Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the month “June, 2013”

A Lie That Had To Be Told

Growing up as a child, I was always told that telling lies, no matter the severity, was wrong. 

As a parent, I still believe that, well almost.  I have done my best to teach my daughters the importance of telling the truth.  That lesson has been muddled with the difference between a lie and a fib, when convenience plays a factor, or even when it is for someone’s better interests.

Example one, you throw a rock through someone’s window, get caught, and then asked, “did you do it?”  You respond with a “no” and that is definitely a lie.  The window can be repaired.  And the basic science lesson of a pane of glass cannot withstand the impact of a solid object is proven.  But there are many consequences of that one lie.  First, the person being lied to has feelings, and they have been hurt – not necessarily by the act of the rock through the window, but being lied to.  In reality, all that person will want is for the window to be repaired and the incident not to be repeated.

Depending if the lie has been discovered, one of two things will happen to the liar (by the way, isn’t it confusing we spell “lie”, and “lies” or “lied”, but we spell the person who did it “liar”).  From the first lie, a reputation is established, one of mistrust.  If one lie has been told, how will it be possible to tell when the next one is being told, and so on?  Even if another lie is ever made.  But what if the individual gets away with that lie?  The chances are pretty good of a false sense of security of being able to fool somebody all of the time will develop.

The irony, that as parents, we always try to instill in our children the importance of not lying, until we get called out on it, mainly by example.  The telephone rings.  Your child answers the phone and announces it is “aunt Betty”.  You instruct your lacky to tell aunt Betty that you are not home.  After your child gets off of the phone, the inquisition begins immediately.  “But mommy, why did you have me lie to aunt Betty?”  And then the parent justifies the “fib” was not really a lie.  “I was just too busy and aunt Betty always likes to talk a long time and I just didn’t have that time write now” as you return to watching your television show.

There are literally dozens of examples when there seems to be a line drawn between fibs and lies, though both are exactly the same thing.

In the heat of a tragedy or crisis however, I do believe that this may be the one and only time that the line should be drawn, when it is to protect the person hurt, healing, or suffering.  During moments like that, everything should be done to minimize more pain, impeded recovery, or cause someone to just flat out give up.

My father had lost a window of time, from the time that he checked into the hospital for his surgery, until about a week after being placed in a rehab facility to recover from the aftereffects of the surgery.  There were things that he needed to know, and there were things that he wanted to know.  It was a willful decision that I made after discussing it, not to disclose to my father everything that had occurred to him, and what still was ahead of him.  As his consci0us awareness improved, only then did I offer him answers when asked.

But during his lengthy stay in the hospital, the purpose for which he went in, cancer surgery, because of everything else that followed, and decisions that had to be made, and consequences that would have to be dealt with any erroneous judgements, we had forgotten all about cancer.

The first question that my father had asked was, “did they take my whole lung?”  This was just days following the surgery, and clearly it was an answer that might help to motivate him by letting him know, “no Dad, they didn’t.”  I could tell the answer was a relief to him as a smile appeared on his face.  It was at this point that I realized how little my father knew, how few answers we had and clearly what was going to be ahead.

It was just after my father had arrived at the rehab facililty that the surgeon made contact with us, to discuss the results.  They did not believe that they were able to get all of the cancer.  Pathology had showed some residual cancer cells as did a biopsied lymph node.  My father’s cancer battle would have to continue with either chemo or radiation therapies.  Given what happened to him with the surgery, we know this is not going to be a decision to be made lightly, side effects to be taken very seriously and likely.  Most importantly, quality of life.

It had been just over a month when my dad finally asked me, “did they get all the cancer?”  I have been in this situation once before with someone so close to me, my grandmother, who passed away from complications of ovarian cancer.  The surgery was supposed to have taken care of it all.  At least that is what we had been told.  She passed just weeks later after preparing for what we were told was preventative chemotherapy.  “They don’t think so Pop.  Tests have not been confirmed that there could be more, only that they found more in what they removed.”  He looked at me as he knew I had this information long before he asked.

The conversation then turned to treatments, and what his fears were.  I have talked previously about misconceptions and stereotyped when it came to cancer depending on the decades.  Sitting in front of him, his own flesh and blood, I have survived cancer over 23 years, having gone through both radiation and chemotherapy, but it was his fears and apprehension of memories from what cancer was like, when his mother passed away, that he was afraid he would be subjected to.

Clearly, times are different with treatments and diagnosis.  But first things first.  He needed to get stronger and recover from his surgery and post surgical side effects before treatment could even be discussed.  Yes, with cancer, in most cases, it is all about the timing.

We met with the surgeon who said that there is going to be another conference with a tumor board to discuss what the next options will be.  My father’s recovery has gone well, he has gotten stronger, and clearer.

And by the way, if you are wondering just as my father and other family members, what is in the vacated space from the removal of the lung lobe… nothing.  The explanation we got was that the remaining part of the lung would actually fill in the space itself.  Amazing how the body tries to care for itself.

He Said, She Said

“Those who tell the truth have nothing to remember.”  Mark Twain

It is the most common type of argument between siblings, co-workers and their supervisors, sales representatives and clients.  One side claims to have said something or done something, and the other side says “no, you didn’t.”  In the world of “he said, she said” it often becomes a battle of wills, reputations, accusations, and hurt feelings by at least one of those sides.

When this type of issue arises in the younger part of our lives, the incident serves no other purpose really, other than teaching us who we can rely on.  But in the adult world, situations like this can have a major impact on our daily lives, on our futures.

