The email had come in from the doctor’s office had updated her file. Mom had tried to click the link in the email, but as with most links in Outlook since upgrading to Windows 10 – it wouldn’t open.
I took a few minutes to search Google for an answer, typing in ‘How to open email links in Windows 10’ into the search bar. Changing the file association for Outlook to a browser other than Internet Explorer did the trick.
Back to the email and opening the link to the My Chart portal on Asante’s website.
“Do you have your username and password?”
Roadblock number two, but thankfully resolved with a note from the doctor’s office found on her desk.
Once in the system I found notes going back a couple of years.
“Want me to delete these old notes?”
We both wanted to delay the inevitable at this point.
Notes deleted I opened the ‘Test Results’ message.
The CEA Test
When they think you might have cancer they do blood tests. For specific cancers: breast, colon, pancreatic and others, the CEA blood test is often used, although it’s not always present with some pancreatic tumors and thus is not considered a definitive test as much as one of many diagnostic tests to help monitor cancer’s growth.
Unfortunately where pancreatic cancer is concerned, there are no ‘definitive’ tests for diagnosing it early. Thus most patients who have it are in the later stages of the disease with a poor prognosis.
According to Healthline…
A CEA test is most useful if you’ve been diagnosed with a type of cancer that’s known to produce CEA. Not all cancers produce CEA. Increased levels of CEA may be found in the following cancers:
- colorectal or colon cancer
- medullary thyroid carcinoma
- breast cancer
- cancer of the gastrointestinal tract
- liver cancer
- lung cancer
- ovarian cancer
- pancreatic cancer
- prostate cancer
A good number – within ‘normal’ ranges – is 0 to 3 or 5 (depending on what lab it used and their protocols, and whether the patient is a smoker or non-smoker).
The lab used for Mom’s test said 0-3 was in the normal range. Her number was 5.2 for this first test. (*Some pancreatic cancer patients have numbers above 1,000!)
I could see the disappointment in her face.
I found myself saying: “It’s not going to be zero. You have cancer, but look at how low it is. That’s GOOD news!”
Another test, the CA19-9 was probably done too. In combination, this helps doctors to stage pancreatic cancer, adding to the diagnostic tests that guide further treatment of the disease.
What Comes Next
This week Mom is scheduled for a pulmonary test on Wednesday morning. This is used to measure her lung health and capacity.
Thursday afternoon we meet with the gastro specialist to discuss recent test results and the pending biopsy of her pancreas. It’s still not clear if that will be done in a surgical center or the hospital, but I guess we’ll find out that day.
Then a busy weekend with friends, attending Mom’s church crab feed. This year it’s more of a help taking tickets and be social thing as her appetite is waning due to nausea right now. Despite this it’s always fun to see friends and occupy our minds with other things. Things that don’t include a cancer diagnosis. An event we both look forward to attending together each year, which takes on special significance for me THIS year.
The following Monday will be the biopsy of her pancreas.
That day feels like a lifetime away right now as time seems to have elongated. I find I have to remind myself to think about other things. To look up at the sky when the clouds break and enjoy the sunshine – even if for only a moment.
It feels like we’re walking into a long, dark tunnel.
I guess that just means it’s time to say our prayers, and clasp hands. Knowing we’ll be carried along the path even when we can’t see it.