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.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Return to Dallas

Yesterday I felt quite strong, so we decided to head back. One bummer on such a wonderful occasion -- as we packed the car, I went out to the porch, where I was storing my bicycle, and found it had been stolen. I took it with me to Houston with high hopes to ride around Herman Park. I did a little, but the heat became too unbearable soon after the radiation began. Anyway, I loved that bicycle and really felt violated when I realized someone had climbed up to our apartment to steal it. I do get a little kick out of thinking about the thief's surprise when he discovered there was only one pedal. Anyway, I tried not to let it get me down and we set off for Dallas.

So here I am, glad to be back home and glad to be rejoined with my dog. It is always weird coming back into my house after being gone a long time. And I have been gone for about 7 weeks. It is a refreshing feeling.

Remaining treatments
I will begin the final set of treatments Aug 1. I will do 4 rounds of chemo over 8 weeks. The treatments will be done here in Dallas. Its the FOLFOX-Avastin regimen, which I am not too excited about, but hey, there's only four rounds.
From talking with several of you, it seems I had given the impression that I was all through. Many people responded positively about the bell entry. But I think there was some misunderstanding - the bell marked the end of radiation, but not the end of everything. It has been the plan for some time that I would finish off after radiation with 8 weeks of chemo. So there is nothing new to precipitate these treatments.
I am scheduled to do a "final" set of scans and tests the first week of October back at MD Anderson. Hopefully, those will be clear, which will mean I will be through with treatments. Of course, they will continue to test me every few months or so after that.
Past middle age?
In the world of bloggers, I am worthy of my graying hair. Here is where I am on the distribution of those who keep blogs. (according to an MIT Weblog Survey).

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Radiation complete


Yesterday I completed treatment number 30. With this comes the priviledge of ringing the bell. I rang it hard and long.

As she lined me up one last time, I conversed with Linda, the radiation therapist. She told me that she never gets tired of hearing the bell. It speaks to her, she says, because it somehow captures the journey - all the challenges, difficulties, and required perseverance in these lives with whom she has come into contact. She is in her second career after raising kids who have all moved out now. Her story is like so many employees here. The way many of them talk about it, they see their vocation as a ministry. They know death is all around here - not exactly the most pleasant work environment. And while most of us avoid the subject altogether, they want to do what they can - however small the effort - to move towards that hope of death's defeat. Linda's eyes were moist as she spoke of the "hope that is wrapped up in the the bell". And the hope she has for me. When I first saw the bell -- on a little plaque with a cute rhyme: "ring this bell, three times well..." -- I was a bit skeptical (as I am about anything that even hints of sentimentality) But I was wrong. In this technosicence era, where what really matters is clinical protocol, statistics and survival data and where "the patient" is an object of study with a bar code, the bell serves an important function - one that I now realize is sorely needed. Everyone seemed to know that around here but me.

With the tradition of bell ringing comes the tradition of a little party. So Christine and I brought a grocery store cake and some plastic forks and enjoyed it with total strangers, all of whom were waiting to get zapped. The interesting thing about waiting rooms at MD Anderson is that these perfect strangers are also in a way close friends. They know me and my life better than just about anyone. And I can listen to them and form a bond closer than most others in their lives. The patients cheer for each other, hold each others hands, and sometimes cry with each other. Faces give each other knowing looks, knowing smiles, knowing sighs. Humanity joined against a common enemy.

I did invite one old friend to the party. Dr. Jaffe is the pediatric oncologist who treated me for bone cancer many years ago and has been a good friend to me ever since. He is retiring next year. Hard to believe, given his passion for what he does. But he wants to spend some years resting and writing. He is 73 years old, after all.

(click images to enlarge)
radiation_team.jpg<-- My radiation therapy team - Dana, Cathy, and Linda.


Tuesday, July 5, 2005

Lined up

face.jpg As they line me up for radiation, I often contemplate life. Thinking, for example, of the words of Ecceleastes:

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which one can say, "Look! This is something new"?
It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.
There is no remembrance of men of old,
and even those who are yet to come
will not be remembered by those who follow.

(click the image for the whole picture)