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.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

A little more on the lung problem

I continue to feel about the same. Happy, not sick, not in much pain, but very short on air. I bought one of those pulse oximeters to watch my oxygen level in the blood. It's hanging out in the low 90's, for those of you who know about such things. If it hangs out lower than 88, that warrants the full time lug-around-an-oxygen-tank deal. Most folks are around 98-99. Before the last couple months, mine was around 96-97, even with the two lung surgeries.

Since my last blog article, I have had one doctor at MD Anderson and a physician's assistant both tell me in email correspondence that there may actually be something they can do in case this airway does not open up. I may be a candidate for a pulmonary stent, not too unlike the kind of thing they do for coronary disease. Only it goes in an airway, not an artery. The person to decide such a thing would need to be a pulmonologist or thoracic surgeon, and they would need a recent CT scan from which to make the decision. So this is speculation now. I have a CT scheduled at MDACC in a couple weeks on Aug 17 and am going to see if I can get an appointment with my thoracic surgeon that week.

But in the meantime, I am hoping, praying, and -yes- expecting that the airway will open up as the radiation finishes off its work here in the next week or so. If that happens, there will be no need to even think about a stent.

The picture to the right was taken about a month ago. It shows the markings for aligning the radiation machine. The radiation was focussed mostly in the center of my chest.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Turns out the reason I feel like I'm not getting any air is that, indeed, one of my lungs is not getting any air. The pulmonoligist called me yesterday afternoon after I got a chest x-ray and told me I have "atelectasis" of the left lung. My left lung is not functioning. He suspects the lymph node tumor has completed pinched off the left airway. The picture on the right is from wikipedia (it's not me), but shows atelectasis. The xray report reads "total opacification of the left hemithorax."

My CT scan 6/24/2010 showed that at the time, my left airway was beginning to get squeezed. That was one of the big reasons for the radiation - to kill that tumor and give me breathing space. The one ray of hopeful news is that radiation has delayed effectiveness. I still have a couple weeks for the radiation to beat down that tumor and reopen the airway. But the bad news is that if it does not open up in a week or two, he thinks it never will. In that case, we find out that the cancer had too much of a head start on the radiation.

I am not without hope that the airway could indeed open. There have been a few other small signs that the radiation is indeed working. And the doctors at MD Anderson did say that we needed to wait about a month after the radiation before scanning to see how it did. It has been two weeks.

It's like yesterday I was a manager looking in on an employee (the radiation) before a deadline to see how the job is coming along. Not well at all. "But," he replies, "its not yet the deadline." Well he better get working.

So, my praying friends, I have a specific and urgent request to you for prayer. That the Lord might open my airway here in the next week. For "in his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind." (Job 12:10)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Radiation complete, hoping for better breathing

I chose to go forward with the radiation, and have now completed it. I went to Houston for a little over five weeks to undergo the daily treatments at MD Anderson. The doctors remained optimistic that this radiation could kill most, or even all, of the cancer in the center of my chest, where they radiated. The esophogeal pain was not too bad and is already gone. The fatigue and wear on my lungs, however, is another story.

Between the two lung surgeries in 2007 and the maximized radiation to my lung area, my breathing is in pretty bad shape. I expect it to improve, but it has been slow going. It is painful to breath deeply, or to regain my breath after just walking a bit. I'm going to see a pulmonologist at Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas tomorrow to check out why I'm still having such a hard time. I have to admit I cannot help wondering if I will ever be able to breathe freely and not constantly fear physical activity lest I cannot find air.

Air is a very good thing. I need more.