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.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Visitor Pics

Here are a couple of photos at the Rasmussen's home...

Araceli and her boys visited us at the Rasmussens a couple days before surgery. The boys are Marco, Tomas, and Mattias, left to right.
Charles Burck took his parents, Julie (my sister) and Michael, to come visit us shortly after I was released. Here's me with my nephew fighting over the remote control.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Infection; under control

Yesterday, Christine was feeling poorly again, so she stayed home while I left with Pete and Sally to go to church. On the way, I noticed more pain than usual and the leaking of my belly wound. So instead of church, we headed over to the Temple of MDACC to check out their magazine selection in the waiting room. The on-call surgeon investigated the problem and determined it was an infection. He decided to remove four staples and probe around to see if the infection went deep. I wanted to hit him, but he was such a nice fellow. Thankfully, the infection was superficial - limited to skin and fat layers - so he cleaned it up, showed Sally how to dress it and sent us on our way. I was shocked they would just let me go with an open wound, but they acted like it was no big deal. The wound reminds me of Matthew Brady photos from the Civil War. I don't even want to look at it, not to mention having trouble leaning forward to clean it. Christine has a difficult time looking at it, as well. So Sally has risen to the occasion, drawing on her nursing background, and is lovingly redressing it twice daily according the surgeon's instructions.

Just a hiccup... we're rolling once again.

Friday, September 26, 2003

Out again on parole


I'm being released today. They held me here for the last day or two due to problems eating due to nausea and cramping. These symptoms have cleared up dramatically in the past 24 hours since they took me off I.V. pain meds. I think these problems were side effects of the medications. Every solution seems to have an associated side effect - you can only really get better when you escape, which is what I'm doing today. We're headed back soon to Conroe to stay with the Rasmussens.

Pathology reported some good news and not so good news. The good news is that the primary tumor they took out was only 20% viable - it had been nearly obliterated by those few rounds of chemo. Viability has to do with what percentage of cancerous cells are alive and kicking. The bad news was that some of the lymph nodes surrounding the tumor were cancerous. But we had suspected that was the case as this type of tumor goes first to lymph nodes, then to the liver. For good measure, he took out all the surrounding nodes.

In my estimation, this week went very well. Another difficult step successfully taken. Thank you, Lord.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Some hopsital pics

From earlier this week when Mom, Dad and Susan came down for a visit...


System working

Hi everyone. I feel as if I've emerged from the pit. Late last night my digestive system showed that it has figured out its new route. Thanks for your prayers for this. The last major hurdle this week has thus been cleared. Now things are geared towards getting out of here. Yesterday they disconnected the morphine and toradal and replaced them with a less potent pain killer. They also took me off the supplemental oxygen. Today I had my first shower and first meal - some apple sauce. Tonight I had some eggs and a piece of bacon - my first real food for over a week. I'm still in pain and feeling lousy, but I am in a great mood. I'm now going to be weaned off the pain med and continue to see if my body can handle solid foods. They think I may be out of here by week's end. I hope all continues to go well so that I can leave. Christine is moving into the Rotary House for the next two nights so that she can get some much needed rest. Thanks everyone for your prayers this week. I am deeply thankful to the Lord tonight.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Better Than Expected

Dr. Rodriguez visited Greg today and said the surgery was successful. Everyone is happy that there were no signs of cancer beyond what the CT scans showed. The surgery ran smoothly enough that Greg did not need to go to ICU, but went straight to a standard bed. After a tough evening last night Greg was doing surprisingly well today. The pain got under control and he enjoyed hanging out with Christine, Susan, Mom, and Dad. He was alert today with generally tolerable pain. The doctors and nurses were very pleased with his condition. Greg is very thankful that things are going so well.

Friday, September 19, 2003


Greg's surgery went as expected today. There were no surprises and it proceeded according to plan. Greg is now in recovery and Christine will be able to see him around 6pm tonight. Watch this space.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

The night before surgery

It is an odd night. Dark, quiet, surreal. I sit in bed at the Rotary House across from the hospital. It would be too crazy (even for us) to try to make it to downtown from Conroe early tomorrow morning. Christine is sleeping - a long day today and a longer one tomorrow. I feel so, well, healthy and pain-free. Can't it continue? Oh yes, I remember... this pain is necessary to remove the silent threat.

