Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

What’s Your Sign? Mine Is Cancer.


One of the most common issues I come across patients is when it comes to dating, when is the right time to discuss that you had cancer, and as in my case, some very serious late developing side effects.  I had originally wrote this in various forms, but felt this small script would illustrate a lighter side, to hopefully take some pressure off wondering when would be the right time.  I will write about my own personal experience in a near future post.  As always, feel free to comment or ask questions, if you can relate to this type of problem.

 

“My name is Stephen. I have a friend named Paul. Poor guy. He is in the middle of his second divorce. If only that were the hardest of his problems. He is not a bad looking guy, and he is really nice. But for the first time in twenty-four years, he is heading back into the dating pool, that’s not the hardest this got. In that twenty-four years, he had to battle cancer and some late developing side effects from the treatments.

He has been reluctant to date, because he wants to be honest about his medical history, but has no idea, when the time would be right to bring his health up. I told him to go with his heart. He would know when. And with that, I set him up on a dinner date with a friend of mine, Josephine. They are about the same age, attractive, both have hearts of gold, and unfortunately share something in common.”

 

Hostess:              If you follow me sir, your guest is already seated at your table.

Paul:                      Thank you.

Hostess:              Here you are sir, may I introduce you to Josephine.

Paul:                      Nice to meet you.

Josephine:         Nice to meet you too.

Hostess:              Your waitress will be right by to take your drink orders.

A couple of minutes pass as Paul and Josephine exchange some chit chat. The waitress stops by the table.

Waitress:            Good evening. My name is Alyssa and I’ll be your server this evening. Can I get either of you something to drink?

Josephine:          I would like a glass of cabernet please.

Paul:                      I will have a glass of Yuengling Lager, and I had cancer twenty-three years ago, (he says softly and very quickly under his breath).

Josephine snaps her attention to Paul, unsure of what he just said following the word lager.

Waitress:            Very well. I’ll be right back with your drinks and to take your orders.

Paul:                      So Josephine, it is really nice to meet you. Please, tell me about yourself.

Josephine:          Well, I’m originally from New Jersey but have lived here for about ten years. I have two grown children. How about you?

Paul:                      I’m originally from Pennsylvania and moved here recently. (The waitress returns with the drinks) I have two children that I adopted from China because chemo left me unable to have biological children (once again much too softly and quickly for Josephine to hear what he has said)

Waitress:            And here you go… Cabernet for you Miss and a Yuengling for you sir. Are you ready to order?

Josephine is really confused at this point but nods “yes”.

Paul:                      Yes, we are.

Waitress:            For you Ma’am?

Josephine:          I’ll have the mussels for an appetizer, a Caesar salad, and the baked mozzarella ravioli with Shrimp in Alfredo sauce.

Waitress:            And for you sir?

Paul:                      I tried radiation first I’ll have the house pirogues with the garlic butter sauce… (Josephine now really concentrating on Paul’s seemingly subliminal conversation) And I too will have a Caesar salad because chemo worked better. And I would like the sirloin cooked medium my Hodgkin’s lymphoma was rare enough.

Waitress:            Very well. I will put your order in right away.

Josephine:         (looking for clarification) So Paul, you were saying… you have two children…

Paul:                      Yes, two beautiful daughters. I work as a laboratory assistant for a pharmaceutical company as a way to pay forward, for medicine finding a cure for me.

Josephine now totally confused, asks Paul…

Josephine:          Is there something that you need to tell me?

Paul:                      Actually there is. I just don’t know where to start. I’m attracted to you. And you are definitely a wonderful woman. But I’m afraid that what I am about to tell you, might ruin any chance I might have to get to know you better.

Josephine:          Why don’t you let me decide? What’s on your mind?

Paul:                      I am a cancer survivor. I had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma twenty-four years ago. I have had to deal with some pretty nasty late developing side effects since then. But for the most part I am healthy otherwise.

