Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

World Cancer Day 2017


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I am certain that I am not the only one who has dealt with cancer.  I know that I am not the only one who has lost a family member or friend to this awful disease.  I am not the only one who has survived cancer just to suffer with late effects from the treatments that put me into remission decades ago.

Cancer has taken so many from my family, both of my grandmothers, my grandfather, my father, and my sister.

Cancer has taken so many of my friends.  Michael.  Dolly.  Davina.  And so many more.

There are many who get to live on with their lives following their treatments, waiting to hear the words, “You are in remission.”  I know too many who deal with late side effects that were unknown could develop when we were treated, several of those side effects life threatening.  And I know too many that have passed away from complications of those side effects.

On this day, I remember each and every one of you.

A Smile Has Left…


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It seem like that last year and half, the world of music has just been devastated by losses of talent, influence, and just great music.  Again, music has lost another great musician, John Wetton, most notably of the 80’s super group, Asia.  He was just 67 years old, but had battled several serious issues late in his life from alcohol abuse, cardiac disease, and ultimately, it would be cancer that would take his life.

I can relate to Wetton on many things.  I was a huge fan of Asia, one of a handful of bands that I possess every recording, and not just their “hits” years of the early 1980’s.  And when it came to vocals, I honestly believe my voice is quite similar, if not identical to Wetton’s.  I had enough practice singing his lyrics in the indoor arena known as my car.  Although I was one of millions who thought Asia was going to be around forever, not many were like me, that there was a lot of inspiration and experience that made up this group.  Members of the band came from other great groups such as Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Uriah Heep, King Crimson, Yes, and the Buggles (“Video Killed The Radio Star”).  I actually got to hear Wetton sing Downes’ “Video Killed the Radio Star” during Asia’s original lineup reunion.  I went from growing up thinking there were just two types of music, pop and country to learning that with FM radio, there were actually different forms of rock, including this type of progressive rock of Asia.

Over the last year, I have been saddened by all the passings of such great musicians like Glen Frey of the Eagles, David Bowie, Prince, George Michael and so on.

But it is not just because of the music of Asia, now being silenced (although surviving band member and co-founder Geoff Downes has stated Asia will go on), but other connections to Wetton that I have.

Though details are not discussed, Wetton had heart surgery.  I know that very well myself, that surviving a diagnosis of heart disease, can result in a re-birth if you will, of life.  And it seemed lyrically, on many of Wetton’s many band projects, not just Asia, but collaboration Icon partner Geoff Downes, and Wetton’s own solo work, religion seemed to find its way into many of the songs.

But it was colon cancer, that turned out to be too much for Wetton.  He had been battling it for a couple of years, after discovering a 1 kilogram tumor.  A quote in an interview following his diagnosis was advice from Wetton, for everyone to get checked.  It is a known fact, that your chances of surviving colon cancer, is to get it taken care of sooner than later.  And often times, pre-cancerous polyps are discovered during colonoscopies and removed, before they get the chance to turn into cancer.  And that should be a good thing.

So, why do not more people get colonoscopies done?  As a long term cancer survivor myself of nearly 28 years, I have to get colonoscopies every 2-3 years, while those without pre-existing conditions often only need to get them done once every 10 years once they hit 50 years of age.  Again, if polyps are found, they get removed before they turn into cancer.  And if they are cancerous, the cancer is treated sooner, than after severe symptoms reveal themselves (such as 1 kilo tumor).

There are a couple reasons I know of why some refuse to get colonoscopies.  One makes absolutely no sense, and is generally only considered by men.  The other, is generally agreed upon by both genders.

It is hard to believe that men often avoid colonoscopies, because they are afraid of “being turned gay.”  Because of how the procedure is performed, there are absolutely some men, who are afraid that they will develop homosexual tendencies.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  And I know from talking to some who expressed this irrational fear, expressed an embarrassment for feeling this way, following their colonoscopy.

For the rest, many complain about prepping for the colonoscopy, because of the amount of fluid that must be consumed to help “clean out” the body.  Feelings of bloating and nausea can be overwhelming.  And once you have gone through one, of course you know what to expect in upcoming colonoscopies, seemingly enough of a deterrent to not go through another colonoscopy.

But the fact is, colonoscopies save lives.  And though it did not make national headlines, the late John Wetton of Asia, made it clear, the importance of getting screened.

Because of my love for music, I do have a tendency to take the deaths of musician a bit more hard especially compared to other celebrities or athletes.  But because of a connection I felt to Wetton, musically, cardiac, and cancer, his death is hitting me a bit harder.

