When I was in school growing up, I tended to get pretty high scores on assignments. I didn't always get 100%, however, and when I got, say, 97, the first thing Dad always said (bless his heart) was "What happened to the other three percent?" I think he was only partly kidding. I assume he was at least partly kidding. So I grew up thinking higher was better.
Well, yesterday in the clinic, my nurse handed me my blood test results and for the first time this go 'round, I saw my tumor marker numbers. The tumor marker tests measure a certain kind of protein in the blood, something that most people have in some amount, but that very much over-expresses when the body is full of tumors. The highest I had ever seen mine before, back in May of 2001 when I had some lung and lymph metastases in my chest, was I believe 176.
Yesterday's score on the CA 27.29, and keep in mind this is a significant drop from the beginning of the summer, was 461. For a little perspective, a normal, cancer-free body will be between 0 and 37. This means that my score is almost 12.5 times greater than the highest recommended score.
The other tumor marker test, the Carcinoembryonic Antigen (which is a newer one that I didn't have before), doesn't show me to be quite the overachiever as the first test. It gives me a score of 15.5 out of a recommended 0 to 2. That's only 7.7 times greater than the highest recommended score.
I don't know what the starting scores were—I never seemed to get a print out that included them and I never bothered to ask—but I would guess, having seen the chart that Dr. Specht drew up for us, that they were somewhere around 600 and 20.
There are, I have come to learn, situations—pain scales, cholesterol, tumor marker tests (some people might even say school)—where a lower score is definitely preferable to a higher one. I'm just glad mine are going down.