Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the day “January 13, 2013”

Working While Going Through Treatments Or Not Recovered Enough


It is amazing.  From the moment I was diagnosed with my cancer, I could feel the resentment from my co-workers.  Think about it.  When we hear of someone having cancer we think, “aw, poor guy” or “why her” and most likely some other stereotypical responses.  But for some reason, from co-workers, unless there has been some sort of life-time bond,  will most likely feel resentment.  My co-workers in 1988 were not different.  I did my best to minimize my time lost from work for diagnostics and treatments.  In fact, in nine months of chemo, I missed a total of eighteen hours of work.  That’s right.  I missed the last hour of work, two days a month.  And my co-workers were jealous of me for it.

If I need to be fair, because I really did not talk about what I was going through.  I did not want anyone to know what it felt like that I was going through.  When I had good days, no one would know any different, and if it was a bad day, I did all I could to hide it.  I did not want to be any more of a burden to them, than what I was.  But that was not good enough.  The jealous attacks were relentless and would eventually cost me any shot of promotability, because I “could not get along with my co-workers.”

As I underwent all of my treatments, I risked exposing myself to everything that these people brought into work with my immune system being run down from the chemotherapy.  Simple colds would carry extra danger to me the least of which delaying my treatments if I got sick.  The stress from the fractured relationships also were difficult to tolerate.  Given the choice, I do not think I would work while undergoing treatments again.  It was not worth it to me, and it made no difference to them if I was there or not.

Over the next many years, I had been fortunate not to have any other major events to require any kind of lengthy absence.

But nearly twenty years later, that same ugly behavior would show up.  After the initial shock that I had emergency heart surgery, a little over a week later, co-workers had been babbling about me at work.  It seems that I was spotted walking in public.  Imagine the gaul that I had, walking around my block, getting the exercise that I was ordered to do.  Forget the fact that I had to stop at the end of each street as I went around the block.  Word got back to work that I looked totally okay and healthy.  I was spotted in the drive-thru of a Dunkin Donuts by a supervisor after dropping my wife off at work and kids off at school.  It did not matter that we only had one car at the time, and I had follow-up doctor appointments and cardiac rehab to get to, but I was reported to be out joyriding. 

When I returned back to work following the heart surgery, which I had been threatened by my employer with termination, because even though the doctor wanted me out six months, my employer decided I could go back in three, I convinced my doctor to release me.  And she did so, with some stipulations.  With the ADA (Americans With Disability Act) to support me, there would be some restrictions on what I would be able to do, which because of the size of my employer, they would have to accomodate.  Also, because we do not park on plant site, my doctor had given me a temporary handicap placard for parking.  I was still getting short of breath, and with the warmer more humid weather coming, this was going to be an issue.  The first day back at work, someone complained to management that I had been parking in the handicap stall, and if I was not better, then what was I doing back at work.  Now realize, this is the same person complaining about me being out of work.

Four years later, I am still dodging these horrible jabs from my co-workers.  I have had a couple more issues pop up, and then of course there are the many doctor appointments that I have.  But hey, I am not on social security or unemployment right?  That should be an admirable thing right?  HELL NO!  Each day I go into work, risking my health being exposed to who knows what just because someone will not call in sick.  And really, I have had no real absentee issues except for a couple of bouts with pneumonia and sepsis, other than my appointments.  I still am a fairly reliable employee to show up for work.

But my co-workers know something is wrong with me.  I do not discuss anything at work anymore.  But they sense it.  And for that reason, I appear to be a threat to them.  I have wathced them chase several people from my department and into retirement.  One co-worker who had MS was forced out because he could no longer handle the harrassment and sabotage from my co-workers.  I am a little more thick-headed, but I definitely allow my stress and blood pressure go to heights that no one should endure, especiallyl when they are on medication for blood pressure and have cardiac issues.

Would I work through treatments or rush back to work, just to make my co-workers happy (which I know would not)?  Or would I be better off staying at home?  Taking the time to heal and recover?  I would have to sacrifice everything I have worked for, but my job is coming at the risk of my daughters losing their dad, and my wife her husband.  My last bout with pneumonia, was double pneumonia.  And more than a month later, I am still dealing with its effects.  But tomorrow will be my eighth straight day working, with another five to go before the possibility of a day off.  And for what?  To shut my co-workers up?

