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, February 3, 2004

In Dallas, facing new decision

We arrived yesterday back in Dallas after a terrific weekend at a remote bed & breakfast near Brenham. This was a refreshing break for both of us. No telephone (or internet) connection kept us confortably secluded. We especially enjoyed the many ranch dogs, who kept things under control on the property.

Back on the medical front, we are facing a difficult decision for future treatment. Because there aren't any studies on what to do at this point (Dr. Hoff says any plan now is sort of a shot in the dark), no decision is easy. The desire is to avoid recurrence, which is not uncommon with my type of cancer. He recommends that I continue taking the Xeloda oral chemotherapy for three to four months. I started it yesterday (and accordingly have begun once again updating my home page chemo tracker). This stuff isn't as bad as the irinotecan I took intravenously with Xeloda in the past. The irinotecan is only effective for shrinking tumors (not avoiding recurrence), so I won't be taking that.

The question then, is whether to take a relatively new drug, oxalyplatin, alongside the Xeloda. There are several reasons why I should not. (1) It is proved to be only marginally effective (around 4% higher survival rate) for people who have earlier stages of this cancer (not yet reaching the liver). In my case, it is not even known if it would have the same advantage. (2) It is nasty stuff, likely causing worse side effects than any of the drugs I have taken in my current treatment, and my body has been through a lot. Some of the side effects, like losing touch sensation at the fingertips, could be permanent. (3) The drug is related to cisplatin, to which I had a moderate allergic reaction back when I had bone cancer as a child. Since oxalyplatin tends to cause more frequent and severe allergic reactions in patients than cisplatin, there is risk of a dangerous allergic reaction. (4) I would have to take reduced amounts of it at least initially because of my liver, which is not at full power.

In my mind, weighing against all of this is the philosophy to do everything possible to insure the cancer will not come back.

For this first round, I am only taking Xeloda, bacause I am weak and I wouldn't be able to take much oxalyplatin anyway until my liver comes back to full strength. Dr. Hoff thinks this is the way to go. As for whether I will take the oxalyplatin in the future, right now I am seeking the advice of my various doctors and am joining with Christine in asking for wisdom from the Lord. Asking for wisdom is part of the process of Christian perseverance, (for which I am in deep need), as illustrated by this passage from James:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord. James 1:2-7

Finally, I did have a brain MRI last Thursday to rule out metastatic activity as the cause of my recent headaches. It takes a couple days to get the radiology report and I have not yet heard the result.


Jerry McFarland said...

I continue to be thankful to receive these updates and am thankful as well for the Lord's ongoing mercy.
You contnue to be very present on our hearts and in our prayers. Please give Christine our special greetings and know we are praying specifically for her as well.
In His Care,
Jerry McFarland

Syd And Dan said...

Greg--Dan and I pray with you and Christine that God will reveal :in no uncertain terms; the plan He has for you and what your part is in it . Waiting on Him is sometimes the hardest part
We can not understand what you are going though: we have not been where you are. We can only stand with you in faith and prayer ;knowing God is sovereign and in control.
We love you both,

Karen Gaido said...

Greg, my father-in-law went on the oxalyplatin and as my mother-in-law has said, "It's not good stuff."
He lost feeling in both feet and has not gotten it back, its been a year and a half. Initially it reduced the tumors in his liver significantly but they ended up coming back with a vengence. He also had pain in his legs and it put a lot of platinum in his body.
We will pray that you make the right choice.
Jack & Karen Gaido

Shannon said...

Hey, Greg -
Got the stomach flu about a week ago, and I tried to imagine myself writing deep and profound spiritual reflections on my "illness," and I laughed OUTLOUD!!! The Lord truly is at work in you mightily in your inner being, and I am trying to imitate you as I walk around in good health as you imitate Christ.
We pray for the Lord to impart great wisdom to you, Greg. And to Christine as well.
Lots of love,
Shannon G.

Willeyne Berger said...

Greg, We are praying for you and Christine daily and would love to hear from your parents. I have written them emails but haven't heard from them. We didn't hear at Christmas and usually hear in January but I know with their busy schedule, birthdays, grandchildren etc. time gets by us. We pray you do get better and love being in touch with your website. Love to all your family, Willeyne (your mom's college roomate)

Scott Rogers said...

