Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

“I’m Not Fat, I’m Big Boned!”


“I’m not fat, I’m big boned!”, quoted by Eric Cartman from the Comedy Network cartoon show “South Park”.  It is a crude cartoon, sophomoric and satirical.  But with my sense of humor, I did enjoy the show for the brief time that I watched it.  But his quote was one of the first infamous lines, when his little friend called him “fat”, Cartman barked back, “I’m not fat, I’m big boned!”

Long before the television show, I actually tried to use that excuse while visiting my family physician.  One of the undesirable long term effects that I have struggled the most with, is a weight gain during and following my cancer treatment.  Most people when going through chemotherapy often lose weight.  But because I was taking high doses of prednisone for the eight months of treatments, prednisone – a steroid, increased my appetite, which of course resulted in a weight gain.  This was complicated with the destruction of my thyroid from radiation treatments that I had prior to the chemo.  The thyroid is responsible for regulating your metabolism, which of course, controls your weight.  With a thyroid not working properly, it is only common sense, you would have weight issues.

In 1997, as part of an employment hiring, I was required to get a company physical.  I sailed through everything.  And then oddly, something I had never had done in any physical ever, they did some sort of bone density exam on me.  And the result was that I had “a large frame”.  Okay, I stand only five foot seven.  And I was still under the 200 pound mark, so I would never have considered myself “large frame”.  But having discussed my weight concerns with my family doctor in the past, I now had a new theory.

Large frame body = big bones = big bones weigh more

Yep.  That was my logic, and I was sticking to it.  And so, on my next visit to my doctor, I actually tried to use this reasoning on her.  Now keep in mind, any reference I have ever made about my family physician, I have always been appreciative, admirable, and respectful of her.  She also has a great sense of humor too as I soon found out after I actually asked her about the possibility that the reason I was overweight was because I was big boned.  I just found out I was a “large frame” which meant my bones had to be heavier, which would mean I would weigh more.

Officially, she gave me a response, “are you serious?” and we immediately followed a different direction.  She was not going to entertain that theory any further, and honestly, it was a reach.  After all, my bones had always been “large framed” my whole life, and at one point in my life, I was quite a lot of pounds lighter before my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

But I am really at a loss.  More than seventeen years later, weight is still an issue for me.  I take thyroid medication, but still not weight loss.  I cannot exercise strenuously because of other cancer treatment side effects that I deal with for my heart, lungs, spine, and muscles.  But I do at least some light exercising nearly every day in the form of walking.  I have wonderful support to help me with controlling my diet, both portion size and actual content.  I have a professional dietician working with me, who encourages me not to be discouraged by the numbers, that it is about how I feel, and how my clothing fits (called a moral victory).

Because of other long term side effects I deal with, I have had several gastroenterology tests performed over the years, and while not great news for other issues, they did not reveal anything per se as far as the issue with my weight.

My struggles as a long term cancer survivor, cardiac, pulmonary, muscular, spinal, immunological, endocrine, psychological, gastro, and more, my weight seems more of just an inconvenience given everything else I deal with in terms of survivorship.

I will keep exercising.  I will keep watching what I eat.  I also am prepared to accept that I just might not be able to help my weight any more than I am.  Maybe I am really just “big boned.”


An Odd Observation

I was sitting in a restaurant recently finishing my meal, when another patron came up to me and said, “Well you don’t look too concerned about Ebola.”  Besides the fact that I am not very used to total strangers coming up to me and starting a discussion while I am eating, it was a very strange way to start a conversation.  Not to mention the fact, I am used to being the one who people watches.  Now I know I am being watched.

But getting back to the comment from the stranger.  I know that I would have much preferred to have been asked how I liked my meal, or perhaps if I knew where the restroom was.  But my concern about Ebola?

Long summary short, I have many health issues, very complicated, and one of those deals with my immunological deficiencies.  In other words, it is very easy for me to contract things such as the flu, pneumonia, and yes, I would have to assume Ebola.  I can also come down with Chicken Pox, SARS, bird flu, swine flu, strep throat, measles, mumps, and the list goes on, all from exposure to others.  As you can see though, I do not live in a plastic bubble afraid of what I might come down with (as opposed to those it is a life threatening situation and are required to live in that manner unfortunately).

I am also going to throw in my experience working with biohazards.


I saw signs like this frequently during my career in medical research.  And in spite of my immunity issues, and against the advice from my doctors to avoid this kind of exposure, it was a job that I took great personal pride in doing, because ultimately, I believed I was taking part in finding cures for various and many serious diseases.  I was willing to do this job because I knew the precautions that I took to avoid contamination and exposure.  There was various personal protective equipment that had to be worn, and strict protocol for disinfecting equipment and myself prior to entering public thoroughfares.  You see, I was not just complying for the well being of everyone else, but for my own health, I needed to do it as well.  But if all protocols are followed, and the proper personal protection equipment is worn, then the risk of contamination is near zero.  So even in an environment that had very high risk for my health, I know that I was confident in the work that I performed.

So getting back to the odd introduction, I am more than aware of the word Ebola.  I am also aware of the “politics” of this awful disease as it is being hyped up by conservative and liberal news networks and the cartoonish fantasy network of Fox news.  Just like weather forecasters who strike fear into viewers with storms of the century and millennium, nowhere in my childhood and early adulthood (for the sake of math, the 1970’s, 1980’s and mid 1990’s) did I see the fear struck into viewers that caused mad rushes to grocery stores to empty shelves of food, and snow shovels and snow blowers from every hardware store.  The fact is, the media only cares about ratings, and the only way to get ratings is to shock and scare us.  It is up to us not to buy into these actions.  And the woman was right, I am not concerned about Ebola.

