Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Numbers Game

I just returned from my checkup at Dana-Farber this morning. I was started on 800 mg of Gleevec 4 weeks ago because my PCR test had gone up instead of down over the summer. My doctor became a little concerned and decided he wanted to see me monthly instead of every three months. He also doubled the dose of my medication to see if this would change the direction of this reading.

I went in today, assuming that things would not have changed all that much. Prior to increasing the dosage a month ago, I had a blood draw to get a PCR level before the change. I received the results of that test today.

Here is a pattern for my tests so far, for those following at home, especially if you like statistics:

3/9/06 --34.5%
6/14/06 --10.9%
9/20/06 --1.15%
12/27/06 --0.5%
3/31/07 --0.3%
6/4/07 --0.6%
7/23/07 --0.6%
8/8/07 --0.2%

Clearly, the pattern was that things were all going well until this summer when the numbers started to go up. This might have been an anomaly, but two tests in a row were more concerning. The strangest part of this whole thing is that my numbers started going down again, even before I increased the medication. I will not know my newest reading for a couple of weeks, but it certainly puts a new perspective on these tests.

I wonder, as cancer patients, whether we overly focus on these statistics and numbers. I recognize that these numbers represent how the treatment is working or the disease progressing, but they may also increase the stress level as well.

Over the summer, my stress level was probably the highest it had ever been since my father and I were opening a new business. Is there any correlation between the change in the numbers and my level of stress? I asked this very question to my oncologist. He shrugged his shoulders. As someone who has examined the role of stress and anxiety on the body, my guess is that it can certainly have an impact. If we look at studies that examine the release of cortisol, (the stress hormone) and what it can do to the body, it would not surprise me to see the potential affect.

What does this suggest? Well, my new goal is to find as many ways as possible to de-stress. Not only is this good for my body, but probably my mental health as well.

After all that good news, I still had to have a bone marrow biopsy. Another two weeks until results are in so the waiting game starts now. For now, I am going to relax a little and enjoy this good news.


Anonymous said...

I second that and I will relax a bit as well and enjoy a good news day.Thanks for letting me listen to it all.

Anonymous said...


You were in our thoughts all day yesterday during your test and we are relieved it is over. We couldn't be happier to hear the positive blood test news. We can honestly tell you that a day doesn't go by here that someone doesn't ask about you. De-stress and relax and know that all of us around you are sending positive thoughts and wishes your way...everyday.
Love, The Kasten Crew

Living With Cml said...

Hi Jon
I am glad to see your pcr coming down again - and that before the 800mg started! Great.
Working backwards, Stevens pcr's also went up at the same time as he went into a very high-stress position at work. When it came down, he was much more comfortable and a whole lot less stressed. Makes me really wonder about what all affects these results.
I hope you find a really great way to de-stress - can only be good all round.
The wait is never a great time and about the only good thing about waiting for the results of a marrow biopsy is that the test is behind you!
May the next two weeks pass easily and the results bring a smile to all your faces.
And a hug to your mom.
love and light
Steven's mom

Lori said...

Glad to hear the higher dose is working!