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.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Chemo tomorrow amidst some new evidence of cancer progression

When I consider my situation, I find it interesting to have such a sizable collection of friends who care about my situation.   On one hand, I am bewildered, and on the other hand feel simply fortunate.  I'd love to be able to deliver some encouraging words, but all I seem to have recently is disheartening news about which I can simply make observations.

This week, I had a full-torso CT scan.  The purpose for this was to serve as the baseline against which we will measure the effectiveness of the upcoming chemotherapy.  Dr. Modi called me in to discuss a problematic new finding on the scan - a small pocket of loose air in my chest - evidence of a hole in my lung ("pneumo-thorax").  That turned out to be only part of the story, as he really wanted to meet with me face-to-face to discuss the other things revealed by the scan.  He's a kind guy.  The disease is progressing, as we knew, but in places we had not known.  I now know about two tumors in my spleen and one on my front right belly.  I can feel the latter with my finger, now that he pointed it out to me.  Yuck.  This is the first time the abdomen scan has shown any cancer since the large tumors were removed surgically in 2003.  Also, there is a new nodule in my left lung, as well as some fluid build-up around my lung - "Probably malignant fluid," he said.   These places we add to the other evidence of disease from last month - multiple right lung nodules, an elbow tumor, and a suspicious bump on the back of my head.  I haven't had any chemo since the spring, so the cancer has been enjoying itself. 

It turns out that the plan remains the same - to begin chemotherapy.  Only there is all the more confidence this is the right plan.  I will be taking a combination of chemotherapy drugs called "XELOX + Avastin".  It is the most toxic combination of the various chemo regimens I have had, and is nearly the same as what I took for twelve rounds in 2005.   The hope is that this regimen still has some oomph left in it.  We'll do three rounds over ten weeks then see how it's working.  This will be my 95th through 97th round of chemo since 2003, but who's counting. 

With the various cancer-related issues brewing, the two wildcards are the fluid around the heart, which landed me in the hospital last month, and the new lung hole.  The heart fluid, remarkably, is nearly gone.  The lung hole needs to be corrected, and may do so on its own.  One theory for how it got there is that some lung tissue was weakened by this summer's radiation and then I "coughed a hole" in it last week.  If it heals on its own, that would be wonderful.  If it needs some sort of corrective procedure, it will cause big delays in treating the cancer.

Yesterday, I invited my church, St. Thomas the Doubter, over to my apartment to celebrate our first five members - of which one is me.  Don't get any grand party images here - it is a baby church, with a two to three dozen people attending.  So basically, I had a party to honor myself.  I also had them rearrange my furniture to be sick-with-chemo friendly, and set up my tree, too.  This is the kind of thing you get away with when you have cancer.  In the pic, you'll see I hung a Moravian star on the balcony.  This brings back memories of living in Philadelphia, where it is popular.  Also memories of putting one up with my sister's family on their porch in St. Louis.  

All of these medical developments leave me feeling quite empty.  Joys in life are absurd mixed with CT scans and chemotherapy.  But I'm ok with that.  What else is there to do but simply press and enjoy each day - each gift.   Love and live as much as I can.  Not much has not really changed in my strategy over the past seven years.  And, I think, should not change should I live for another seven days or seven years.

Yes, I'm in some pain, but it's not too bad with my pills.  My breathing is short, but not alarmingly.  Tomorrow morning is the IV infusion of part of the chemotherapy.  Then fourteen days of pills.  Here we go. 

19 comments:

Belle said...

Oh Greg, I am so sorry you are being hit with so many pieces of bad news. You do have an army of prayer warriors on your side who care alot about you and are by your side in spirit as you continue on this journey one day at a time. God bless you.

dyk49264 said...

Greg, I pray you stand strong as God gives you the strength during tough chemo rounds ahead. I visited the blog of your new church, St. Thomas the Doubter. What an exciting church planting you have committed! Immanuel God will be with you and the church...

Suzanne Lindley said...

Surrounding you with prayers!

zic said...

Greg dearest,
SO sorry to hear of the current developments but you are such an inspiration to all. Know we are praying with each step. God will give you the strength for your next battle. We're here. God Bless
Vicki and Sergio

Dave Thom said...

You're right: here we go. You lead, we follow, sorta like you're a desert mystic and we're just hanging tight to hear what The Lord says to you. Those mystics went out of their way to deny themselves. Greg, feel free to indulge yourself in whatever way. Call yourself a dessert mystic. Your patience with The Lord is a mystery to me. Keep on: here we go.

GTT said...

Greg, I am so sorry to hear this. Very sad.

Please let us know what you need during this time. Is anyone setting up a care calendar of meals? Rides?

We love you and want to do whatever we can for you. Kristi et al.

Jenny Ruppel said...

