It’s the holiday season and doesn’t seem like it thanks in part to our warm weather. As our immediate family prepares to celebrate, I’m both happy and filled with anxiety.
I have not been feeling great the past month – more aches than usual and general discomfort (that has not risen to the level of ‘pain’) along with fatigue. My dr. appointment last week shows that the blood test for the CA 27-29 tumor marker (which is an indicator of the amount of circulating breast cancer cells in blood) jumped up 30 points. It’s now higher than when I was diagnosed. (122 at diagnosis (7/2019), lowest value was 42 (2/2020), rising steadily since then, currently at 146. Below 38 means no active breast cancer.)
What does this mean? My oncologist wants to get some scans to confirm. Between the blood work and how I’ve been feeling, I will not be shocked if the conclusion is that this first line of treatment has failed.
As a reminder, once a treatment fails you can’t go back to it. There are a finite number of treatments so I want to stay on each one as long as possible. There is also no guarantee that a particular treatment will work at all.
We knew this was coming. If I know the treatment is not working I’d prefer to get started on a new one with the hope that it knocks down the cancer. My anxiety is coming in mainly because of COVID.
Sadly, a select number of people in the U.S. have made COVID a political issue and some people are thinking that they don’t need to worry about COVID because “they will be fine” even if they get it.
The newest variant, Omicron, is spreading very quickly and has mutated enough that there are breakthrough cases for vaccinated people. And it’s critical to note that vaccinated people who get COVID typically do not get a severe case and do not need to be hospitalized.
If I get COVID between now and my scans, I can’t get my scans. If I get COVID I cannot enter the medical facility to get my scans and that means I can’t confirm what the cancer is doing and move to a new treatment plan if necessary. I cannot explain the high level of anxiety this brings to me.
It also makes me sad, angry and disappointed.
I – and my family – should not have to hide away from society to avoid COVID.
Each time someone is infected with a virus it has the opportunity to mutate. Vaccines don’t cause the mutation. Vaccines reduce a virus’s ability to infect people. This gives the virus less opportunities to mutate.
If everyone would get vaccinated, we would likely see mutations of COVID slow or stop.
The COVID vaccine is safe and effective. It reduces severity of disease. Even if you are not at high risk (e.g., young, healthy) you should get the vaccine to help stop the spread and mutations.
There is a disinformation campaign in the U.S. that is mind boggling. People pushing this misinformation have been vaccinated and many have gotten the COVID booster!
People who have not been vaccinated are more likely to end up in the hospital. Hospitals in Colorado are overwhelmed with unvaccinated patients. Even in Boulder County (73% vaccination rate) the hospitals are near capacity with patients from other parts of the state where there are fewer vaccinated individuals coupled with limited health care options.
Hospitals at capacity are not good for cancer patients or anyone else – think car accident or an older individual who fall and might need hospital care only to find there are no beds available for them to be treated. I know of one cancer patient who needed a port put in so she could more easily take her chemotherapy treatment. It was classified as an “elective” procedure and was de-prioritized due to COVID overwhelming her hospital.
If that’s not enough to convince you of the adverse impact of COVID – we will continue see professional sports games cancelled or postponed because of so many COVID infections! You won’t even have that entertainment as you recover at home from COVID.
Much of this can be avoided. Please, please get vaccinated and encourage others to do the same.
Between now and my scans on January 6, I’m going to hope that anyone I encounter is a thoughtful and caring individual who fully vaccinated.
What I want for Christmas is for everyone to get the (free) COVID-19 vaccine and reduce their risk and mine of serious illness.