Sunday, May 1, 2011

CEA, Transfusion, and Right Shoulder/Arm Pain

I had Herceptin and Zometa on Friday morning and they took some blood for labs, to check my tumor marker, and my other metabolic and blood cell levels.

The good news is that my CEA was 5.4, down from 41.9 on March 8. 3.8 is considered normal. Yay! I'm glad it's that low and confirms my assertion that the tumor under my armpit was causing that number to be so high. (I do still have that tumor on my breastbone, which is one reason why I had Herceptin and Zometa. Maybe that will help lower the CEA even more?)

But my hemoglobin was 8.7 (normal is 11.5-13.5; some docs give a transfusion when it's under 8 and some under 9). They called my oncologist, who decided to give me a transfusion, for which I'm glad. My hematocrit was 26.3 and normal is 36. The nurses said that because I was symptomatic (shortness of breath, high pulse rate, fatigue), Dr. K ordered the transfusion. I think I also need energy to help heal the wound in my armpit.

So, I sat at Ambulatory Infusion for another 4-5 hours, first waiting for the blood and then getting it. That was really hard on me because I had a lot of pain in my right shoulder blade, up to my right shoulder, then my right elbow and down my forearm to my hand. It got so bad I was in tears. My right fingers were also tingly and numb. Dad brought up Dilaudid for me and the nurses gave me hot packs for the shoulder and the forearm.

I think that I am overcompensating with my right arm - doing more things with it since I am not able to stretch my left arm out yet because of surgery (and lymphedema). I also find myself automatically raising that shoulder even when sitting or standing, so I have to consciously keep telling myself to relax. I also think that keeping it more immobile while at Infusion contributed to the pain. Finally, I think having fluid going in the catheter up my arm also contributed. Yesterday, I had hardly any pain, but I moved around more. I went to wound care and then shopped for button up shirts in Albany. I had plenty of energy. Only once did my right shoulder/arm get painful. Yesterday evening, after laying down to rest some, I could feel some of the pain coming back. I'd left that right arm more immobile than earlier that day. So, I got up and did some simple arm exercises and tried to stretch out both arms. I found that I could stretch out my right arm as much as I wanted because the catheter is in that arm. I really think that has something to do with it. I wish I could get it taken out . . .

It was also tough because I feel like I'm failing somehow because I can't wean myself off the pain pills just yet. It's not because of the surgery site, but the right shoulder pain. Dilaudid helps relax that area. But the nurses assured me that it's okay - it's only been four weeks post-surgery. I also feel like it's taking me much longer to recover from this surgery. Next time I do it, I want to be much stronger physically.

The transfusion did help, though. I feel more energetic and I don't feel my heart racing as much as it did. So, that's a good thing. And, today is sunny. I see blue skies everywhere. It's supposed to be 70. I do need to do some work - grading papers and then preparing for a presentation tomorrow - and I'll pick up Eddie at his dad's house. I don't think I'll go to Urgent Care for a dressing change - I think yesterday's dressing can last a day because of how well the doctor wrapped it. And, besides, my lilacs are blooming!

Oh. I forgot. A colleague of mine gave me an orchid. It's really beautiful. Thank you, W.!

Here's the CEA history:
1/2008 - 1.2 ng/mL
3/2008 - 0.9 ng/mL
6/2008 - 1.0 ng/mL
8/2008 - 1.1 ng/mL (need to double check this number, but it was in that 0.9 to 1.2 range)
9/2008 - 0.5 ng/mL
10/2008 - 0.9 ng/mL
10/31/2008 - 1.2 ng/mL
11/28/2008 - 1.2 ng/mL
12/30/2008 - 1.1 ng/mL
3/2/2009 - 1.4 ng/mL
4/8/2009 - 1.6 ng/mL
5/5/2009 - 1.9 ng/mL
6/4/2009 - 3.0 ng/mL
7/2/2009 - 3.7 ng/mL
8/3/2009 - 4.2 ng/mL
8/31/2009 - 5.1 ng/mL
10/2/2009 - 5.7 ng/mL (or was it 5.8?)
11/2/2009 - 7.6 ng/mL
11/30/2009 - 10.5 ng/mL
12/28/2009 - 13.2 ng/mL
3/8/2010 - 22.9 ng/mL
4/22/2010 - 28.9 ng/mL
6/7/2010 - 46.3 ng/mL
7/19/2010 - 44.3 ng/mL
8/19/2010 - 50.9 ng/mL
10/05/2010 - 41.6 ng/mL
11/04/2010 - 7.1 ng/mL
12/03/2010 - 3.4 ng/mL
12/30/2010 - 17.1 ng/mL
1/28/2011 - 44.3 ng/mL
3/8/2011 - 41.9 ng/mL
4/29/2011 - 5.4 ng/mL

Happy May Day!


Joanna said...

Hi Dee,

You sound tired, but I am so excited about your CEA numbers. It sounds like you are progressing.

Your surgery was a big deal so give yourself a break about the pain killers. You will be off of them in due time.

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