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.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Radation home stretch

bell.jpghall.jpg24 treatments down, 6 to go.

Once a day I've made the trip to the hospital to for treatment. I park the car, journey down the long hall, get lined up like a sack of potatoes, receive three 30-second zaps by a big gamma gun, then head back home. Every one of these treatments marks one day closer to the day when I get to ring the celebrated bell on the wall. It's a little tradition they have here at MD Anderson.

janjan.jpgAccording to my radiation oncologist Dr. Janjan (shown here with me), my reaction to the treatments has gone very well. That is not to say there has been no pain - to be frank, there has been a lot. It seems to get a little worse every day. So why am I smiling next to this woman who has inflicted such pain on me? Because she is also the one feeding me plenty of narcotics to keep the pain under control. I take oxycodone around the clock (a.k.a. oxycontin, a.k.a. "hillbilly heroin"). It is pretty good stuff. Rush Limbaugh thought so, too. That's the drug he was addicted to. On top of this drug, I now have a supply of fentanyl "lollipops." Fentanyl is one of the meds they use in general surgery to knock you out. The lollipops are smaller doses that give immediate relief from strong pain. When my pain begins to slip out of the control of the oxycodone, I stick one of these lollipops between my cheek and gum, sit back, and smile like Kojak.

Seriously though, the pain has not always been under control, but these meds do help quite a bit. Enough that I've been able to work from home, where Christine and I hang around all day. It helps that I really enjoy the challenging problem I've been working on these days for TI. It is both an escape and something that keeps me focused.

Every once in a while, I ask Dr. Janjan to remind me, "why again I am doing all this?" After all, no cancer shows up on the CT scans. Well, the chances are pretty good that there is still microscopic stuff around where they took out the tumor in February. Radiation reduces the chance that this cancer will mount a new assault. So underneath all the symptoms, I pray a simple bold prayer that this process is doing what it is supposed to do - getting rid of this horrible disease. As long as it is doing that, the process is tolerable.

target.JPGThey've begun to double up the treatments to two per day. One at 8 and one at 2:30. This protocol is more aggressive and apparently is a bit more effective in killing cancer cells. The total number of treatments remain the same at 30. This moved the completion date back to next Tuesday, the day I plan to ring the bell.

The effects of a radiation treatment are felt 1-2 weeks after the actual treatment. Because of this, they say, the week after the last treatment is the worst. So I may stick here in Houston a little while before I'm up for traveling back to Dallas. While I am mentally able to keep going pretty well, physically I am exhausted and have a hard time doing anything without getting winded and needing a rest.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Friends in the news

The Houston Chronicle had an article today on the Hazels, highlighting their painted house. They're the folks who had the open house for us last week.

Just remember, before the mainstream media got the scoop, you saw it here on this blog first.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Dishman visit


The Dishman's (Mark, Angie, John, and the kids) made a trip down to Houston for a short beach vacation trip arranged so they could visit us. Christine has been struggling a lot with severe headaches recently, but fortunately, she felt pretty well Saturday. So we went out for dinner Saturday to Star Pizza, self-declared best pizza in Houston. Afterward, we hung out at 2115 Taft, a coffee house at which I have spent many hours working using their free wi-fi hookup. It has a unique (tempting) book store in it and plenty of couches to enjoy while reading the books. We sat around and talked about books and such, and then strolled into the connected art gallery, which is now showing an artist whose work I would classify as contemporary expressionist iconography. That evening there so happened to be a swing dance event going on in the other adjoining space and the music flowed into the gallery. So we found ourselves in this odd environment where we contemplated this sacred art to the music of Louis Prima. The result is shown below.


If you are wondering where the energy comes from during radiation treatments to swing dance, I will admit this dance lasted about 45 seconds, after which I found one of those couches to plop into.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Party with no occasion

reagan.jpgOn Sunday, the Hazels had an open house party for us. (more photos) They wanted to share some good times with us before the radiation&chemo symptoms started kicking in. We did the inviting -- they did all the work. Should a guy experience such undeserved fun? The occasion for the party in Reese's words: "because we like parties."