I don't know if you read these comments or not, but I have to add my 2 cents' worth in here.
When I first found your site earlier today, it was forwarded to me by someone who found where you'd commented about the AP article that came out about be in September of '03. (Amputee hiker--Appalachian Trail).
There have been previous Christian hikers who've given their hikes a "theme verse". My theme verse for my hike is Proverbs 3:5-6. "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."
Breaking down these verses, I'd like to share with you what they mean to me:
"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart": To me, this means to trust Him with everything. As a father of 6 children, my kids look to me for everything. Without me, they cannot exist. We, as Christians, are to look at God through those childlike eyes.
"And lean not into thine own understanding": Mans' eyes can never see things as God sees them. What seems impossible to us, is indeed possible to God. Whether it's a one legged man hiking the most rugged hiking trail on earth, or someone fighting a raging battle against cancer. It's all possible through God. To the unsaved, it makes no sense. But, in Isaiah 55:9, He tells us that "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."
"In all thy ways acknowledge him": In good times, in bad times. I think you've exemplified this very well.
"and he shall direct thy paths": Doesn't say "you'll complete your hike" or "you'll be healed of cancer", rather, it says that He will direct your paths. The paths that He's set for us are always better than the paths that we choose for ourselves. As Christians in human bodies, we sometimes ask ourselves why God allows certain things to enter our lives. What we must bear forefront in our minds is that God can see what's at the end, and we can't. We must trust him with a blind trust because we know that He loves us, and whatever trial, tribulation, joy, triumph, or heartache, it is for our greater good, or to serve as a living testimony for someone else.
Thank you for allowing me to share this. And thank you also for sharing the trials, tribuations, joys, triumps, and tribulations of your life. Rest assured that you aren't fighting this battle alone: The Soldiers of the Cross are lifting you up before the Father, and He knows who you are!
Be God's,
Scott Rogers
Prov. 3:5-6

Madeleine said...

Thanks so much for maintaining this page, Greg. It not only keeps us informed and encouraged by learning of prayer requests and the answers to prayer and testimonies of how the Lord is working in your lives, but being able to read the exhortations of others along with your posts make this so very edifying. I'm glad you and your doctor are being conservative at this point. Karen Gaido's input is very interesting regarding her father-in-law, as I'm sure you saw. Regardless, I'm praying, as Syd said that the Lord will make His leading unmistakable to you and Christine in the days ahead. We can rest in God's love, His mercy and His Sovereign care as we seek Him and serve Him day by day, and step by step.

Louise van der Poel said...

I live in Durban South Africa. I was diagnosed in October 2003 with colon cancer with liver secondaries and was put straight onto Oxalyplatin, along with 5-FU. (SA is still running the trial on oxalyplatin) The tumours on my liver have shrunk considerably and it seems that this treatment has been effective for me. Do you have any comments or helpful suggestions that could point me to further information or other experinces wiht the drug?
Many thanks
Louise van der Poel

Richard C. Mallyon said...

I have had two recurrences of colorectal cancer since my initial diagnosis and surgery in 1998. 5FU did not stop recurrence. Irinotecan was totally ineffective. I took Oxalyplatin and Xeloda for 6 months with two clean PET scans. But my last dose (No. 7) gave me an allergic reaction and now my oncologist is paranoid about giving me more. He's afraid of anaphylaxis. Additionally, it was making my feet go numb. So, I stopped chemo altogether 4 months ago.
My oncologist at USC Norris Center is very pro-chemo, such as Irbitux and Avastin , if I develop metastasis. I have decided that doctors are merely "practicing" medicine. They are not gods, nor are they infallible. And the side effects do not affect them whatsoever. It does nothing to them if you or I to take some drug that incapacitates us. An easy thing for them to say, another matter altogether for us to take the stuff.
I am planning on my own course of alternative medicine, dietary changes, and exercise. I am resolved that if the cancer kills me, at least I will depart with dignity and rebellion, not lying on the couch weak, depressed, defeated and vomiting, which is what the chemo did to me.
"Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
- Dylan Thomas
"Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never - in nothing great or small, large or petty - - never give in..."
- Winston Churchill