Thursday, September 7, 2017

All The Marbles

I rescheduled my next PSA test just now. Originally, it was scheduled for Monday morning. Now it's tomorrow morning at 9:00 AM, Mountain Daylight Time. I didn't reschedule it because of a conflict, or because I just can't wait for the results. The appointment was changed because I'm running out of Zytiga.

Heather, my personal pharmacist for medication that's delivered to my house, called yesterday to ask if she should send more. I told her that I only have enough left for three more days, but since this a thirty day trial period for me, I don't want to order more unless I know it's working. I also don't want to have skipped a dose when they take my blood. So I'm getting my blood drawn tomorrow.

I've said a couple of times before that a blood test was for "all the marbles," and it was always true. But it's more true this time than it's ever been. My last PSA result was 3.72, more than double the number I got in June, which was 1.41. This indicated that my cancer was growing fast, and previous treatments had been ineffective. That's why we decided to try Zytiga. I've now been on it for almost a month. This test will show one of three things. I'll take them one at a time.

If my PSA is down, even a little, it means Zytiga is working, at least temporarily. A downward trend in my PSA would indicate that my cancer is shrinking instead of growing. That was the result I got with Xtandi for about six months. My PSA shrank to impossibly low levels for a while, and everyone got their hopes up. Except me. I knew my cancer would find a way around it, and it did, in pretty short order. Any benefit from Zytiga will be temporary as well, and probably shorter-lived than my good results from Xtandi were. There is a law of diminishing returns with these things.

But I'll take whatever time Zytiga will give me, though my heart still patiently waits for the day when I can stop. I still hate it with a passion. But that won't stop me from calling Heather to tell her to send more if it's working.

If my PSA is higher than 3.72, it means Zytiga had no effect. In that case, I'll stop taking it. I'll also have to set up an account with Hospice. The countdown will have begun in earnest.

You may remember that, in my last consultation with my oncologist, I asked him how long before I should expect to start having symptoms. He said he expects symptoms to begin within six months of when treatment stops working. If the Zytiga experiment proves a failure, it means that treatment stopped working in June. You do the math.

Of course, he could be wrong. But he could be wrong either way. So far, he's only been wrong on the generous side. When I ask him for a number, he always gives an optimistic estimate. He wants to give his patients hope. He estimated that I'd get eighteen months to two years from Lupron alone. I got ten months. He thought I could get at least a year from Xtandi. It was effective for six months. The six month figure could be generous too.

Even if I get a few additional months from Zytiga - which I will gladly take - we're still talking spring at the latest for symptoms to start. Probably more like December or January. And once symptoms start, the rest will happen very quickly.

But as I said, there is a third possibility. It's possible I was miraculously healed at Morsefest last Sunday. If you haven't read about that, check out my last post, Heaven In My Heart. How will I know from this test if I'm the Morsefest Miracle? If my number is suddenly in the "undetectable" range, .03 or below, it will indicate, but not prove, that my cancer is gone. To prove it, we'll need an MRI and bone scan. If those look clear, maybe there will be a biopsy to be sure.

Make no mistake, I believe in miracles. The fact that I'm still walking around symptom-free is a miracle. Two days from today, September 9th, 2017, I will have been diagnosed Stage 4 for a year. My cancer has grown exponentially in that time, but I still can't feel it. As I said in my last post, no one needs to convince me that God can heal me. I know he can.

But I still struggle with the issue of divine healing. To understand why, please read an early post of mine called My Complicated History With Divine Healing. In addition to what I express in that post, there is the fact that thousands of people have been praying for my healing for almost two years now, and God has not seen fit to heal me yet. In fact, during that time, all my cancer has done is get worse. So I had basically concluded that it isn't God's will to heal me. It feels to me like it's his will to take me home.

But I could be wrong. I certainly hope I'm wrong. But there is another problem with the idea that God may have healed my cancer last Sunday. That problem is my friend Paul, who sat in his wheelchair while they prayed for me. I know they've done the same thing for Paul, but he still is confined to his wheelchair. God did not choose to heal Paul. For him, God grace must be sufficient. This is a bond that he and I share. We both feel it's God's will to show himself to us in unusual ways rather than heal us. It's to use us as an example of how he is there even in the hardest times.

Maybe it's sacreligious for me to say this, but if God heals me, he'd better heal Paul too. And my dad, while he's at it. If he heals me and not them, he and I are going to have a problem.

I expect to get the results Monday morning, maybe before. Of course, I'll tell you everything, as soon as I call a bunch of people. Only one of the three possible results I've listed will result in my continuing with Zytiga. Personally, I think it's the least likely of the three. I think this result will show that my cancer is gone, or beyond all control. It will give back the normal life span I thought I had before this started, or accelerate my sell-by date. This one really is for all the marbles. #waroncancer #bearingwitness

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