Josephine:          I must tell you, I wasn’t expecting to hear that at all. But guess what? My son, who is twenty-three just completed his treatments for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and I’m sure he would love to meet someone who has survived for so long. It won’t happen right now, he’s recovering from his own complication from his treatments as well. That is actually what I am doing here. I have been staying here while he’s recovering in the hospital.

 

Stephen: Sometimes when we least expect it, and not looking for it, opportunity finds us. At times, it is more than just an opportunity; it might just be much bigger than that.

Just Because You Cannot See It


There are plenty of side effects that come about from treatments for cancer, whether it be from surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy.  Some are quite obvious and visible, others cannot be seen.  Then of course, for the cancer patient, it becomes a matter of whether it is worth anyone’s attention.

I had and still swear by a couple of rules when it comes to dealing with side effects.  If it is anything different than what the norm was, you make the call to the oncologist.  The oncologist will be able to tell, and would make any decision that would require immediate action.

Like I said, there are obvious side effects that can be seen –  hair loss, weight loss, lethargy, skin color.  But perhaps the most concerning for patients, is just so complicated, because it cannot be seen.  To complicate matters, perception, how a cancer patient worries about this side effect, can actually cause more duress trying to deny it causing cancer patients to deny it.  This is not a good thing.  Your doctor is going to know best whether what you are feeling is normal, expected, or needs to be looked into further.  You could be having a reaction to the treatment, or perhaps it could be psychosomatic in nature.  The key is to never underestimate how you are feeling.  If it is an emergency, trust me, your doctor will make an immediate decision and direct you what you need to do.

Fatigue is simply put, exhaustion.  Not just “phew – I put in 8 hours today, went to the gym, did some grocery shopping, and barely had enough energy to cook dinner.”  No fatigue is much worse than that.  Because treatments deplete the body of the many blood cells it needs to survive, cancer patients are often left with barely enough energy to get from a chair in their living room, grab a little snack in the kitchen, and sit back down without being completely exhausted.

I have often told cancer patients who have asked me about fatigue, I put it simply, “if you feel like putting a new roof on the house, go for it.  But if you cannot even get up to change the channel on the television (like we used to do as far back as the early 1980’s), then don’t”.  It sounded like a silly suggestion, but from the first time, that a patient tries to push their energy level, they remember the little voice I put in their head warning them if they did not listen to their body.

But you see, dealing with fatigue is complicated.  If you are like me, or my late father, we were never the type to sit around, or ask for help with anything.  If something needed to be done, we did what we had to, and then we paid for it dearly.  But being forced into a nap is the least of the worries in dealing with fatigue.  We are not only wearing ourselves out mentally, and physically, but we are challenging our bodies to keep up when it so desperately needs rest.

Radiation therapy is harmful to the body.  Great in curing cancer, but harmful.   Most chemotherapy is toxic to the body.  Great in curing cancer, but toxic.  Both treatments erode our body’s immune system, which, if we push ourselves physically more than we should, it only wears our immune system down even quicker.

So we have to deal with fatigue ourselves.  But I talked about perception, from a patient’s perspective.  But because fatigue can only be felt and not seen, we as cancer patients often burden ourselves with how we are seen by those around us.  The most common perception we feel being directed at us is that we are lazy.  Unless you are actually dealing with a situation as severe as cancer, a person is most likely never going to know what true fatigue feels like, and we have to be willing to admit, there is probably going to be some sort of judgment.  We have to be willing to accept that we, WE, have to only concerns with how we treat ourselves when going through times like these.  Sounds easy I know.  I have been on the harassment side of co-workers who felt fatigue was bullshit.

By the second week of my radiation treatments, I was going to bed at least two hours earlier than usual, and by the end of the treatments, I was usually in bed by 7pm.  During my chemotherapy, it was not unusual for me to sleep fifteen to seventeen hours after my injections, followed by early bed times.  Of course the body does rebound, if you give it the chance, and then do not push it.

The fact is, fatigue is real.  Just because others cannot see it, you can feel it.

Listen to your body.  It will tell you what you can do, and cannot.

In Defense Of Adrian Peterson????


