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, November 3, 2010

Weather update

I've been taking cover a bit, trying to weather the tempest of symptoms and facts and experts and results and thoughts and emotions.  Thunderstorms usually present themselves more violently than they turn out.  The rain is coming down now, but I feel I can collect my thoughts enough to attempt to update everyone on what has been happening.

I'll try to approach this anatomically, by part of the body, rather than chronologically or philosophically or for entertainment value.

Lung function.  My left lung was completely shut off by a lymph node tumor this summer.  This tumor was part of the targeted area of radiation I had in June.  Over the past few weeks, I am thankfully experiencing an amazing surprise - a development one pulmonologist gave me no hope for - the lung has opened up.  This was followed by non-stop sometimes violent coughing for a few weeks, and now the coughing has reduced close to none.   I continue to use supplemental oxygen when I sleep.  It is available, too, to me upon exertion, but I rarely need it.

Heart problems.  The protective sac around my heart has fluid in it that is not supposed to be there.  ("pericardial effusion", they call it)  It was causing some alarming symptoms that landed me in the hospital for close observation for three nights.  It seemed likely they would have to do some sort of surgical procedure to relieve the pressure, but the situation has stabilized with steroids and they sent me home.  I have to take it easy and go in regularly to see the cardiologist and get an echo-cardiogram.  Other than some little pangs now and then, the symptoms have not returned in the ten days since getting out.  This fluid could be side effects of the radiation, in which case it may not worsen, or it could be something cancer-related, in which case it could worsen.

Lung tumors.  When they did a scan of the heart, they unfortunately discovered "multiple" new lung nodules in the area that was not radiated this summer.  Big bummer.  On the grand scale, this news outweighs all this other stuff.  This necessitates some sort of systemic treatment (chemotherapy) rather than locally targeted therapy (radiation or surgery).  The bag of tricks is nearly empty for this.  I will likely begin such treatment in a few weeks.  More on this below.

Elbow mass.  A tumor has developed adjacent to my ulner nerve (the "funny bone").  This has been growing in pain and size.  From an annoyance a few months ago, to loss of strength and feeling in my hand, to throbbing pain.  It threatens me daily.  Ever so slowly but surely.  This problem was deemed the most immediate by my doctors and straightforward in treating.  I began radiation on it today.  For thirteen straight weekdays, I go in for the treatment.  It is like getting an xray, but for a couple minutes rather than a split second.  I don't feel it, and it is supposed to cause only minimal side effects.  The pain could get better in days, the hand strength in weeks (including guitar playing, which is necessary for me to endure everything else), and full healing months.

Head bump.  A tiny bump on my head has grown into a painful mass over an inch wide in just a few weeks.  I was imagining the worst, so was delighted yesterday to find out the CT scan report that the problem is indeed tiny - too small, even to biopsy.  There is just swelling around it.  More importantly, it is entirely outside the skull and has not affected the bone at all.  My precious brain remains cozy and safe.  Like the elbow mass, this could be killed with radiation if it proves cancerous.  But for now, I can table the issue, take some pain pills, and concentrate on other things.   

While that is a long list, if you ask me how I am today, I'd say good.  I am in little distress and am on a plan to get the elbow pain eliminated and my hand function back.  Radiation is easy stuff, so this is like another three-week break.  The worse thing about it is having to deal with Central Expressway daily.  My friends and family have been loving me well, and, I hope, I them.   Life is becoming so precious that I don't even like to sleep anymore, lest I let any more of it slip away.  

My in-laws, the Murrays, happened to come visit me from their home in Switzerland the week I ended up in the hospital.  Christine was possibly going to come that same week, but again her circumstances kept her stuck in her own painful condition.  With my hospitalization, my plans with the Murrays for the week had to be adjusted, to say the least.  But the time together was more special, and dare I say, fun.   

Finally, another surprise development is that my senior college roommate, Joe Martins, reconnected with me after some twenty years out of touch.  We had a great time as roommates.  While we drifted apart, reconnecting was one of those natural time-travel sort of deals, transporting us right back to the days wasting time in our since-demolished dorm room.  Joe, it turns out, ended up an oncologist and has been helping me tremendously as I sort through all the decisions and tests between my Presbyterian-Dallas and MD Anderson-Houston medical care.   He came over one evening, scoured through old medical records, and may have discovered a chemo protocol I took in '05 that may not be "used up" on me yet.  Although it is the nastiest of all the treatments I've had, it provides an alternative to the purely experimental last option I had.  Final decisions have not been made yet as to what chemo I will take in a few weeks, but I am thankful for my friend and this timing.

A final thought comes from a book I recently read on suffering by poet Scott Cairns.
The very notion of the Holy Trinity (in whose image we are made) should lead us to suspect that personhood requires relationship, that genuine personhood depends upon it... My hope for healing, therefore, lies more in my becoming more of a person, and more intimately connected to others.  To succeed as we are all called to succeed, we must all come to share this hope.


dyk49264 said...

Thank you for the quote. Now I understand that personhood is the true image of God. I pray for you and another tough round of treatment, and for Christine's pain.

Andrea Hines Marshall said...

Hi Greg,
I'm really happy to hear that things are going well for you. I think about you often, and I hope we can see each other sometime in the future; most likely at our Berkner 30th reunion in 2016. Can you beleive we've been out of high school that long? =)

DWMC said...

We prayed for you earlier this AM and are grateful for your post and, more, that you continue to have that spirit and Love of God that we all treasure. We continue to pray and He continues to love you and us.

RichardGoodrich said...

Enjoyed your update and you are never far from my prayers.

Don C said...

Praise God for the courage He has given you. We pray for you and Christine and your family! Don & Joyce

todd said...

Thanks for the update. We will continue to keep you in our prayers. We are all pulling for you at DLP.

On a serious mention of the Rangers making the World Series?

Greg said...

Todd - you're right, that is weird, no Rangers mention.

GTT said...

Thanks Greg for the blow-by-blow update. We have been praying for you and of course will continue.

Thanks too for the quote -- yes. Relationships are the hardest thing, I think, and also the most important thing in life, with God and others.


Dave Thom said...

Dude, you're an original. Thanks for the update. As Todd said, no Rangers comment? I was pulling for them in your honor. My guess: you've already thrown out a first pitch for them at some point?

Unknown said...

Will share the quote with my EFM class. We are informed with each of your posts. Thank you for your love, and know how much love comes your way. We pray for you each day and in our prayers give thanks for your continuing demonstration of faith. As they say in Round Rock, You ROCK DUDE!

Anonymous said...

OK, he shows up after 2 decades, he's an oncologist, he has a heart for pouring through your mountain of medical records and he might have found one option that was not there before he discovered it . . WOW!

Joe Martins gets MVP of the month or off-season or something!

By the way, both my boys wore their Rangers hats to our local Mexican place tonight. Northern California has been draped in orange and black. One cannot even go for mountain bike ride in the backcountry without seeing someone prominently wearing Giants stuff.

Even after reading this long list of garbage going on in your body I am rejoicing for you and His goodness.

May your sleep be short and life be beautiful . . because of Him,


Joe M said...

Not one for undeserved praise, I have to point out that I didn't need to pore through mountains of records ... the engineer already had a very nice simple and easy to read chart to refer to ...

Everything else Greg wrote was true, though ... it was like being back in our dorm again ... I only wish we had time for some backgammon ... maybe next time