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.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

One year mark

So what was this recent rise and fall of my CEA? Apparently, CEA can do that due to a lot of reasons and no one seems to understand or trust it that much when it bounces around at these levels. The important thing for now is that it went back down and is certainly not on a continued rise, which is when it does mean something. I am so deeply relieved that it went down. When the lab technician called me I made her spell it out about three times - "Four, as in four calling birds? Yes, four... F-O-U-R" I cannot describe the feeling of relief those letters gave me.

This week, I paid a visit to my Dallas oncologist, Dr. Perkins, who I hadn't seen in about a year. Dr. Perkins said if he were me, he would take Xeloda for at least for the rest of the year to do everything possible to kill off any microscopic cancer left in my body. (And he also indicated he wouldn't be off it right now). This makes me think Dr. Hoff will recommend I be put back on it when I visit him in Houston in a few weeks.

Dr. Hoff did not say much to me about the CEA or my treatment plan (he had his P.A. call me this week). The message there is just to enjoy the next few weeks and then go down to Houston to discuss where to go from here. The week of June 21 I'll be taking the CT scans, x-rays, a bone scan, and another CEA reading. Then I'll meet with my surgeon, Dr. Vauthey, and finally with Dr. Hoff.

All of this talk about CEA this week reminds me of the meanness of this disease. Less than 50% of people at my stage of treatment ultimately survive the disease. That is why the doctors want their patients to take chemo even when they don't feel anything wrong and when tumors can no longer be seen on the scans. On the other hand, this reminds me of how far I've come. A year ago yesterday I was diagnosed and it looked quite bleak. Step by step I made it through this year with you all at my side and with my God giving me strength. I am so deeply thankful even to be writing this today. My prayer is that he who sustained me will spare me from this disease.

I spoke with a friend this morning who was asking when I'll know that the cancer is not coming back. Depending upon who you ask, I hear that I can be pretty confident I am cured after 5 or 10 years. This cloud will be following me for a long time - I hope!

Thursday, May 20, 2004


jumpingdude.gif Just called the lab technician to get my CEA results from yesterday - 4.1! That's down again from three weeks ago and now is nearly normal (under 4.0 is considered normal). For those who don't know, when the CEA goes above normal it is a sign of impending recurrence of the cancer.

It is a baffling thing for my CEA to go down when I'm not on chemo. I'll speak with the doctor or his P.A. soon to find out what this could possibly mean, but I can guess that this has to be a good sign. Perhaps I'll be able to get back on the preventative chemo plan again after aborting it 6 weeks ago? I'll write more when I find out how to interpret all this and how this affects the treatment plan, but wanted to share some joy with everyone who has been so kind as to share my burdens.

Today is a sunny day for my soul.

Sunday, May 2, 2004

A "regressive" state

This week went quite well at MDACC. On the cancer recurrence issue, my CEA was down to 7.5 from the 9.5&10.0 it was three weeks earlier. (The 6.4 level in Dallas in between was measured on a different kind of machine, so they don't take it as a precise comparison) In addition, there is a liver enzyme level that also tends to be high with metastatic cancer in the liver and it was down this week for the first time since the surgery. CEA levels above 10.0 "almost always" indicate that a recurrence will show itself in something like 6-8 months. Levels between 5 and 10 can be due to other things besides cancer. In summary, Dr. Vauthey said that we indeed might not be seeing recurrence here. He is considering the disease right now as being in a regressive, rather than progressive, state. I'm liking the sound of that word - regressive. The PET scan matched the CT scan three weeks ago in revealing there are no measurable tumors in my body right now. After consulting with Dr. Hoff, they decided we would wait another three weeks before retesting the CEA and making treatment decisions. So no more chemo for now.

On the dilated veins, it was described to me in laymen's terms. There is an interstate vein going through the liver. It has a traffic jam on it, the cause of which they think is a clot from the surgery or healing process, and the blood is taking back roads to get to the heart. These back road veins are thus overcrowded and have expanded. This can be dangerous, but not at the level they are seeing in me. This was all confirmed by the endoscopy on Monday. By the way, that procedure caught me and Christine by surprise because there was significantly more risk than the other time I had this done. In the procedure, the doctor could accidentally pop one of these veins, causing all sorts of serious problems. We had to sign some extra release forms due to possibility of emergency surgery, receiving blood transfusion, etc. One form had a list of the possible side effects of the endoscopy. He was crossing out the lines with side effects that could not happen with this procedure. I asked him if he would cross out the line that said "death." We smiled at each other, but he did not cross it off. In the end, the procedure went very smoothly. Dr. Vauthey believes that we can address this vein problem with drugs and that the body figures out a way to heal itself by repairing and increasing the number of back road veins. He also said there was nearly no risk of that clot moving to the heart or brain. He told me that of all my problems right now, the vein thing in his mind was pretty far down the list now.

bluebonnet2.jpg We enjoyed our drive back, and with the extra time took the long way home to enjoy the blue bonnets that are in full bloom here in Texas right now. Only now as I write am I realizing the irony of taking the back roads back home.