activities around good weeks and bad weeks. I didn't have to avoid favorite foods on chemo days to prevent making bad associations. I had more time and energy, my mind was clear, and I could plan for the future: projects to accomplish, advancing my career, traveling around the world, and pursuing romance as a normal man.
Just a few months later I got bad news. My CEA was not rising gradually but shooting rapidly into the danger zone. And my scans showed new growth – a tumor had resisted all the chemo drugs and was expanding without restraint.
I cried upon receiving that news – something I had rarely done through all my dealings with cancer. The physician's assistant assured me that the doctors had not given up on me; there were still more treatments to try. She must have thought that my tears were from a fear of death. And I should take comfort that there might still be ways to avoid that fate.
But really I cried for the loss of life. The loss of living. I knew that returning to treatment meant more hardships from chemotherapy, the loss of time, and the loss of vigor. Death is inevitable and I do not fear it, but I have things to do before it comes. I cried because I was losing those plans for my future – productivity, strength, happiness, love.
We eventually fought that recurrence with surgery. And when we found that some remnants had survived, we scorched them with radiation. I have been living free since then – watching closely, hoping for a long break from cancer, and planning for the future.
But now my CEA is back in the stratosphere. Though we haven't identified a specific tumor on scans, I have been experiencing bowel obstructions and greatly increased pain. It seems that cancer is back in my life and ready to fight.
I start a new course of chemotherapy on Monday.