I'm familiar with being put under for operations. I counted today - this will be the 22nd time I have been given general anesthesia. This one will be the most serious yet. Seventeen were for an intra-arterial chemo treatment I had with my previous cancer. The other five were miscellaneous cancer-related operations. Seems there ought to be a prize or something.
My anesthesiologist told me that my surgeon, Dr. Rodriguez-Bigas, is one of the tops in the whole institution. "He could probably be chief, except that he is a family man." I am thankful once again to be able to be treated here.
Do I fear? Well, I do fear the pain. Although the anesthesiologist told me today that this surgery is much better than the liver surgery will be. That was comforting... in a short term way. Also strong on my mind is what they might find. I am praying and hoping that they will not discover any cancer they do not already know about from radiology tests.
Strangely enough, I'm also feeling something akin to excitement. This surgery is the next step on the road to recovery. I made it through the first step - diagnosis and getting started at MDACC. I made it through the second - almost three rounds of chemo that worked great. Now, I thankfully made it through these last two weeks with no further obstruction. The waiting is over. Now its time to take the field and play. I'm determined to take step three.
I have been thinking much about the Resurrection the past few days. The past few months, actually. In it, I find the only hope in this tough world. No place else. When things were getting tough for Jesus and the Twelve, he asked them if they wanted to abandon him. Peter answered, "Lord, to whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." It is in this dark night that I especially realize there is no place to be but in the arms of our Creator. In these arms I feel a deep joy, albeit a joy sometimes clouded by immediate circumstances.
For those joining me in prayer, my requests for tomorrow are
- That Christine and I would have the peace that Jesus gives (John 14:27) in our souls in the coming days.
- For the hands of Dr. Rodriguez. That the surgery would be successful with no leakage, infection, or other complications.
- That his search for more cancer would come up empty and that this operation would be a step towards full recovery.
- That I would quickly gain strength, recovering fully, and soon be able to get back on chemo.
I'm signing off for a few days. I'll be loopy on morphine. (Aah, the sweet sound of that word. A melodius sound, really... mor-pheeene... a common grace gift from God that mercifully oozes through the body erasing pain).
Mark will keep you up to date in the meantime.

Surgery Schedule

Greg will go to the hospital at 6:30 AM tomorrow for colon surgery. The surgery is expected to last from 8:00 AM untill 11:00 AM.


This guy uses the C-Leg, which is the prosthesis I use... C-Leg in the news

The knee resistance is controlled by a microcomputer. My niece, Avery, calls it my "blue leg".

Monday, September 15, 2003

Relaxing in Brenham

This weekend I was without internet access. Christine's sister, Anne, flew down from Newark Friday and the three of us stayed at a vacation farm house out near Brenham, TX, for the weekend. The house belongs to the Jobes, a family friend of a friend of ours from Houston. They generously allowed us to stay at their house. We had a wonderful time with Anne for our little get-away.

Anne, Christine, and Greg at the Rasmussens before our trip to Brenham
Those of you who know me well, know that I am really a city boy at heart. Of the many places I've lived, my favorite was surrounded by human activity in Boston. So I must admit that I was a bit panicked in my little Volvo as I drove down a muddy road and through a cow pasture (with cows; no road) to get to the farm house Friday night. I had no business being out in the middle of nowhere, I thought to myself. But by the next morning, as the sun rose above the pond out back, my soul quieted. It is indeed refreshing to be in a place where the only sounds are chirping and an occasional moo.
We slept in, read books, and just sat on the rocking chairs out on the porch. Christine tried to pet the cows, but they ran away from her. We enjoyed a couple of great restaurants: Volare Italian Resaurant in a downtown Brenham restored saloon, and the Brazos Belle restaurant in a restored general store in downtown Burton. Christine and her sister stayed up late into the wee hours of the night talking. It was a relaxing time for all of us.
This was a good weekend for me during a time when an hour does not go by when I do not look forward to Friday wishing the clock would go a bit slower. When I met with the surgeon Tuesday, I tried to get him to assure me that the many complications he detailed were rare, but he would give me no such false assurance. It's serious business opening up one's gut, and I'm not excited about it, even though it is clearly better than the alternative.
I had a scare Thursday as the abdominal pains began increasing as they did last time. I called MDACC and they told me to go to liquid diet and come in if the pain becomes "unbearable". Fortunately, the cramps faded away! The next day I was back on solid foods.
One morning this weekend, I read Psalm 13. It allowed me to accurately express my thoughts in a prayer to the Lord:
Psalm 13
How long, O LORD?
Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer,
O LORD, my God.
Give light to my eyes,
or I will sleep in death;
My enemy will say, "I have overcome him,"
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
My heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
for he has been good to me.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Surgery scheduled for Sept 19

