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, July 24, 2007

The good side of brain tumors

Cancer can be a funny thing. I got news last week of a brain tumor and its the best news I've heard all year. Let me explain (don't be alarmed, it is not malignant.)

I have had a tumultuous three months since my last appointment at MD Anderson. I had left that appointment looking forward to a three month doctor-free, news-free, worry-free break.
As the weeks went by, my fatigue did not get better. I have had a general feeling of malaise and I had expected to begin returning to full health. Upon my good wife's pleading, I reluctantly went to the doctor to discuss the fatigue. This led to some blood work that revealed a high calcium level. This is very uncommon - the body does a great job of keeping calcium levels normal. It could only be aa few things, one of which was not what I wanted to hear. High calcium is often a sign when someone's cancer spreads to the bones, which mine can do. The tumors can dissolve the calcium in the bones. After a long week, which included a full-body bone scan, I found out that there is not metastatic bone activity, but that my parathyroid is not regulating it correctly - a problem, but not a big problem.
Two weeks later, the doctors office calls and says that in blood work I had done during that scare, four hormone levels were far out of range: from 10x too low to 10x too high (not sure why they didn't call for two weeks!). This pointed to the pituitary gland - in the brain. Again, my heart sunk. It sunk down into my stomach, and down through my radiated, butchered intenstines, and I think it didn't stop until it was somewhere in what's left of my colon.
They wanted to do a brain MRI. All indications pointed to something physical going on up there between my eyes. It might explain the strength problems and malaise. But the possibilities were not many. The best it could be is a benign tumor in the brain - a "pituitary adenoma". The worst would be that the colon cancer had spread to the brain, as it does in 10% of stage IV colon cancer patients. The benign tumor could be removed surgically. Brain surgery. I can do that. No problem. Bring it on. Just don't say the C word.
Again, the long days. I had a brain MRI. I saw the technicians behind the glass intently pointing at the screen and talking (but they could tell me nothing). And for two days, a chill whenever the cell phone rang. The call came. The MRI clearly showed that I had the benign tumor in my brain. Relief and joy. Funny thing.
The news got better. The endocrinologist is going to attempt to treat it with medication instead of surgery. I didn't know that was even an option. A little pill two times a week. And it just might be the ticket to bring back my strength. I have had more than one occasion in this journey when things seem so dire, and the scope of the possible spans from bad to worse. And then, I find out they are better than what I could imagine. Eph 3:20-21 surely refers to more than mere MRI results, but I know it does not mean any less!
So here I am back in Houston after my three month "break". Two other times in the past four years I have had a three-month break and the break ended with new "spots" and more treatment. I get a full-torso CT scan today and meet with Dr. Eng Thursday. I am weary, but at rest. (Mt 11:28)


Gay Bethel said...

As always, you are in my prayers.

Dave Belicheck said...

So you're saying you can partake in pre-season drills after all? Never a dull moment for you Greg, the guy who would LOVE a dull moment to stretch for about 10 years, eh? Peace brother ~ Dave

Henry Chu said...

Thank you for your updates. This brother rejoices with you to learn that the brain turmor is not only benign, but treatable with medication.
The Lord has lead you along this far, and we are confident that He will lead you every step of the way. Your treatment and your spirit through it all surely have advanced the cause of medicine, and also advanced in many respect, His kingdom.
For all things work for the good of those who love Him.
May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you, as you learn of Him, and carry your cross to follow Him. We also follow Him with the cross He assigns to us. It seems that the cross is what the Lord uses to refine us, and makes us of real value to Him.
Awaiting more good news from you.

John & Ruth said...

As you continue trusting, we continue praying. Love to you and Christine.

Sarah said...

I am sorry that your break was not much of a break but relieved to hear of the results. We will be thinking about you the next couple of days so please pass on the good news when you have it. Please send Christine our regards.

Carl said...

Your gallows humor is scintillating, as always. I thank the Lord for His Gifts to you.

Vince, Helen & Kids said...

Only you can find humor and joy in a brain tumour.
May God continue to bless and keep you :)

Miriam Patterson said...

My heart sank to hear the news (even of a benign brain tumor!) but my spirit, as always, was encouraged by your humor and faith in our sovereign Lord. You and Christine will continue to be in our prayers.
Miriam & Andrew

max said...

Wow, crazy. My wife had a pituitary tumor out on June 19th. I can hook you up with one of the best pituitary surgeons in the world if you decide to go that route.
Of course, if the drugs work, that's great too. It wasn't gonna work for my wife -- her tumor was unusual in that it was causing too much growth hormone *and* too much adrenal signal (ACTH). It pretty much had to come out. We're struggling a bit through the recovery.