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, February 14, 2008

A bizzare day

I am emerging from sedation blur after a broncosopy today. They went into the trachea with a stiff pipe, through which they can do ultrasound and take needle biopsies into the neighboring lymph nodes. They extracted samples from the two "bad guys" threatening me. The result left everyone perplexed. Let me back up a bit and explain, as I have not written in a while.

I came to Houston last week for the big week of scans. I have been pressing for surgical removal of these two lymph nodes. The surgeon has been relucatant and I've been dutifully doing six months of chemo, hoping that a window of opportunity would open up.

The good news last week was that a window has opened to do the right nodule. This would be a right-side thorocotomy (basically, lung surgery). He would also remove the suspicious lung nodule that has appeared recently in the right lung

The bad news was that he told me that it would be all but impossible to remove the left lymph node. It is too deeply located and the risk of major problems (severing the pulmonary artery) is just too high. This was really the first time I have heard that a tumor was inherently inoperable due to its location, not just size. In the past I have heard "inoperable", but when there was shrinkage, I heard "operable" again. This isn't about shrinking, but where it is. Thus, this news about the left side means that the cancer is considered non-curable, and only manageable. Pretty devestating news.

Then came the very difficult decision - whether to do the right side surgery at all. The benefit is quite small because if you go in to deal with the right problem with no plan to go in and take out the left, then you are risking trauma and complications knowing there is no data showing any increase in life expectancy.

In other words, I asked, him, "If there are two Greg's in front of you - just like me - and you do surgery on one followed by chemo and radiation, and you only do chemo and radiation on the other, and you were a betting man, which would you put your money on to live longer?"

Photo_021408_004.jpg Photo_021408_004.jpg
Greg #1 and #2

"No way", he replied, "there is no way to tell." So if it is a toss up, why take the road that includes traumatic lung surgery (it is not fun). That is the big question.

One oncologist whom I trust advised against it. Others were open to it, but could not recommend it. No one encouraged it.

We went ahead and scheduled the surgery because I wanted to take out what we could while we have the chance. My logic is somewhere on the spectrum from brave to stupid to crazy. It is scheduled for for Monday February 18. So Tuesday night, I came down to Houston again for the biopsy, among other tests, etc. There is a "99.9% chance" we know what we are dealing with here. But a surgeon typically wants 100% certainty before opening you up. Thus, the biopsy. Incidentally, if I had chosen definitely against the surgery, they would go back to chemo and not waste time or effort on the biopsy.

BUT... back to the drawing board
So as Christine prepared to come down (she has been in a lot of pain recently), I came down early for the biopsy today. She was going to come down tonight and family members and friends were preparing to come down this weekend for the surgery Monday.

But when I emerged from the biopsy incredibly groggy (the procedure requires full general anesthesia), the doctor came to me with a smile and a perplexed look on his face. "We took three needle shots in each lymph node, which is the practice. And an initial look in the microscope revealed only a bunch of dead cells. So we went back and took a total of ten shots in each lymph node, twenty in all. All we can find is dead cells. No cancer cells. Apparently, the chemo has obliterated these tumors." I figured I was dreaming because I was in this sedated, dream state. But I heard right. They sent all the samples to pathology and they'll take an official, closer, look. I will hear the results come Friday or maybe as late as Monday. But there is a 90% chance, he says, that there are indeed no cancer cells in these samples. And that these two tumors are dead [or perhaps, "mostly dead" - Princess and the Bride]

So for now, it looks like there is not much motivation to do surgery if it is just going to go in and get a bunch of dead cells. The body will clean them up in a period of several weeks. Could there still be some bad cells in there? Yes, that would remain a possibility, and it only takes a handful. But I suspect the surgeon is going to rescind the offer tomorrow to do surgery - for good reasons.

I'll let you know what the results are. And what the plan is - everything is now up in ther air.

In the meantime I'll just soak in some good news and celebrate. So after two nights in a row of fasting for tests, I walked to Goode Company Seafood down the street for some oysters on the half-shell to celebrate.


Life is a roller coaster, isn't it? And we humans are so easily whipped around. I am once again reminded of a passage in St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians. In Christianity, there is a concept that God's blessing extends beyond what can be immediately seen. Paul writes, " Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."

I have been driving everyone crazy sending emails and calling, looking for advice in making the decision for surgery. I've written former doctors and family members. Several of you have written back very thoughtful, helpful things to think about in this decision, which seemed to be one of the biggest of my life. I have thought about every possibility, every detail, every if, and, and but. I rarely lose any sleep, but a couple nights this week I stayed up thinking about all the possibilities.