When I adopted my first daughter, my family had to deal with the deadly SARS virus.  In fact, that virus actually stopped the adoption process all together for China.  But as the illness was deemed under control, not eliminated, we were allowed to travel.  When we went to adopt our second daughter, we were then dealing with deadly “bird flu”.  There was no delay in the adoption process this time, nor any restrictions.  Then several years ago, we had to deal with deadly “swine flu.”  It was this particular deadly virus that forced my doctors to push harder than ever to get a vaccine that I did not want to get.

But the common flu kills more people every year, than Ebola has claimed victims.  Where is the outrage and fear to isolate patients and people exposed to the common flu?  How about parents who knowingly send kids to school already sick and contagious with whooping cough risking mass exposure to the school population?  Recently a PA courthouse was shut down for two days to deal with an infestation of bed bugs brought in by a dangerous mom hiding the critters in her stroller used for her child.  There are many other examples of people being irresponsible with risks to other people’s lives.  Where is the fear mongering by the opinions of news networks just trying to get ratings?

I am by no means making light of a deadly disease.  And it is deadly if contracted and not treated properly.  But it is not our president who is responsible for the spread of Ebola.  It is not our governors responsible for the spread of Ebola.  If it spreads, it is because of irresponsible workers or selfish people who do not want to inconvenience their leisure activities.  And even the same networks who fueled the fire of fear have representatives “eating their own” stating that the hyping of the spread of Ebola needs to stop (Fox’s Shepard Smith).

Over a decade ago, the biggest attack on our nation’s soil prompted many to question whether it would ever be safe to fly again.  And the majority of us never gave it a thought, regardless of the many opinionated newscasts who constantly urged us to be afraid, be very afraid.

So again, this time our country faces yet another attack, this time biological, and the media has successfully scared many into believing that they will contract Ebola.

I have enough on my plate to worry about.  I must travel on Monday and Tuesday inside a flying canister trapped with other passengers.  I am certain that I will hear at least one person cough.  It could even be me as the dry air has a tendency to cause this.  But I will not be wearing a “surgical mask” (for the record, this will never prevent you from catching something that is airborne because it does not seal completely around your mouth and nose – and for men with facial hair, you cannot even wear something that will work, a respirator, because it cannot seal over your facial hair.).

I am going to arrive and return, and without Ebola or having been exposed to it.  No, I am not concerned about Ebola.  Thank you for asking.


Okay.  So my post yesterday raised quite a buzz about the legalization of medicinal marijuana, blurring into recreational use as well.  I want to state something right from the “getgo”.  I have no fight in the desire to legalize recreational use of marijuana.  I do not use it, I do not plan to use it.  But in all honesty, as long as there is cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption, which is proven to kill, I will not accept pot as harmful.  As long as cigarettes, alcohol, prescriptions meds, all proven to be addictive, I will not accept the concerns about pot being addictive.  I will not accept the term “gateway” drug to describe marijuana use, when cigarettes and alcohol are the actual gateways to altering the mind.  And as for intoxicating effects, alcohol is far more dangerous than marijuana.  Yet marijuana is the only thing that is illegal.  I am done discussing the recreational use.

My views yesterday, were in support of legalizing medicinal use of marijuana for patients suffering from pain and other severe issues from chronic and terminal diagnosis.  Again, I want to make the distinction, I did not have this available to me during my times of crippling pain, but had the option been there, instead of taking addicting opiods, yes, I would have opted for legal medicinal marijuana.  This treatment option definitely would make a difference to the patient.  But let’s be clear, it would hit the pockets of Big Pharm pretty hard, and of course, we don’t want that do we?  That was sarcasm.

I also want to make it clear, I do not believe that medicinal marijuana is the only option available to treating people suffering from crippling and fatal diseases.  But it does need to be an option.  Medicine has no issue prescribing addictive medications that are just brutal when trying to stop taking them with withdrawal side effects often worse than the original symptoms they were prescribed to treat.  I have seen people be “zombified” with prescribed psychotropic drugs because the doctor felt nothing else would work.

A couple of comments that were offered to me though offered yet another option that I did not discuss.  To be honest, I believe in them as well in some cases.


Meditation is wonderful, if you have an environment that will allow it.  I often take myself “away”, and yes, I can find quite a bit of calmness when it comes to dealing with my daily stresses of life.  But it would definitely not work for some of the issues that I had to deal with.  I am also a believer in Reiki, a new alternative of relaxation concentrating on negative energy in a body.  I have to admit, that I was not a believer in this at first, but when I saw it performed on an animal, who for all intents and purposes was about to be euthanized due to its crippled condition, the animal miraculously recovered in less than two days, and actually lived another two years.

I am also a big proponent of immersing my auditory senses with music.  I place the headphones on my ears, put the Ipod on “shuffle” and I can disappear for long periods of time.  I also believe in “positive imaging.”

But the truth of the matter is this.  Not everything works for everyone.  But everything works for someone.  And that is why I made the argument and stand by my statement that medicinal marijuana needs to be legalized as an option for patients who otherwise will suffer from their ailments.  That is the humane thing to do.

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