After meeting with my clinical and surgical oncologists Monday and Tuesday, it is clear that the unanimous decision is to go forward with surgery to remove the colon tumor. The surgery will be the morning of September 19. After surgery and recovery, I will resume chemo to shrink the liver tumor. Liver surgery will then be at some future date. The hospital stay for the surgery next week is typically 5-7 days, followed by home rest for 2-4 weeks.

I am currently in Houston, staying with our good friends, Pete and Sally Rasmussen. Should the unfortunate situation arise where I become blocked again before surgery, I want to be close to MD Anderson rather than be in Dallas.

Christine is in Dallas recovering from her serious migraine attack last weekend and will hopefully join me in Houston today or tomorrow.

Saturday, September 6, 2003


They released me last night from the hospital. My attending physician was supposed to sign discharge papers around 3 or 4pm, but he got pulled into a major surgery and didn't show up until 8. He apologized and told me it was an unfortunate change of schedule. "Big tumor we had to pull out..." he recalled, "rough surgery." Made me wonder for a moment what they'll be saying when they open me up.

Christine and I were planning on going out to celebrate, but by the time I got home I was exhausted and crashed for about 11 hours. Even though I had been in bed for a week, I still needed to rest. Ironically, hospitals are terrible places to rest. They come in the room for all sorts of reasons almost hourly to wake you up and talk to you, stick you with needles, probe you or just take out your trash. I've thought carefully about it this week and I think this is how it works: They have a sophisticated system of timers - one for each room. A given timer is set for 90 minutes when they leave a patient's room. When your timer goes off, they think of a new reason to come in to make sure you don't go too long without interruption. It is a remarkably well-organized operation that requires great teamwork.
Christine awoke today with an unbearable headache that responded to no meds she had. I had little energy to help, and called our friend Tom Kistner. He was kind enough to drive her to the ER to get a narcotic treatment. So right now, a mere 18 hours after I was released, Christine is at the hospital. And I'm at home facing the task of packing as soon as possible to get the Houston. I may fly down ahead of her so she can be relieved of having to prepare in half a day for a month trip. I hope she comes soon. She was a wonderful companion in the hospital, sleeping in the room most nights, overseeing my care, and giving me great comfort.
It looks like I'm going to spend the next month or two in Houston. I'll go right away so I can be there in case another obstruction occurs. Surgery is scheduled for the 19th, but that will be confirmed once I meet with my doctor on Monday. I believe recovery takes a few weeks - the first week or so in the hospital and a couple weeks rest. Then, I'll get back on chemo.
To be candid, I am terrified of being obstructed again. The pain was about as severe as any I've encountered and the vacuum "treatment" was nearly as bad. I wouldn't mind fasting for two weeks, but they want me eating, so I am back on solid foods. Please pray that I would not be obstructed again and that the surgery or whatever they prescribe will be successful. Also, pray that Christine will recover and will be able to join me there soon.
On a good note, Dr. Hoff called me yesterday afternoon to discuss my situation. He advised me not to panic and told me that surgery is a good thing to do now. I asked if this was a major setback as far as the long term prognosis goes. He answered with an emphatic "no". The chemo is just as effective after surgery as before and it is just as well that we get that primary tumor out of there and eliminate the chance of another interruption like this one.
I'm thankful to be out of pain and at home right now. It is a wonderful feeling to be home.

Thursday, September 4, 2003

Out tomorrow

Today, I'm feeling even better. I've also been promoted from ice chips to a liquid diet. After making sure that works for one day, I should be released. So Friday is estimated departure date. My attending doctor here has made it his goal to get me back in shape enough so that I can get to Houston. He agrees I should get back to my primary team. So immediate surgery here seems unlikely. I hope to travel this weekend. Monday and Tuesday I am scheduled to meet with my doctors at MDACC. It seems that surgery might be a good plan. I've had good response from the chemo, and to continue good response, I can't continue interruptions like this week. So colon surgery followed by resumed chemo and eventual liver surgery seems a likely route. But I'm going to count most on what Dr. Hoff says on Monday.