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The Other Body Part


I do not think it matters if you were raised religiously or not, most people are aware of the story of Adam and Eve.  And depending on who is telling the story, Reverend Bibelot or Uncle Barnie, there are definite differences between the genders.  Science confirms this all the way down to the chromosome.

 I would like to offer, that the supreme being that I believe in, that a body part was missed on men.  For some men, it is almost as valuable and probably used more often, yet women constantly believe that they are better equipped to control its use.  Cartoon illustrations are often exaggerated with the pot-bellied individual sitting in his recliner, tank t-shirt slid up over the barrel, beer in one hand, this in the other.

Though claims of its discovery date back to possibly the 1890’s, the Germans used it in the 1940’s a lot during World War II and in the early 1950’s the “lazy bone” was officially discovered.  Over time it became more advanced and more heavily used.  In fact, for some men, having one is not enough.  I have at least four that are all used differently.  They are a part of me.  I should have been born with them.  The trick was learning how to use them efficiently.

Of course I am talking about remote control and the art of channel flipping.  It was not until the early 1980’s that I learned of an easier way to watch television without commercials, without having to get up off the couch and turn the UHF dial of the television.  Of course, I learned how to do it from another male figure, my stepfather, remember, the big gut, beer in one hand remote in the other?  He was really good at that slide box remote.  The few times that he was not sitting in his chair only occurred when he was not home.  And then, like a kid sneaking his first cigarette or can of beer, I approached the remote.  And you know what?  I liked it.

Time would go on and by the late 1980’s I would get my chance to show that I had mastered the skill of channel surfing.  But just as my stepfather, the remote could never leave my hand.  My wife would be subject to everything I watched and even multiple television shows.  I am talking before picture in a picture was even invented.  If she even handled the remote, it would mean disaster.  All the settings that I made, would be jeopardized.  I would clearly miss something if I did not control the control.

But here we are in the second decade of the new millennium, and I have lost some of that control.  Admittedly, it has not been easy.  I have indeed lost some settings and missed several things I wanted to see.  And I do have a problem with that.  To make matters worse, I have two daughters who have probably learned more about my remotes than I know.  And adding insult to injury, they will not show me.

Anticipatory Nausea


Some call it anxiety.  People who do not understand what we went through (or some of you reading this – going through) say we are doing this to ourselves.  I call it “anticipatory nausea”.

It is when you know what to expect when you follow the exact same steps just prior.  Everything will be the same.  You sit down in the chemo chair, they insert the line, perhaps you can actually taste one or two of the drugs, the needle comes out, and it is off to the races, the trophy being the Porcelain Cup, all the while rapidly going downhill with nausea.

There will be certain things that trigger the nausea.  I was okay for the first treatment because I had no idea what to expect.  But there was one negative thing about that first injection that I took.  It was a metallic taste that hit my tongue, the second it hit my veins.  Clearly, this was going to be my trigger.  The taste lasted as long as the infusion which was about twenty minutes or so.  I finished my chemo, and then as I said, had to get to the bathroom at home immediately.  Just for the record, eight cycles, never vomited in my car.  Once just inside my apartment (I had three flights of stairs to go up).

The second injection went without incident.  So in my head, it had begun.  Approximately two days before the beginning of my new cycle, my stomach would start to turn.  I began to taste that one drug already.  This was impossible I thought to myself.  When I arrived at the oncology office, I asked Brenda, my nurse, if I could have a mint to suck on while getting the infusion.  She said that she did not see why not, as long as I knew I would probably vomit it later.  I told her that I was hoping to overpower the taste that the one drug left in my mouth while it was being infused.  I also mentioned that this anticipatory nausea was causing me a lot of anxiety to which she had me take some Ativan to help me relax.  Unfortunately it did not work.  Nor did the medication given to me at the oncology office.

One major side note here, research has developed much better anti nausea meds to help lessen the side effects of nausea.  Ask for it.  Your mind is already working hard enough dealing with all the other toxicity that you are having done to you.

Final thought, following the completion of my eight cycles, at what would have been the time of the month for the next cycle, I could no longer taste that one chemo drug like I had the previous seven months.  The psyche is so powerful.

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