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.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A hopeful radiation plan

I met with Dr. Crane today. He is the radiation oncologist who will lead my ratiaion therapy. He looks like he could be playing first base for the Astros. But I suppose the academian in him chose to radiate tumors instead.

He gave me a better impression than I left the hospital with yeterday. He believes he can afford to be very aggressive with the radiation. He will go after every tumor that they can see. I had thought they were just going after the immediate problem areas, where there is pressure on the airways. Due to my good response from radiation in 2005 (wow, was that five years ago?), and the fact it did not do any extraordinary damage, he believes he can give me a lot of radiation. There is increased risk with this dose I may get a third new cancer (I've had two so far in my life), but the real problem is the cancer in me now.

He believes this will almost certainly relieve my breathing and coughing symptoms. And he thinks that while it is likely there may very well be a bit of cancer left somewhere in the areas that they treat, he is aiming to get everything they can see now. His goal is to "control" my cancer such that the next problem would be "somewhere else". This could buy me even a couple years. No promises, of course.

His assistant showed me the CT in detail today. It is amazing how the airway seems only the slightest bit restricted, and only on one side. Yet sometimes lately I feel like I'm drowning. The whole system is so sensitive. It is difficult to believe that zapping all over the place with radiation could actually be a good thing.

I have a couple more appointments tomorrow. Then back to Dallas for the weekend before beginning radiation in Houston on Wednesday. Treatment will be daily for about five weeks. The side-effects are expected to be quite difficult. The esophogus gets hammered in this process, making it difficult and painful to swallow for a period of about four weeks beginning a couple weeks into the radiation. I spoke to another patient who has had similar radiation and it sounded tough. A month of pain for a couple years of life seems like a pretty good deal. Gird up thy loins, self. Have mercy, O Lord.

By the way, while I was in the hospital last week, we got an offer on our house, which we accepted. Closing and moving the remaining furniture and junk will be tricky while I'm in and out of Houston, but it will be good to get that behind us. Albeit bittersweet.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Radiation planned

The lymph node tumors in my chest are still growing at about the same rate. For example, one went from 3cm to 3.5cm. But of greater concern to Dr. Eng is my increasing shortness of breath. And with the post-nasal drip from my cold last week, the coughing has been very bad, even scary. The nodes are constricting my airways. Not good. She wants to radiate the lymph nodes and thinks that will likely improve my breathing significantly. It will be 3-5 weeks of radiation, then three weeks of recovery, then probably back to the trial chemo drug plan. I meet with the radiation oncologist at MD Anderson tomorrow to find out the details.

The coughing has subsided a bit, probably as I get over the cold. My WBC counts are still far too low - as low as they were when I was admitted into the hospital last week at Presby-Dallas. (Incidentally, I did get out after two days - didn't update the blog) MD Anderson is reluctant to put me in the hospital now, especially given I have no fever. I agree.
Right now, it's hard for me to think about anything other than catching my breath back, so the radiation plan sounds good to me.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Admitted into hospital

Quick update. I had a good time in Bethany with Christine and Mark. But the last day, developed fever. It came and went and I was able to make it back to Dallas. Yesterday, I was scheduled for chemo, but delayed it a day due to the fever, which continued to come and go. Today, I went in for chemo and instead of giving it to me, they are admitting me into the hospital because of my low white blood cell count. My doctor says I am "on the edge" and could get very sick very quickly and he wants to avoid that. I'll be a t Presby-Dallas. Hopefully, this will be short.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Trips coming up

This week is exciting because I will be travelling to Delaware to see Christine. My brother-in-law Mark is helping out, flying to meet me in Baltimore for the three-hour drive out to Bethany Beach, where Christine's folks live. It will be good to see her. Both of our health situations has us so frustratingly stuck.

Upon returning after a few days, I will go down to Houston for a checkup trip (already? yes.) Dr. Eng only wanted to wait six weeks to keep on top of things. I really hope things are stable. My cancer blood marker was down to the 6's after slowly climbing this year from under 4 to the 7's. On the other hand, I've had a couple of discouraging signs - I seem to feel some pressure, tightness, dull pain, in my chest. Either my mind's playing tricks or something is up with the cancer. Could just be from coughing a lot.

Also, I've coughed up blood several times in the past couple weeks. It was not the first time. I've done so maybe once a month for many months. At that frequency, it didn't mean much to the doctors. We'll see if this is significant now that it is more often. I must say it hits you deep. To cough and cough and then have that taste in your mouth. You know, that bloody lip taste. Only it is not a cut, but the cough. Then there's this quick, heightened, mental montage - knowing, hoping not, probably is, not again, then looking. Red. Such a let down. In the movies, it's always the first sign of a bad health storm approaching. Does it have to be?

Funny thing - this is really the first physical sign I have ever had of the cancer. All my physical problems over the past seven years have been from the treatment, not the cancer itself. Not much I can do, so I just keep pressing on, praying, enjoying, and hoping perhaps for some good news.