Hello, you lovely people.
I promised a post-scan-results update, and here it is. Sorry it's taken a while - we managed to squeeze in a few days away which was bliss and not conducive to blog-writing. A couple of nights in Cirencester (who knew what a nice town it is?!) and then four nights near Hay-on-Wye courtesy of some very, very kind friends who have a lovely holiday cottage there. Wifey, doggy and me had a fab time. Thank you so much, H&G - sooo appreciated and enjoyed by us all.
Below is a montage/GIF-type thing Google put together for me, perhaps in an effort to show just how many attempts it takes to get a single "normal" looking selfie while on hols...my steroidal gerbil cheeks are a bit of a change from my crack-addict look of a few months ago.
Anyway, to business.
My wonderful oncologist, Dr McKinna, very kindly made space in her diary on 20th August to accommodate Bekky and I to discuss the scan results. Not something many NHS consultants would be prepared to do at three-day's notice.
And the results weren’t great. In fact, there was nothing positive about them at all, really. Despite another 13-or-so rounds of chemo since my last scan in January, the cancer has progressed.
As far as my liver is concerned, there was a question mark over whether or not the Radio Frequency Ablation had done its thing back in August last year - well, it turns out it didn't. The mark on the liver is bigger and bolder, so that's annoying for starters. There's not much point in trying to do anything about it for the time being, as surgery, no matter how minor, would mean a further chemo interruption and at the moment it's wiser to keep trying to hit everything than just focussing on one element while the rest is temporarily ignored.
The 40-odd growths in the lungs are mostly bigger and more numerous.
And the three worryingly enlarged lymph nodes are bigger too.
Oh, and my CEA levels - tumour markers in my blood - are up as well.
So you see, no good news at all. No miracles. No sudden turns for the better. Everything is worse. Meh.
As far as CEA levels are concerned, Bekky and I requested no information on that front back in January when things were looking somewhat bleak. It was a decision driven mostly by myself as I didn't feel knowing details would necessarily be constructive. We kept our heads buried in the sand until scan results day when, after much discussion, we decided we needed to be brave and face facts.
I know I bang on about CEA levels quite a lot but they have their uses. The actual numbers are not necessarily that important, it is the general trend of those numbers that is relevant. Numbers going upwards - not good. Numbers going downwards - good. It's very simple. Or it would be, were it not for the fact that quite a few things can influence CEA levels, from minor infections to, believe it or not, chemotherapy, of all things. So they are very much a guide rather than a tool to be relied upon.
In a nutshell, my CEA trend has been upward. Pretty steadily, in fact, since November last year. We were concerned that the numbers were going to be in the hundreds, but as it turns out, they are not which is a micro-slice of good-ish news. But they are continually on the up.
To put it in perspective, when I was first diagnosed in May 2016, they were around 25. Between then and November last year, they fluctuated from as low as 1.7 to as high as 14.3.
November last year also saw an enforced break in my treatment while we tried to work out what was causing my intense abdominal pains (post-surgical adhesions, as it turns out). Between November and re-starting chemo in March, my levels shot up from 7.5 to 32, which is indicative of how aggressive my cancer is - turn your back for a minute and...
Anyway, since then, with a very brief downward moment in June/July, my CEA levels have continued to go up and, at the last count, were at 51.4. Not good.
So what next? Well, a new type of chemo has been added into the mix for starters. I have had Irinotecan previously, but at the time my posterior was being uncooperative, shall we say. Regular readers will probably be only too aware that for about a year, going to the loo was an intensely, eye-crossingly, mind-bendingly, screamingly painful and awful experience. However, this was an ongoing problem which, at the time, was exacerbated by Irinotecan. Currently my posterior is about as well and pain-free as could be hoped so adding Irinotecan into the mix thankfully hasn't made things worse. I've had two rounds with the new blend (Oxaliplatin, Irinotecan and 5FU if you're a detail person) and so far, so good.
The hope is that the combination of Oxaliplatin, Irinotecan and 5FU will pack more of a punch and either halt the upward CEA trend or, in the ideal world, bring it down a bit.
The plan is to have four or five rounds of chemo with this cocktail and then another CT scan to see what the pictures tell us. If it's working, we'll carry on. If it's not then there will be another rejigging of chemo regimes. Herceptin? Raltitrexed? We'll see.
It's been a tricky few weeks - my scan results came as yet another blow, and around the same time, our wonderful Lola had to have a mastectomy after Bekky found a lump. However, in a very unexpected turn of events as far as our luck and cancer is concerned, Lola's lump was BENIGN! Turns out there is some respite from the knee-deep quagmire of cancer in our household.
So we're doing our best to keep our chins up. We just have to hope that the chemo triple whammy is doing its thing.
We'll keep you posted.