The Struggle Has Ended

Greg Hewlett passed away on January 17th after nearly eight years of battling colon cancer. While we grieve his loss, we are comforted to know that he is with his Lord.

If you would like to leave your thoughts on Greg, please see this thread.

If you would like to make a charitable donation in Greg's honor, please see this thread.

Wednesday, July 9, 2003

Back in Dallas

We arrived back in Dallas late last night. It was so good to be back in our home. There were a few more speed bumps and developments along the way.

My parents drove down to accompany us this weekend and to drive back with us. My mother ended up spending Sunday night in a hospital herself, as she fainted and cut her lip and they wanted to hold her overnight for observation. We were relieved to hear that there were no obvious signs of major problems and that she was cleared and will follow up with her doctors in Dallas. We were also glad they could join us the last few days, even with the added craziness!
We had figured yesterday's (Tuesday's) appointment with the colon surgeon, Dr. Rodriguez, would be uneventful - sort of a getting to know each other as there will be surgery down the line. The appointment was at 10 and we figured we'd be on the road by lunchtime. Can you believe we would think like that?
A moment into the discussion with him (at around 2:00), he said he would like to do a procedure to help me but "unfortunately" I was already taking chemo. He cannot do it now that I have already begun and that puts me at great risk of a "nightmare" situation.
"Unfortunately!?!?" Do these guys even talk to each other? I didn't come up with this plan - one of his own colleagues put me on chemo! I'll be honest with you. I wanted to pick up the snazzy LCD flat panel monitor with the high res image of my liver and begin hitting everyone in the room, hopefully striking as many livers and colons as possible. However, I felt this might reduce my chances of getting the "best" care, so I refrained. I said something like, "Well did Dr. Ziong talk with you about this before putting me on chemo?" His reply was "Don't use aggressive language. There's no need to cry over spilt milk." Christine and I swallowed our indignation about the unbelievable lack of communication and administrative organization in this department because we realized there was no need at this point to discuss this with the surgeon. Our priority was to hear him out about what to do now that I am "unfortunately" on chemo.
Dr. Rodriguez is very concerned about the possibility of obstruction of my digestion at the tumor site. If I were to need emergency surgery at my current blood count levels (mostly liver enzymes and RBC), plus the additional blood count problems that chemo will likely cause, then the situation would be, in his words, "a nightmare". He called such a surgery "very dangerous" and as having "high risk of very serious complications." Also, such a surgery could be enough of an emergency that it might have to be performed by an on-call surgeon at a local Dallas emergency room, rather than by Dr. Rodriguez in Houston. We do not want to have our hand forced like that.
So what he wants to do is go in and investigate exactly how obstructed it is now and possibly (hopefully) put in a stent or use a laser somehow to ensure that I will not get obstructed until after the chemo when we want to do surgery at the most strategic time for my treatment. This is not surgery - they can do it all through instruments up my you-know-where while I'm out. The main risk is perforation, because they try to navigate the scope through the tumor to the other side and then put in a stent. Needless to say, bleeding would not be good for me right now.
Dr. Rodriguez wanted me to postpone chemo for a couple weeks before doing another round of chemo. Then he spoke with Dr. Xiong. The two of them together decided that the delay was not desirable, as the risk of holding off chemo was greater than the risk of problems from this procedure. They scheduled this scope/stent procedure for July 29. In the end, I'll only be delaying the chemo schedule five days. (currently, the key drug is taken on a 21 day cycle twice a day orally for 14 days, followed by a 7 day rest).
The five day delay is in part because Dr. Rodriguez wanted to schedule this with who he considers to be the best, most agressive, MD who performs such procedures at MDACC. We were very pleased to hear that he was available on the 29th, which is why we will be doing it then.
In the end, we are glad to be home. And I do feel that even with the astonishing insensitvitiy of doctors, and the truly unbelievable administrative confusion, which caused many delays and unnecessary pain, I am indeed in the hands of some of the most skillful cancer specialists in the world. They found things I'm not sure would have been found and they are doing creative things (like this stent) that were never mentioned in Dallas.
Between now and the 28th, when we head to Houston again for the scope procedure and next round of chemo, I intend to live my life as fully as before. We all live under the shadow of counted days on earth. Everything is trival in light of the fact that we live such short lives. The only meaning I found in living before diagnosis is really the same meaning I find now - to work and to live "as if working unto the Lord." I have no where else to go.


Dan Christen said...

OH Lord ! I am overwhelmed! I can't imagine how frustrutated you guys get. What we have here is a failure to communicate :-/ My,My!
We are praying for you without ceasing! Thank God ,you are clinging to Him.
Dan and Syd

Jan H. said...

Greg/Christine/family....hopefully things will take an upward turn for you soon. It is frustrating that the doctors can't do everything perfectly the first time, but thankfully you are able to let God take care of it through them. After all, the are only human like the rest of us. Their mistakes or misteps are just much more critical than most of ours. I'm so thankful that you are blessed with what sound like surgeons that really know their business and can give you some reasonable options. Sorry to hear about your mom. I've been worried about how your folks, along with Christine would be able to hold up, as well. Our love to you all with wishes for relaxation and normalcy while you have a breather! Jan & Steve

Vince & Helen & Family said...

Greg, don't kill anyone(doctors) the medical coverage in prison is not so good. Now you know why Jesus cleared the temple there must have been a few doctors there! We are still praying for healing and will add patience to the list for you guys.
Also, remember the story of Job, God has the last word.
Love Vince& Helen Corvino

Maria Bradenbaugh said...

You poor people, what you have gone through in the past several days. I think surgeons think they are "God" or "Gods". Hang in there we are praying for you daily. You gave me very good advice, Live Unto the Lord.

Nils said...

This is disappointing, to put it mildly. I can only imagine your frustration. Araceli and I, as well as Mat� and Tom� continue to lift you guys up in prayer daily.
-- //.

Carl said...

Trust in God
PS-Welcome to the world of doctor speak. Sounds like the emotional Italian side of your family is starting to rub off on you. This can happen. We may nickname you "Guido"( phoenetically-gweedo for Texans)

Judy Wu said...

Did you know that the "M.D." in "M.D. Anderson" stands for "Most of the Day"? They didn't tell you that, did they? Sneaky devils. Well, I'm relieved for you guys that you're back home and get to take a breather from the hospital and appointments and confusing communication glitches (i.e. lack of communication among involved providers). Remember my earlier comment about "Who is this __ guy?" after I read some things? Yeah, more of the same. Love you guys.

Steve said...

Glad you had a round of chemo and are
back home for a while.
Sorry you had to deal with insensitive doctors
and administrative confusion.
Hang in there.

Davo said...

Your doctors: friggin' Texans.

Vince & Joy DeLeo said...

Greg and Christine,
Keep up the prayers - we will also. And keep up your sense of humor. It's not easy in the face of such adversity, but it is very important at this time.
About the doctors (actually surgeons) - I found out when I had cancer, they are very matter of fact, extremely possessive regarding their opinions, and for the most part have no sense of humor.
We wish you both well. You are in our thoughts and prayers.
Joy & Vince