Amusement Parks – A Fun Job – Great Memories


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I am not big on reunions, family, class or any kind.  For one, they are usually expensive.  Another reason, they often end up being about a “who’s who” or “success stories” since the good old days.  But an invitation came across my Facebook newsfeed, inviting me to special reunion which honestly has me quite intrigued.

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Dorney Park was the first amusement park I can remember ever hearing about.  There was no Disneyworld for me.  Dorney Park was just a short drive away, and because of the unique access to the park itself, and the rides, it was quite the bargain.

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Dorney Park had no admission.  You could actually drive through the middle of Dorney Park.  At one time, the road going through the park was a state road going from Allentown, Pa to Reading.  So, grandparents could simply park in the parking lot, buy a book of tickets (pictured above), and sit on a park bench while watching the grandchildren have a great time.

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Of course, Dorney Park was notorious for other things besides amusement rides.  They had stock car races that I remember my father taking me to when I was younger.  At the bottom of the park, on their “lake” was Castle Gardens, a former roller skating rink/dance hall.  You might describe it as the ultimate entertainment center, especially during the 1960’s and 1970’s and 1980’s.  And anyone who lived nearby got a great view of seasonal fireworks.

Most of us who grew up in the area would eventually look to Dorney Park as a great opportunity at a first official job as the area’s leading employer of Summer help.  There were many levels of jobs there based upon your age qualifications from someone sweeping the pavement to food services to games, and the ultimate and coolest job, ride operator.  This was even better than being a supervisor at the park.

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I would actually do two stints at Dorney Park, the first was in the Summer of 1981.  I was only 15 years old at that point, so I had the choice of working in the food stands or game stands.  Either way, because of work laws, I was only going to be able to work five hours per day.  Along the way, I actually learned quite a bit of secrets of carnival games as a result.  But it was two years later, as I turned 17 and graduated from high school, I REALLY enjoyed working at Dorney Park.

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The first ride I got to operate, was one of the most popular rides in the park to run.  It was cool because not only was it a fun ride, but I got to listen to an 8-track of awesome music (as awesome as 1983 music could be) all day long.  As a ride operator, we generally worked full days from open to close.  Throughout the Summer, I would get to operate most of the rides in the park from the roller coaster that I rode as a young boy to the log flume and more.

I got to make a lot of friends, who worked at the park, and some who visited the park.  After our shift ended, we would turn our uniform short inside out (a weird rule, but we were not allowed to appear as a working employee riding the rides).  After hours, things really got turned up a notch as we often got to have some special fun on rides once the park had closed.  On the Iceberg, like a “teacup” ride, we would actually bring a football inside and play “rugby” tossing the football from car to car.  Or as one challenge we had, riding the “Monster” with the challenge to make the rider vomit.  This ride resembled an octopus with its arms going up and down while spinning around and there was a mechanical trick you could do, which would cause extra force as the arms lifted up or dropped down.  Ah, good times.

At the end of the season, a reward for those employees who stayed until the end of the park season, we got to pick up a bonus paycheck.  The day that I went to pick up my bonus check, I got more than I wanted.

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A fire had started in the afternoon in a food concession stand, supposedly during some end of year maintenance.  The stand was located next to a wooden carousel, and nearly half the park went up in flames.  There were others who had come to the park that day to pick up that check.  Many, like me, had not only been employees, but grew up in that park.  And now, it was gone.  Nearly everything.

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The above photo after the fire was taken by local newspaper, The Morning Call.

Of course, the park rebuilt, bigger, fancier.  They closed the road that went through the park, and put a fence all around the park.  Gone were the $.10 tickets to ride rides, the park went “pay one price”.  A few years later, a huge water park was added.  Along with both of these moves, came much higher prices.  Soon, the park I had grown up with, had become like all the other amusement parks nearby, Hershey Park, Great Adventure.  But it was no longer like the park that I wanted to remember.

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As a parent, I took my daughters there on a couple of occasions.  And that was the first time that I had been back to the park since the big fire.  And though I enjoyed the day of hearing my daughters laugh, deep down inside, it hurt.  And I definitely did not enjoy Dorney Park anymore.

But this invitation has sparked a memory for me.  And I am intrigued.  The reunion is geared to employees who worked at the park from 1980-1985, which I worked two of those years, and made a lot of friends.  As much as it hurt to visit the park in its current operations, I can actually imagine conversations about the park in the good old days.  Sneaking into Castle Gardens after the park was closed (it was age restricted – over 21 for men, 18 for women) or heading out to a midnight movie with a group of other park employees.

But I also think it might actually be a bit healing for some of us, who were there on that sad day in 1983, to share stories and thoughts about that day.  And to definitely think about the days when the park was actually a family park.  And we should know… we grew up there.

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