- At Home
In 1984, when my mother was thirty-eight, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent a mastectomy and chemotherapy. Five years later, without a reoccurrence, she cleared the “cured” hurdle. She diligently followed through on her annual exams and check-ups, which included a CA 125 blood test. For nineteen years, her tests all came back negative. Twenty years after her initial cancer diagnosis, her CA 125 test came back with elevated readings. A CA 125 measures the amount of protein (cancer antigen 125) in the blood. Various non-cancer related conditions can increase these levels, causing false-positive readings. Unfortunately, for my mother, the CA 125 turned out to be a very reliable indicator that something was wrong.
Most of us will never receive the diagnosis “you have cancer”. Some of us will. Few will hear it repeated to them. Twenty years after her breast cancer diagnosis, my mother was diagnosed with primary peritoneal cancer, a rare and aggressive form of cancer. The peritoneum is a thin membrane that lines the abdomen, covering the organs. Because the peritoneum cells are similar to those found in the ovaries, the treatment follows that of ovarian cancer. By the time it is discovered, it is typically stage 3 or stage 4.