The headlines on one of my Facebook feeds read, “Coach’s Disgusting Defense Of Adrian Peterson:  If Family Member ‘Has Cancer, You Don’t Turn Your Back On Them.  You Keep Fighting For Them.”

This headline enraged me to the point, that I did not know where I wanted to begin.

First, the only thing accurate and decent to state, is that the coach is correct.  You do not turn your back on a family member who is battling cancer.

But if you want to make a comparison to cancer, the “cancer” which appears to be growing not just in the NFL, but now spotlighted on the Minnesota Vikings management and head coach is you.  How dare you compare someone who is in the fight of their life, to someone who is totally defenseless against a monster who beats the child to the point of leaving horrifying wounds?  As a cancer survivor myself, I know the difference, do you?  Clearly you do not.

I will first say, I am not a spanking parent.  I never have been, and never will.  I was never spanked as a child.  After all, what is the less you teach a child?  Mr. Peterson, you might be able to answer this one quite easily as you have repeatedly justified the scars on your child’s body, because you were “whooped” also.  But the lesson simple, you spank a child who is doing something bad, to make them behave and good.  Therefore, violence makes things good.  This is not silly, this is fact.

There was outrage decades ago, and demands for international intervention because some dumb 19 year old teenager, Michael Fay, had vandalized a property in the country of Singapore and had been sentenced to “caning”.  For us back in the states, look at the wounds on the child abused by Peterson.  We all heard the conversation on the wounds and welts that would be left from being whipped by a bamboo stick (back here, it is referred to as a “switch”).  Where are the demands for clemency for the defenseless child who was acting as nothing more than a child.  Not a mischievous young adult looking for trouble.

No, I do not believe in spanking.  I believe if a parent starts discipline right away, instead of being worried about being friends with their child, spankings would definitely be avoidable.  But for many, the spoiled behaviors of some children often compel parents to respond in a way that a parent feels has no other choice.  And I have seen my share of tantrums by other children, and as much as I detest those tantrums, I know they are just manipulations to get attention, so I ignore them.  You do not believe me?  Next time you are in a toy store, or amusement park, watch a child who is throwing a classic “I want this” or “I wanna stay” tantrum.  As they are screaming, they are looking all around to see who is looking.  The child knows the parent will do whatever they can to get the child to be quiet and behave so as not to be embarrassed.  But watch, disappear around the corner, out of sight, take a look back at the child, and often times they are looking for who will support them next.

My post is not meant to tell how parents how to raise children.  I am not an expert, just a an expert at raising my own children.

No, my post is about defending a thug by comparing it to a fight with mortality, dealing with cancer.

First, the NFL, you are disgusting for not taking any further action against Peterson.  He has admitted that he assaulted the child.

Next, the Minnesota Vikings, you have shown your true colors.  True, your team might only be that one person, who had the potential for being one of the greatest running backs, but how does that compare when you have shown all you care about is protecting your franchise team win-loss record by reinstating Peterson after your loss on Sunday?  A one game deactivation has taught the thug a lesson?  Very nice.  Remember my analogy, teaching that punishment makes right?  What is the lesson here?  Scarring a four-year old child for life = 1 game and pay.

But Head Coach Mike Zimmer… you are supposed to be a leader.  A leader is supposed to have empathy and understanding and compassion.  A four year old now bears scars from the hands of someone six times his size and ten times his strength, and will have those scars the rest of his life.  And you choose to defend this thug by comparing him to someone who is battling cancer.  There is a huge difference (and I want to stress, I am not using the vocabulary that I really want to use to illustrate my disgust with you as a human being).  I could have died from the cancer I had.  The child could have died from not only the beating (how many headlines have we read that someone beat a child to death because it just would not stop crying), but also from infections had the wounds not been treated properly.  If anything, the child who was so badly abused can be compared to having family stand behind him/her as they recover from the abuse.  But Peterson.  HELL NO!  You do not get to compare him to standing behind someone who is fighting cancer.  You are a piece of garbage for not only making that statement, but for believing it, and condoning Peterson’s admitted behavior.

Look, I am a huge fan of pro-football.  But I also believe in integrity.

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