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, October 29, 2009

A Very Good Day

(from phone) cancer completely stable! feeling better. still some fever. blood doc gave ok to go back 2 dallas. he will call every day through weekend. i thgnk he just wants 2 talk blood on hal'ween

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Miserable Day

Yesterday, I had a very bad day. The previous day I had felt quite well, enjoying a mind-cleaning drive down to Houston for my round of tests and meetings at MD Anderson. But when I awoke, I was achy, shivering, and increadibly fatigued. It is not a trivial matter changing an appointment at MDA Anderson. You just go. So I went over to the hospital anyway for my appointment with Dr. Manzullo of the fatigue clinic.

When they realized my temperature was over 102, and my blood work showed that I was "neutropenic" (low white blood cells), I became high prority. Turns out that neutropenia is not uncommon for chemo cancer patients. Nor is fever. I've had plenty of both. But when you have both, it can be dangerous. Without enough white blood cells, you cannot hold off whatever is causing the fever. Since I was already lying down in one of her waiting rooms, the doctor let me stay and worked the phones with my different doctors so I could avoid the standard response - send patient to the MDACC ER. "Bless you," I said to her. "Take however long you must, just don't send me there."

They decided to put me on the MDACC protocol for neutropenic fever, which is a 7-day outpatient deal. The standard treatment for this in most hospitals in America, one doctor told me, is to admit you in the hospital for treatment. But since they have great outpatient infrastruture and resources, because the various doctors are in close communication about your case here, and because over 90% of cases end up not being dangerous, they have designed an outpatient protocol that works well.

My day was not over. The next step was to go to the blood center and get more taken. Then to the pharmacy for antibiotics. Shuffling around the campus, wrapped in blankets, and shivering, I proceeded step by step, minute by minute. I finally made it home, took a nap, only to return a few hours later for the 5-hour CT Scan/barium enima test. Since cancer doesn't take breaks, neither does MD Anderson. So what if you've got a fever and feel miserable. You still need those pictures.

I am so thankful that my friends Belle and Peter have a place for me to stay only about 5 minutes from the hospital. That will make this outpatient process so much easier.

Today I went in for day two of the protocol. They took more blood and examined me. I also saw the blood doctor - I'm not sure what to call him - he's an internist who specializes in this stuff. (it seems appropriate I will be seeing a blood doctor over the Halloween weekend!) No conclusions yet. He said they'll probably know which direction things are going tomorrow - it takes three samples to establish a trend, right?

All this fever stuff is just a bump in the road. The big reason I'm here was and remains to figure out if the cancer is stable or advancing. I still find that out with an appointment with Dr. Eng tomorrow.

Meanwhile, they tell me lots of rest and drink liquids. I guess that's instead of the solids I usually drink.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Fever gone

After nearly a month of infection with fever, I think I'm out of the woods. Four days straight now of no fever. Part of my mind was questioning whether I would ever feel well again. It was a dark hole and I'm so glad to be crawling out of it. Next round of chemo is Wednesday.

Christine finished her initial meetings and tests at the Chiari Institute and the medical team there believes surgery on her neck will significant help her pain and various nervous-system symptoms. They diagnosed her as indeed having Chiari malformation - it has to do with the bone and nerve structure where the brain channels into the spinal column (more info on Chiari malformation). It sounds like a major surgery ordeal with hospital stay and months of rehab. She will stay for now with her parents in Delaware and is working out the logistics including when is the right time to do it.

Here's a fun pic that my mom unearthed cleaning out some old stuff. I'd say it is around 1975 - Uncle Ron's tractor in the Ozarks, a stone's throw from Table Rock Lake. I'm with my sisters (in his lap), cousins and aunts.

Tractor Gang.jpg click to enlarge