It was short notice but several people were able to make it - The Reitmeiers, Gaffords, Petkases, Roaches, Parks, Robert Cooke, Sarah Shay, and the Hazel's daughters. There was plenty of good food and drinks (unfortunately, those taking Xeloda abstained). Reese got a hold of a mandolin for me, so we had a string band going pretty strong.
As is the Hazel's custom, there were two toasts - one to Jesus, one to me. (I would have been happy with just the first.) In the midst of my storm, to me the evening was a small taste of the fellowship to be had in the New Jerusalem.
The picture is of us performing Old Joe Clark. You'll notice it has some modified lyrics. (background info: before the party, an exterior pipe in Reese's yard cracked, filling the lawn with water... Reagan is Ruth&Tylers son)
Old Joe Clarkband.jpg
Old Joe Clark, he had a house
Eighteen stories high
Ev'ry story in that house
Was filled with chicken pie
Fare ye well, Old Joe Clark
Fare ye well, I say
Fare ye well, Old Joe Clark
I'm a-goin' away
I went down to Old Joe's house
Stayed to have some supper
Stubbed my toe on the table leg
And stuck my nose in the butter

Raccoon has a bushy tail
'Possum's tail is bare
Rabbit has no tail at all
'Cept a bunch of hair

Reese's got a broken pipe
Flowin like a river
Got the plumber on the phone. Gonna
cost some gold and silver

Reagans hair is kinda short
I think it's soft and frizzy
When he bangs upon the drums
He get's us in a tizzy.

Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Go Rice

Every college fan loves to protest, "we were robbed". I will join the chorus. Despite being ranked in USAToday as #7 in NCAA baseball, Rice was not selected to be one of the sixteen regional hosts for the first weekend of playoff elimination of the 64 teams in the tournament.

Home field is a definite advantage. Thirteen of the sixteen home teams last weekend won their four-team regional tourneys. LSU was one of those who got beat... by Rice. The Owls went 3-0 for the weekend including taking two of two from the Tigers. There are now sixteen teams remaining. Eight go to the College World Series.
Now, as luck would have it, Rice goes to #1 ranked Tulane next weekend for a best of three super-regional series, the winner of which goes to the World Series. Another road upset? I think it is possible.
Incidentally, two years ago, I mentioned on this blog the Owl's run in which they eventually won it all for their first national championship. I chose to stop writing about it because I have a friend who lives in Moscow and reads this blog, but was going to watch the taped series much later when he visited home. So in spite of my joy, I kept my lips sealed. But now, this friend is engaged to be married - so I figure he is in a good mood and doesn't care as much about the Owls anymore. Am I right, David?
For all you Owl fans, the next game is Saturday at noon. It will air on one of the ESPN channels.
Go Owls.

Thursday, June 2, 2005

First week

I'm finishing up the first week of radiation. The treatment itself is a matter of seconds once they get me lined up. And I an feel absolutely nothing - no heat, tinging, nada. Symptoms, if there are any, won't kick in for another week or two.

I came down by myself for this holiday-shortened week. This weekend, I return to Dallas and move back here to Houston with Christine for the remaining five weeks.

It sat on the shelf for a while, but I am now again reading Birth of the Clinic by Michel Foucault. In his words, it is "an archaeology of medical perception". The themes are reminiscent of Kuhn's Nature of Scientific Revolutions. Anyway, I got a kick out of the requirements for students to be trained in medicine at around the time of the French Revolution. Quoting from a guidebook of the time, students were chosen who demonstrated "good conduct, pure morals, love of the Republic, and a hatred of tyrants, sufficient education, and above all, a knowledge of some of the sciences that might serve as a preliminary to the art of curing."

A lot has changed since then. But I have noticed that while these oncologists down here have many idiosyncrasies and a whole range of strengths and weaknesses, it is true that as far as I can tell, none has a love of tyrants.