The first job I applied for post-cancer, was for an insurance company rep position.  I was a sure thing as my step-father worked for the same company and had a great reputation.  It was a position that required licensing, so that meant studying and taking tests.  Of course, I went through all the other steps, application, interview, and had been doing quite well on all aspects of the hiring process.  Then they had me undergo a health physical.  It had been several months since my chemo ended, and I had been doing well rehabbing at the gym.  I had lost nearly half of the weight that I gained (yes, I gained weight during my chemo), and I had really built up a lot of stamina.  I was in probably the best condition I had been in for a long time.

About a week later, I got a telephone call.  “We wanted to know that although you have done very well with all the testing and preparations, after discussing your cancer situation with our home office, they would just feel better if you were in remission a bit longer.”  And there it was, my first taste of discrimination courtesy of a “nation wide” insurance company.  As hard as I worked to get back into shape, this is what my life was going to be like?

After speaking with my social worker, he made the recommendation that I file a complaint with the Pennsylvania Labor Board.  I have never been a person controlled or motivated by money.  This would be no different.  The biggest issue was the fact that there was a good chance I would never get hired anywhere, simply because I had cancer.  There would be no attorneys supporting me and my complaint, just my social worker.  Off we went to Harrisburg.

Neither of us knowing what to expect, we all met in a large conference room, and I was given the first opportunity to speak my case and I basically recited everything that I mentioned at the beginning of this story.  Then it was their turn.  Just when I thought it could not get any worse for me…

“Mr. Edelman withdrew his application.”  And just like that, my case was over.  Or so I thought.  After all, there was only a telephone call between myself and the district manager for this company.  It was my word against his… he said, he said.  Of course I objected.  I know what I said and what he said.  All that I had to do was prove it.  It was that simple.  Unfortunately, life does not work that way.

But it was not all bad news.  As I mentioned, I live life with principles being my main objective.  I was about to win at least part of my complaint, perhaps not for me, but for someone else.

There was a new law that had recently passed, that definitely many major companies were not prepared for, called the American With Disabilities Act.  The part of the act that this company was introduced to, and was required to make immediate sweeping changes to its hiring practices all across the country, was that an employer could no longer require a physical until after the job applicant was being considered for the job.  Seriously, how hard was it going to be to sell life insurance?  Companies are not allowed to even ask you anything about your health history until after they have made the decision to hire you.  Yes, that is a loophole, but at least you can get in the door a lot easier now.

This behavior by companies of all sizes, the old “he said, she said” trick is still widely used.  Unfortunately we are a mostly trusting society.  We epxect people to be honorable and keep their word, do the right thing.  But how do you protect yourself from not only being denied what you are legally entitled to do, but physically able to do as well?  Print.

Put everything down in writing.  In today’s media world, everything lasts forever courtesy of the internet.  Years ago it was convincing enough to mail something registered mail, and then faxing.  But still, when push came to shove, how could you prove what was inside the envelope or what was faxed.  Companies are much too smart for that today.  But one tool that is pretty much impossible to beat, is email.  Your email is mainly your personal access, your words, your time and date stamp, your proof of what you said.  Once “sent”, it is out there forever.

Here is how that situation back in 1990 would have been handled by me today.

I would have originally asked for an email address for contact purposes.  I would still send every correspondence the way the other party would request, whether it be fax or snail-mail.  But today, I would scan any forms and letters into my computer, then attach the document to the email and hit “send”.  I am sure that there will come a time, when companies will get around the time and date stamp placed by email, but for now, if someone wants that fight, I am willing to take that step.  It is not satisfactory enough to tell me I need to follow up with the submission.  If I do what is expected, then I have fulfilled my obligation.  That is how I solve “he said, she said.”

Excuse Me, I Asked For Mine “Medium”

At one point or another, most of us have called the waiter over, and made a comment about food served to us, that it was not made as we requested.  And we are more than aware of the Youtube videos and television news shows that show what happens behind the scenes of wait staff and chefs who get agitated when a customer complains about the food.

Yet when it comes to the care of a loved one by someone in the medical field, we hush up, like they might do something to us.  What that “something” is, I do not know.  When it comes to food, I have heard stories ranging from sinuses being emptied onto the plate, food dropped on the floor and put back on the plate… it does not matter, as long as the food is cooked the way that we want.

But the example I would like to use, is the medical environment.  I do want to say, that nurses are so overworked, and so understaffed.  This is what I see a major problem.  They are entrusted to care for the patients, but can be bouncing from room to room like a pinball.  A family member who visits regularly, will often encourage their loved one to speak up when it comes to discomfort or pain, but will usually do nothing.  Just like the orange call button will not get used.

I am going to take this to a further extreme.  What happens when the care of the individual requires the extra effort by the caregiver?  And the caregiver refuses just out of convenience?  The situation is a patient that needs assistance in and out of bed (actually all care), asks for help to go to the bathroom in the overnight hours.  But the hired caregiver refuses.  Now the patient instead wets herself, saturated.  Family members are concerned that if a complaint is raised, it will result in the caregiver treating the patient even worse.

What would you do in a case like this?

You make an immediate phone call to the agency and tell them this will never happen again.  The agency will get the message loud and clear.  They do not want any further issue either as it will only turn out bad publicly for them.  But to do nothing is the wrong thing to do.  You must not let the fear of retaliation by the caregiver (should the caregiver’s actions go unpunished to prevent them from happening again).  Just think of the possibilities of not only what they have done to your loved one, but what about others under their care?

If you have no problem asking for your steak to be a little more cooked, or your french fries to be without so much salt (a trick to get fresh french fries by the way), you should have no problem getting your loved one’s needs taken care of.

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