But I didn't consider everything! The thought that this biopsy would just discover a bunch of dead cells never even crossed my mind. It was indeed more than all I asked or imagined.

I'll probably have difficulty sleeping tonight again tonight - thanking God and wondering in amazement at what possibly could be happening here. I haven't a clue.


Sarah said...

What amazing news Greg!! Enjoy celebrating and hopefully you can back to Christine soon. Try to get some well-deserved rest and just relax a little for a change! Hope Christine feels better soon.

John & Ruth said...

What wonderful news! Greg, we will rejoice with you, pray that the news continues to be good, and also pray that Christine will feel better enough to celebrate with you.

Nils said...

Greg, we�ve become accustomed to surprising news when it comes to your health but this takes the cake.
We rejoice with you!!

John said...

Again you continue to endure. I am in awe. Keep us posted.

Henry Chu said...

Dear Greg,
Our God is greatly to be praised. Hallelujah to the one Who lives forever forever, and our thanks to the one Who was, Who is, and Who ever will be!!!! Glory andn Power, and praises to the Lamb who was killed, and is now alive forever and ever.
We rejoice with you upon the demise of those dead cells, and we look forward to your body consuming the remnant bad guys.
Today Chuck Swindoll(sp??) brought up Luke-1, Luke-18, and Jeremiah-32 in his daily message, and it was about "there is nothing impossible with God". "And with God all things are possible with God" , and nothing too difficult for Him. May God bless you and Christine.
For as many days as you have seen trouble, may the Lord double, triple, and quardruple...His blessings upon you.
With Joy,

Richard Steenson said...


Mark Horne said...

I was so dreading where this post was going and then...
Life is a roller coaster and sometimes even fun like one. May you have many more meals of great seafood!

Madeleine said...

May you have many more such bizzare days!! -- thank you, Lord, that you were pleased to take the life of these cells. May the Lord continue to glorify Himself in the Church as we look to Him and give Him thanks for these testimonies to His grace and mercy. He shows Himself mighty to save; mighty to give good gifts to His children who ask things of Him. Rejoicing with you!

Robin said...

Matthew 17:20:
I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, "Move from here to there" and it will move.
Greg, May you live all the days of your life.

Richard Sherard said...

Greg, as I recovered from a perforated colon in October requiring emergency surgery, the doctor told me that "you know, not that long ago we would not have been able to save you life". That was sobering. I couldn't help but think of you and the incredible faith you have in our Lord with all you've been through. As I face another major surgery in March, I am reminded that all things are possible with God. Because of your testimony I will rest in the Lord. I am humbled to know you.
With great love for you,
(PS. I am continually praying for Christine also)

Fran said...

Awesome. I am speechless!!

todd said...

Wow, what a roller coaster!
Fantastic news, Greg!
Thanks for the update.

Fran said...

I just realized that this news is an early birthday present Happy, happy!

Jay Horne said...

Greg, what sweet news! Strange how life comes from death.

kelli May - cancer patient @ md anderson said...

That is great news! I will keep you in my prayers :)
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight."
Proverbs 3:5-6
"The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe."
Proverbs 18:10

Heather said...

Sometimes the scientist comes out, and I forget to pray for or even consider the "miracle" option. I'm glad God keeps reminding us that with him, that is a possibility. This is exciting news, Greg.

Denise said...

Greg, God does work in mysterious ways. I am just happy that his mysterious ways are working through my family and around your illness. For this we are grateful for today. Enjoy your news, as it sounds like you are. My continued prayers are with you and Christine.

Brian Marquis said...


Judy Dominick said...

Thanks for the update. Very encouraging. I was able to imagine Wayne's face as he came to talk to you. Keep on pressing on!
Peace of Christ,

Byron Black said...

Yeah Baby!! Everyone has already said it all -- So, Praise the LORD God Almighty! May we all recognize ALL the 'bizzare' days we've had!!
Lets go to CostCo -- mmmm, take me there baby! -- I hear they have a barrel of oysters on the half shell!!!!

winnie krienke said...

Dear Greg: Thank you very much for updated. Yes, praises the LORD, it was good news. Hope Christine's pain get better. May God keep blessing you and Christine.

Vince Corvino said...

Its a miracle, Max (also Princess Bride):)

Jim Williams said...

To God be the glory for the great things He has done, is doing, and will do! May the Lord continue to use you and your physical weakness to demonstrate His unlimited strength and power.

Syd said...

Isn't it amazing how we pray and pray and are still so surprised when God performs miracles ?
Praise the Lord !!!