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, January 28, 2004

Speaking of pioneers

Speaking of pioneers, I have to admit the recent Mars probe landings have captured my interest. But I really got excited when I saw this early image sent back from the NASA rover. Any rumors concerning the whereabouts of the Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator?

Monday, January 26, 2004

Houston trip postponed for MRI

I am not meeting with Dr. Hoff today to discuss my future treatment. He decided to postpone it until Thursday to coincide with a brain MRI that I need to get done. I have unfortunately had several headaches in the past few weeks, and I do not tend to get headaches. Because one of the places that this cancer can spread is the brain, and because headaches can be an indicating symptom for new cancer, he wanted to get the scan. However, he does not think that it is likely going to show cancer - he just wants to play it on the safe side.

After a full day headache five days ago, during which I must say that I was plagued with the unpleasant thought of its cause, Christine and I came to realize that since the surgery, I have often been sleeping on my stomach with head turned sharply. This is not normal for me - I just do it because of discomfort at the surgery site and difficulty sleeping. Since then, I stopped sleeping this way and have not had any more headaches. To say I hope this was the cause is a great understatement.

So, Thursday I have a brain MRI and meet with him to discuss my future treatment plan. Here's the interesting part... there are no studies that tell us what to do at this point. There is no data showing what protocol increases the chances of the cancer not returning for a patient like me. The main reason is that there haven't been enough cases of stage IV colon cancer (with all tumors successfully removed) to justify a full study. This causes me to have a deep humbled thankfulness. The problem I now have is a relatively good problem to have. I will likely continue taking Xeloda, but we need to decide how agressive to be with other possible drugs. I will no longer take the intravenous drug I have been taking in the past (Irinotecan) because it only works for shrinking tumors - not for killing the microscopic stuff and preventing recurrence. The decision on where to go from here, Dr. Hoff's PA said, will be made with Christine's and my input and belongs in the end to us. That's a lot of weight to bear. We're non-volunteer pioneers.

You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning;
My God turns my darkness into light.
- Psalm 18:28

Monday, January 19, 2004

MLK's apple tree

martin luther king crop.jpgEven if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.

On this day of remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr, I am mindful of this quote of his that I have thought of often during my bout with cancer. I do not know the days of my life ahead, but that cannot keep me from continuing work today. To me, this quote wrestles with the notion that all we do is in vain considering none of us (nor the memory of us) will be here in just a few decades from now. Meaning to life must thus be located somewhere other than merely in ourselves or our daily work. My friend, Bob Bagwell, who is in remission from brain cancer told me about his feeling somewhat odd in planting a tree orchard on his farm recently, given what doctors say are his chances of being around to see the trees grown. But he went ahead with the plan. Cancer seems only to accentuate the conviction that I share with Bob - that meaning is only found with the recognition that life is lived Coram Deo, in the presence of God. With this acknowledgment, we can confidently be creative and work today although tomorrow we may die. The Apostle Paul put it this way, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men... It is the Lord Christ you are serving." Col 3:23-24

[Incidentally, there is some controversy as to the origin of this quote. Legend actually has Martin Luther saying this. But there is no written record of the reformer speaking these words. Apparently, the first written evidence of this saying comes from 1944 by a priest named Karl Lotz. In any case, it was MLK Jr who popularized the quote. I was introduced to the quote by my close friend, Rev. Mike Ernst, who told me of it when we first spoke of my cancer.]

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Happy Birthday Dad

I round off the birthday week by wishing my Dad Happy Birthday!

(He's the kid on the left)

He's currently an architect in Dallas. You can check out some of his work here.


Friday, January 16, 2004

Do you know this woman?


All I know is that I'm glad she's in my gang! Happy Birthday, Mom!

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Happy Birthday Carl


Today is the birthday of Carl Mantegna, my father-in-law. Happy birthday, Carl!

(this is birthday week for my family; more to come...)

Back home

But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.

- Tolkein, Lord of the Rings


I feel as though I have reluctantly, yet willingly, completed a successful journey. Or at least a significant portion of the journey. Tuesday night I reclined in my own bed and slept well for the first time in nearly a month. Lyn Ragan's sister Anne and her husband Tim drove us back to Dallas on Tuesday evening. We enjoyed getting to know them and are greatful for the generous help in escorting us back home.

Pictured here are me and Dad having coffee and dessert last night. (The beard is a result of not getting around to shaving since the surgery!)

I am still quite weak and Christine still has her cold. But we are so very glad to be back in Dallas. Christine was so excited to be home Tuesday night that she actually had difficulty sleeping! My recovery will continue until the 26th, when I must return to Houston to likely begin chemo.

Incidentally, does anyone in the North Dallas area have a recommendation for a physical therapist? My doctor suggested I go to one to help regain my abdominal muscle function after these surgeries. Please email me directly if you have someone to recommend.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Steadily gaining strength

My strength is gradually improving each day. On Thursday, we spoke with Dr. Vauthey's PA, Steve Wei, and they decided that I did not need to come in on Friday and that I could go back to Dallas anytime after this weekend. We are currently planning on driving back with some friends on Tuesday. I am so ready for my own house, my own bed, my own chair, my own dog. We left in a hurry before Christmas and it is hard to imagine that time. The surgery and recovery have made Dallas seem like the distant past.

Christine has come down with a virus of some sort. We just can't seem to get ahead these days! We are discouraged at the situation and hope that this does not get severe or last long.

