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Dragged Around By A Number

Dragged Around By A Number

The number I’m speaking of is the Carcinoembryonic Antigen, also known as CEA number. It always takes the longest to show up in our portal after blood tests and it always feels like an eternity to see what it is.

I’ll be going about my day, working, driving our youngest daughter around, etc. Everything seems normal and good.

Then, this number becomes a wall that I run into, without any warning. It drags me by my hair, throws me to the ground, and leaves me in a pool of all my emotions. It has no mercy and just when I think it’s going to leave me alone for a minute, it comes back in full force.

Doctors don’t like to “give too much weight” to that number, until they do. The last time Pete’s CEA number started going up, his oncologist started plans for a surgery she said that he’d never be able to have. She was holding strong to her belief that that number is just one indicator of how things are progressing until it couldn’t be ignored anymore. When that number and his symptoms became too overwhelming for evidence for his need for surgery, the surgery happened quickly.

We are again to the point where that number is going up and it’s just so hard.

In our minds, we know that we have friends who said that they’d support us through anything, but in our insecurity or fear, we worry that we wear people out emotionally and it’s just too much for them.

In my mind, I know that it’s just a number, but in my worry and anxiety, I spend too much time thinking about how, after the last time, his cancer came back and was a more aggressive mutation.

In my mind, I know that perseverating on the number to the point that it affects my sleep, sanity, and mental/spiritual health isn’t helpful, but somehow, I feel less beat up by it if I just give in, spend some time acknowledging it, and try to give it less of my attention later.

Just like the elephant I’ve discussed before in our blogs, I get to choose how much it affects me but, after years of avoiding big/hard emotions, I have gotten better in letting myself feel them and not sweep them under the rug. I have always known that it wasn’t a good coping mechanism to avoid or sweep emotions under the rug, but it’s now become a necessity.

Yesterday, when we saw that number go up substantially and heard that chemo with Phesgo is the only option to consider if his scans indicate that the cancer is spread, we had a choice. Sooner than later, I’m proud to say that we gave the number and its weight some thought and consideration, letting it weigh us down for a little and feeling all of the emotions associated with it.

Today, we are still tender and emotionally distraught but we’ve hummed, sung silly songs, danced listening to tunes in the car ride, and somehow tried to proceed forward into a cancer-fighting family again.

If we don’t give that number the space and emotions it needs, we will never be able to remind ourselves of how far God carried us through the difficulty.





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