Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor


The commercials and advertisements are unavoidable.  Drug companies pushing their latest “cures” for maladies from obesity to depression to erectile dysfunction.    There is a pill for everything.  No matter what illness we suffer from, our eyes light up when someone tells us that we can feel better.  We should feel better.  We can be made better.  Our attentions have been grabbed.

And then in true commercialization fashion, just as would occur in a car sale ad, a list of conditions is rattled off quickly and at the end of the advertisement, because by that time, the only thing that we are paying attention to, is that we will be cured.  But for those who do realize that there can be complications by taking the particular drug, there is an epic battle determining which is more important, quantity or quality of life.

Manage or even eliminate your pain, but the risk exists for developing lymphoma.  Treating depression might just result in increasing the risk of committing suicide which makes no sense to me as that is one of the major reasons you start taking an antidepressant – to avoid getting to that point of wanting to take your own life.  Every drug carries its own list of possible side effects to weigh and balance the difference of the benefits of taking the drug or taking the chance of letting the body do what it does naturally.  But seriously, when a health crisis is bad enough, we are then forced to decided if it will be worth the risk of developing heart issues, liver and kidney problems, skin dilemmas, and so on.

And this is only what you are made aware of what happens.  In my Paul’s Heart page “Are You Out Of Your Mind,” I told the story of a side effect that had not been listed for a drug that I was told that I had to take following my heart surgery back in 2008.  I explained that of all the side effects publicly listed, there are those side effects that do occur, that unless they met a certain occurrence level, the side effects will not get listed because it is not required due to low occurrence.  That does not mean that they did not exist.  The pressure is turned on to the patient to educate themselves on what has happened to their body.  Simply put, if you take anything that is meant to change something occurring with your body, that means it will affect other physiological systems of your body.  Even a simple aspirin comes with some side effect.

But when you absolutely, positively need the drug to save your life, whether it be cardiac or cancer to name just two issues, it may seem like a simple decision to make, and an obvious decision to make.  But when the results are not guaranteed, and risks are increased and raised severely, the issue becomes a matter of quality of life, versus the quantity of life.

In my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma situation, the exact details of what could happen with me were not known.  But there were some risks of developing side effects that were known.  Those risks were very vague and general, but the warnings were there.  Drugs in my chemotherapy regimen were actually given to counteract the side effects of one drug and so on.  I took the main drug of course to battle the cancer, but then took another drug to help build back the muscle loss caused by the chemotherapy.  But that drug needed medication to prevent and help to protect the kidneys that would be affected.  In my case, my decision was still a no-brainer.  The cure rate for Hodgkin’s did not lie, and I was not going to accept in my mind, anything less than hearing the words remission.

I got “lucky”.  Okay, that may not be an accurate term as many would not describe my last five years as being lucky given the issues that developed late from my cancer treatments decades ago.  In the case of my father, it is going to be a totally different situation.

Six months before he faced half of his lung to be removed due to cancer, my dad had a carotid artery cleaned out that had been narrowed due his dietary and smoking histories.  That particular surgery went well, and he recovered quickly.  However, the lung surgery that provided his best option, carried risks.  One of the main risks appeared within a day of his lobectomy.  Some clot had broken loose and raced straight for the recently repaired carotid, and blocked the artery.  The result, my father suffered two strokes.

It has been a long summer for my father.  He has recovered well from his surgery and strokes, with only the restriction of driving his only frustration.  But now he faces a crossroad.  His doctors are pressing him to consider preventative chemotherapy to take care of any stray cancer cells that may have been missed during the surgery.  As of yet, he is still not convinced that he needs to undergo chemotherapy.  There is no solid proof that there are any remaining cancer cells.  There is no support to show that his body can tolerate his cancer treatments.  On at least two occasions now, he has asked for the simplest of requests, just to know if there is the chance that he will suffer any more strokes during his treatments.

He must decide, to ignore the doctor’s recommendations to prevent the cancer from coming back, or be willing to accept that he may suffer another stroke or other health malady.

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