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, September 1, 2010

Breathing easy for a while

I am back in Dallas resting and recovering with no treatment of any kind - the first such break in I don't know how many years.

The radiation seems to have done good work - the largest lymph node tumor, for example, reduced since the last scan from 4.4x2.5cm to 3.3x2.5cm.  (My own guess based on airways symptoms is that it had actually grown bigger since the first scan before it got smaller).  The question remains just how dead they are.  Size is not everything.  Some of you may remember  a couple years ago, when these nodes were called "stable" as their size remained unchanged, but a biopsy then revealed they were 99.9% dead.  ("nearly dead" - name the movie)  So at this point, time will tell how dead they are.

As for my breathing, it has improved as the left lung has indeed opened back up.  This is remarkable.  My pulmonologist had all but told me that it was not going to open again ever.  And that is how it felt.  My internal, instinctual approach to life is quite skeptical, even cynical.  But I have a hard time not using the word miraculous here.  I decided to take a simple step of faith to follow a procedure - I guess you could call it that - in the Bible where you go to the elders of the church for prayer when you are sick.  I did that and it seemed my breathing improved almost immediately.  Must be placebo or something psychological, I thought, even as I disallowed my mind to go that way.  But the improved breathing continued and now has been confirmed by the tests.  My lung is back in business.  With breathing exercises, it is supposed to improve even more.  I'm not joining any gym, but if you saw me creeping around with that cane and gasping for air, you know how much better things are now.  God gave me a break this time around, and I'm going to give him thanks.  I know there are no promises for health indefinitely, at least this side of heaven, but I'm going to take this one as a gift.
So both lungs are working, albeit not at full capacity as I've had surgery in the past on both of them and the radiation damaged them somewhat, as expected.  (that's the trade-off with radiation)  One of the tests I took at MD Anderson was a brisk six-minute walk back and forth down a hall while they watched the oxygen level in my blood.  The percentage saturation hung on in the mid-90's until the final minute when it sank to 82%.  This means if I exert myself, my body does not get the oxygen it needs for muscles, brain, everything.   So they put me on home supplemental oxygen for use at night while I sleep.  Also, I have a portable pack I may use when I feel I need it upon exertion during the day.  This oxygen has helped a great deal in overall vigor.  Oxygen is amazing.  It's better than the Cheerios in that commercial that is in my head when I reach for the oxygen.

One issue in the bigger story here is that now having used the nuclear option of radiation, I have officially used up all the FDA approved treatments for this cancer.  The weapons cache is empty.  If the cancer starts growing again, I'm looking at clinical trials for new chemotherapy.  They have a big clinic for that at MD Anderson.  Trials are just that - unproven.

Meanwhile, what do you do if you have six free weeks, with about six hours of energy a day, if you do not know if that's all the energy you'll ever be given?  The first thing I'll do is pray that this will be a very long break and that the tumors will stay very dead for much longer than six weeks.  Beyond that, I think it's actually a nice problem for the soul to have and good thing to consider.