Every day, I have been trying to do something to get myself out of the house. Thursday night, my friend, Pat Roach, took me to see my alma mater, Rice, play basketball. Pat and I met while we were both attending Westminster Seminary. Pat serves in a college ministry serving Rice students through Christ the King Church. Saturday afternoon I went to see another game with Nils and his son Matias. Rice is looking pretty tough this year. They are 11-3 with two of their losses being rather close calls to #1 U-Conn and #4 Stanford. Go Owls! Today I went to church and enjoyed worshipping with the Rasmussens and Sarah Shay. The past few weeks have given me much for which I am thankful.

After any outing, I come home and crash. Right now, I'd say I have about 3-4 hours of energy in me every day. The liver is regenerating fast, based on what they know about how it heals. Steve Wei told me that my blood counts confirm strong growth of the liver. I should be back to full strength by the end of February.

That is, other than the fact that I will begin chemotherapy soon. My next appointment, during which I will likely begin another round of chemo, is January 26 - only two weeks away. That soon?! They don't mess around with cancer at MD Anderson. I suppose that's fine by me.

Thursday, January 8, 2004

Update - better the last couple days

I began emerging from the pit yesterday with some more strength. Today I don't feel quite as strong as yesterday, but I am so glad not to be where I was the first half of this week. They told me there would be good days and bad - I hope the worst are behind me. I am far from full strength, but it is good to feel alive again.

The test results showed I do have a recurrence of c-diff bacteria, which should pass in a matter of days. So really two things are going on - the bacteria (digestive problems) and the typical liver resection recovery (fatigue, pain). Today, we hear from the doctor as to whether I need to return tomorrow to meet him. Also, we should find out if I can travel back to Dallas soon.

Tuesday, January 6, 2004


This recovery is grueling. They said at some point I would begin to experience "extreme fatigue" as part of the liver regeneration process. I now know what they were talking about. I often cannot even raise myself to watch television or read. And yet, sleep is extremely difficult to come by. Both of us have slept very little in the past three days, which included one night at the ER. No word yet on results whether I have additional problems than simply being someone who just lost three-quarters of his liver. They say this fatigue could last a month or two. Oh, that the days would zoom by faster. As it is, each minute just creeps by. Lord, have mercy.

Monday, January 5, 2004

There And Back Again

Greg did, in fact, end up visiting the hospital last night to address his high temperature. The current thought is that he has the same bacterial infection that sidelined him in late November, but they won't know for a few days. Greg was released this morning and he and Christine are back resting at the Ragans' house.

Please pray that:

The doctors would identify the problem and treat it quickly.
Greg would continue to heal and his pain would subside.
Greg and Christine would be able to come back to Dallas soon.
After a long night without sleep both Greg and Christine would be able to rest today and tonight, and that Christine in particular would not feel the effects on her body in terms of fibromyalgia and migraines.

Also, please refrain from calling the cellphone for the rest of the day so they can get some rest.

Sunday, January 4, 2004

No Hospital Trip ... Yet

I just spoke with Christine; so far Greg has been able to hold down fluids, though he is still in a lot of pain and has pretty strong nausea. Please continue to pray that he can get the nausea under control and begin taking pain medicine, and be able to rest.

Prayer Request

Last night Greg hardly slept at all, as his stomach was bothering him greatly. This morning his stomach forcibly emptied its contents, which included his most recent dose of pain medication. Right now he is in a lot of pain and hoping his stomach will settle down so that he can keep down fluids and take his pain medication again. If not, he will need to go to the hospital in a few hours (presumably to get on an IV for medicine and rehydration).

Please pray that Greg would feel better, that he would be able to hold down liquids, and that he would not need to go to the hospital this afternoon.

Friday, January 2, 2004

It came anyway

And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow, grinch2.jpg
Stood puzzling and puzzling: "How could it be so?"
"It came without ribbons! It came without tags!"
"It came without packages, boxes or bags!"

And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store."
"Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"

Don�t tell anyone at church that I�m drawing spiritual material from How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but I found my experience last week to fit these words well. My family and I experienced a Christmas stripped of the tags, and the tinsel, the trimmings, and the trappings. �But somehow or other, Christmas came just the same�.

It came in power, I believe, because we had nothing left to grasp but a story about God coming to man in the flesh to suffer on our behalf. And as God loved us through Jesus, so too, we loved one another. The Murrays told me it was their best Christmas ever. I must agree.

Oh, and the bonus on this wonderful Christmas was that they opened me up and found no cancer beyond that which they took out. My feelings about this are multitude: elation, humility, wonder, fear, thankfulness, and apprehension of what�s next. The trite words put it well: this was my best Christmas present ever.

This is my first journey back on the internet since Christmas Eve. The reason for my absence from the Web until now is that I have been sapped of all energy. I could go into the many details of what has been happening, but will have to table that until later. So, I�ll sum up: There have been many small complications, yet each matched with a small victory. Pain and discomfort are gradually being replaced by relief.

On the 31st, I was discharged and we moved into a house owned by our friends, Lyn and Glen Ragan. It belonged to her mother, who passed away recently. They�ve generously opened it up to us for a week or two until I am fit enough to travel back to Dallas.

Today, we met with Dr. Vauthey down at the hospital. Things are going very well in his estimation. One item of interest is that the pathology report showed two cancerous nodes in the liver that had grown into each other (as opposed to a single node as we originally thought). However, the surgery provided a reasonable margin around the entire cancerous region. With this good report, they took out the 47-staple zipper across my body and then sent me home.

I�m getting a little better each day. I haven�t yet been able to sleep through the night due to pain and discomfort, but the nights are getting better. Also, I am now able to get around without the walker.

Looks like we made it through the surgery battle. Now we can focus on recovering and fortifying for whatever�s next in this war.