Wednesday, September 3, 2003

What's for dinner?

So how am I surviving while fasting day after day? Well, the secret is not ice chips, but Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN). TPN is a milky looking potion that they feed directly into my veins. Its everything I need for daily nutrition. Cool. Who needs food? I wonder if this is the stuff the Matrix feeds to all the people hooked up to itself? In fact, you could all be receiving TPN right now and just think you're eating steak and fries. I'm the only one who really knows what I'm eating...

"You know, I know this steak doesn't exist. I know that when I put it in my mouth, the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy and delicious. After nine years, you know what I realize? [Takes a bite of steak] Ignorance is bliss. " - Cypher

Done with colonoscopy

Thanks, Mark, for keeping folks up to date.

I finished the colonoscopy this afternoon in which they rexamined the size of the "hole" through which everythinig must pass. Even though the tumors have shrunk drastically, the hole size is pretty much the same. There is also a growing consensous among the docs here at UTSW that I had a temporary obstrcution and the painful symptoms that drove me to the emergency room Monday morning were because at that time, everything was clogged at the site of the tumor. They managed to get it under control and my system running again via vacuum tubes (I've found that everyone here at UTSW likes sticking tubes in various places, just like they do at MDACC)

The nose-to-stomach vacuum tube kept me from talking much and was extremely irritating. The tube worked well for a couple days and was supposed to remain in all week, but it came out as I was I blowing my nose last night. Not sure if they believe that I didn't just take it out myself! (I can't say that the thought hadn't crossed my mind...). This reminds me of the hole-in-one I hit at a Delaware golf course one year after leaning to play golf. Par 3-149yards. I was golfing alone at the time, so my story is all anyone can go by. You'll just have to take me at my word on both the tube and the hole-in-one story. Anwyway, the tube was supposed to remain "just in case", but I'll just enjoy not having it and pray there won't be a "just in case". I have considered this accident as a merciful gift from my Lord. Meanwhile, I've only eaten ice chips since Sunday, and the big question still remains - what will happen when food is reintroduced?

We are now trying to make the difficult decision of having the colon part of my necessary surgery here in Dallas (very soon) or getting ourselves to Houston to see what they think, with possible liquid diet and surgery there on the 19th. Or even possibly treat this as an isolated event and keep going with chemo on a more restrictive diet. The decision is difficult and the stakes are high. In any case, our smoothly running plan has hit a speed bump. Hopefully it turns out to be a small bump. I'll be trying to get more input from doctors here and at MDACC by tomorrow.

So we may be headed to Houston again as soon as I am able to travel. We'll see how the next day goes. That's really the best plan I've been able to come up with anyway - get through today... "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." -Jesus (Mt 6:34)

Greg, writing from my hopsital room

Tuesday, September 2, 2003

Staying Until Friday

Greg remains in the hospital, and the current outlook has him staying there until Friday. A colonoscopy is planned for tomorrow (Wednesday) to confirm the exact status of his intestine and they are focused on getting his digestion and aftereffects functioning properly again. Any resumption of chemo is pretty much off the table until he can eat and Christine can give a good report to G'pa.

Thankfully, Christine has been able to remain at his side apart from a trip home to get some necessary items. Please pray for her stamina and for relief of her pain as she ministers to Greg.

Please pray for the entire family and the church as we struggle to support both Greg and Christine: that our hearts would be filled with compassion, that our service would be unstinting and without selfish conditions, that we would find the balance both to support them and to take care of ourselves and our families, and that in this time of difficulty the Lord would draw us closer together when the stress threatens to drive us apart.

Monday, September 1, 2003

No Labor Day Rest

This morning Greg was admitted to the emergency room at St. Paul with severe abdominal pain. What was initially feared to be an intestinal blockage now is thought to be side effects of the chemotherapy. We hope he will be home either later today or tomorrow; for the moment, chemo has been suspended (though it may resume in a few days after consultation with the doctors).

Please continue to pray for both Greg and Christine in their suffering. Pray for the family and the church as we seek to be the body of Christ, a real physical presence and comfort, to them both. And pray for daily wisdom in deciphering the myriad symptoms of unknown origin that can so easily cause panic.