Greg, I am compelled to share today that you are an inspiration to my heart. I do not know you since we have never met, but your willingness to share your story...even with me...is humbling beyond words. It is your attitude which attracted me to your story when my husband was going through chemo, and it is your attitude which has kept my prayers with your name in them since. Take heart that your words have brought me hope in modern medicine, the power of positive thought, and in the love of God. Sending prayers as you struggle well.

mike said...

greg, forgive me if what follows is self-indulgent or overlong or otherwise inappropriate. i'm wondering if you grasp how much your posts, their frequency, their detail and mostly their tone, work like a spiritual chemo -- though without the side effects! -- for readers like me whose spiritual malignancies feel chronic and acute. i typically read your material shortly after i wake up. and what a difference it makes. though you, understandably, experience setbacks as "disheartening" and "feeling empty," your updates leave me feeling heartened and full. your correspondence from the front line of horrible cancer assures me afresh that nothing can ever separate me from our God. in the midst of all sorts of empirical evidence, so to speak, that you have been abandoned or that God is not sovereign you manage such exquisite understatement ("the cancer has been enjoying itself"), such an authentic embrace of providence (the second to last paragraph hits me hard). and such humanness: writing about why you hung that moravian star feels like paul asking timothy to bring his parchments. this is no small achievement, greg. you may be bewildered by "the sizable collection of friends who care about" your situation but i'm not. at the risk of sounding selfish, how could i be the only one who follows your posts in part because of how they strengthen me? we're all on a trajectory to physical death. yet here in the midst of this mass entropy your posts sound as if the writer actually believed he would one day be raised to live for eternity with a glorified body in the presence our unspeakably awesome Lord and Savior, Christ Himself. by the way, i liked the last words of your post, "here we go." it's not "here i go;" we who follow this blog are so privileged to be along for the ride ... soaring on your wings, brother.

Fran said...

So sorry to hear you are being bombarded with bad news. i will pray. Fran

Madeleine said...

Okay -- time to do battle! Chemo, prayers, perseverance, God's grace, full speed ahead. We're with you, Greg! Thank you so much for keeping us informed that we may stand with you and keep you supported in prayer! May the chemo be effective; may the Lord be gracious and grant you healing and great reduction of illness and retreat of cancer. Love and prayers!

Debbie Peck said...

Oh, Greg. I soar with wings like eagles as I read Mike's post as a reaction to your continued witness. May you already hear His words, "Well done good and faithful servant" and the rising roar of the voices of the saints as they cheer your unrelenting race in the face of all the evil one can throw at you. What a privilege it is to be a witness to the age old tale of Job. God has the right to have His plan unfold in His way, but it is always and forever for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purposes. He WILL continue to bless you and keep you, Greg, as He is for those of us who are blessed by your life and witness.

Anonymous said...

Count Tom and Georgan Reitmeier in your prayer circle.

Georgan Reitmeier said...

Count Tom and Georgan Reitmeier in your prayer circle.

Miriam said...

I don't know Mike, but I agree with his sentiments exactly!

We have a good friend at church who has been battling cancer for a very long time and who has recently received a lot of bad news. Both of you encourage me so much by hanging onto Jesus when others would say you should throw the baby out with the bath water. Thank you for serving the body of Christ with your faithful witness.

We are praying for you!!! Miriam & Andrew & family

Anonymous said...

Greg, so sorry to hear you are going back on chemo. I have not had anybody of Xelox yet, just FOLFOX with avastin. Assume the side effects are about the same. Hope it will be the "miracle cure". I think about you often, wishing I had been the last chemo nurse you would have to meet. I keep you in my prayers and pray that the next email will be news of a response.
Annette (your TCA chemo nurse)

BoB said...

Happy Tuesday Greg,

Each day is a happy when word is received from you. Some time ago you showed me that every day is a good day, some are just Gooder than others. We are humbled by your candor and vision. Your postings are shared with many here which in turn lightens the burden of their challenges.

The Moravian Star brought to mind that Sandra and I were married by a Moravian Chaplain at the main chapel on Fort Belvior. I am in Virginia this week for training and appreciate the means that allow me to keep abreast of your challenges. Remember we are here as you have need of us.

God Bless,
BoB E. & Sandra

BoB said...

Happy Tuesday Greg,

Each day is a happy when word is received from you. Some time ago you showed me that every day is a good day, some are just Gooder than others. We are humbled by your candor and vision. Your postings are shared with many here which in turn lightens the burden of their challenges.

The Moravian Star brought to mind that Sandra and I were married by a Moravian Chaplain at the main chapel on Fort Belvior. I am in Virginia this week for training and appreciate the means that allow me to keep abreast of your challenges. Remember we are here as you have need of us.

God Bless,
BoB E. & Sandra

Anonymous said...

Greg: God bestow on you hope, peace, strength, and comfort. Ann in Maryland

Scott Rogers said...

Greg:
I've followed you now for nigh on 5 years. Each time I read of you giving us what seems like dreaded news, I am overcome with emotion when I see the attitude with which you face each new challenge. You've been more of an encourager to me than I have been to you in that your attitude seems to be "Well, this is what it is, so let's do it." I hope that, should the day come when I'm handed the dreaded diagnosis, that I'll face it with the same head-on courage that you've displayed.
Thank you, dear brother, for who you are and for the attitude that you possess.