Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the month “December, 2013”

Too Late For A Resolution

For the most part, I am about teaching my daughters things about life, not necessarily warning them. However, I have always been about being an open door, if they want to ask me anything, I will give them the truth. For ten years, my daughters have never seen me smoke a cigarette (or anything), nor their mother. In fact, intentionally, we shielded them not just from the influences of smoking, but also the second hand smoke. So neither of my daughters really have any concept of what smoking is, or how bad it is for you.

On a recent trip with my daughters, a radio ad came on for “electronic cigarettes”. For smokers, this is supposed to be the next best thing since sliced bread because for years smokers have had to be inconvenienced by smoking restrictions, whether at work or at restaurants, with the battle cry always being the same, the dangers of second hand smoke. I am not going to get off on a rant here about e-cigarettes because I know nothing about them other than I do still see some sort of release from the person inhaling them, which clearly means something is going into the person inhaling. And of course, whatever is being inhaled has to solve the addiction that caused the person to choose the e-cigarette. Look, some smokers chose chewing tobacco so as not to have to hear complaints about smoking. But guess what, the people still got the toxins, and in many cases, simply traded one form of cancer for another. These new cigarettes are just that, new. They are too new to know the long term effects.

Anyway, the gist of the radio commercial was to glorify and make it acceptable to still be a smoker.

As my oldest listened to this commercial, she is aware of two people in my life that smoke, my mother and my father. All too familiar to my daughters, is my father’s situation. A smoker of over 50 years, this past year he lost half of his lung. He had been told to expect to lose the entire lung. The tumor that had been located was in such a bad position, this looked like the only possible solution for a cure for my father. However, once inside, the doctors discovered that my father had emphysema so bad in both lungs, he would never have survived the entire lung being removed. Following the surgery, he went through chemo, and currently is undergoing radiation treatments.

So my oldest asked me why, if smoking is so bad for you, why do it? And I told her to ask my father. And I would bet any amount of money that given what my father has had to endure this year, he would give anything to have turned back time, and never lit that first cigarette, no matter how cool it made him look. He tried several times to quit using various methods and failed every time. Even a major heart attack was not enough to convince him. But my father knows just how serious a diagnosis of lung cancer is.

And though my parents are divorced, my mother also understands this, an will be trying to quit, yet again. I do not bug either of my parents about this as they are grown adults. And I do know that the last thing a smoker wants to hear as they attempt to quit, is frequent congratulations on how long it has been since they quit. But she has made January 1st her next attempt to quit smoking.

I am glad that my daughters seem to have a strong concept of just how bad smoking is for a person. In time, very soon I would guess, they will learn in their health class just exactly how bad it is. Then it will be about surviving peer pressure to start smoking. But ask any cancer patient, if there is anything that they could have done, not eaten, not inhaled, any decision that could have been different to have not resulted in a diagnosis of cancer, we would take that opportunity.

Please understand, this post is not about judgment at all. If you are reading this, you are an educated person and if you have chosen to be a smoker, you know the risks. You do not need me, or anyone else reminding you. And if you have quit, I am happy for you.

But there is one person that I personally know who has taken up smoking recently, and that is unfortunate. And ask anyone who has had to deal with cancer themselves, they will tell you how sad they are at the thought. It is not only going to hurt this person, but those around this person as well. Because for all the people who choose not to smoke, we do it because we understand the risks, and they are not worth it.

For my father, it is too late for a resolution to quit smoking. For my mother, I am hoping not. But for this other person, my wish is that you would rethink this decision. It is going to hurt a lot of other people, emotionally and perhaps physically.

One Direction – Forward

For the last twenty-five years, my life has gone nothing as planned. From the day I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma back in 1988, one thing I learned very quickly in my life, there was no such thing as being in control of my life. All I was able to do was recognize, accept, and move on, one direction…forward. One of my favorite expressions is ” if you spill grape juice on your white carpet are you going to stand there looking at it asking ‘why?’ Or are you going to clean it up before the stain gets too bad?”
2013 a lot of “grape juice” was spilled. I was rushed to the emergency room for the third time in less than a year. Some late side effects from my cancer days were requiring attention. My second and final campaign for our local school board fizzled into oblivion. My most loyal companion and furry friend Pollo was laid to rest just shy of his fifteenth birthday (not too shabby for a golden retriever). And the biggest event of 2013, the end of my second marriage.
As all of these things occurred, I was never in any control of their outcomes or consequences. I could only move in one direction…forward. My health is always going to have something pop up. But I can make better decisions that can help prevent many things from happening. Stress reduction has had major impact on me already. Confirmed by my doctors, certain vital signs and blood results have improved to the point that medications are being ceased. Even some of the permanent late side effects are less in severity without the large amount of stress.
Local politics was an interesting venture. For all the hype of the last presidential election it was only natural to think that while turnout would not match the levels of 2012, a local election that had major implications surely had to make a difference and could have come down to “one vote making a difference.” But instead voter apathy tumbled far below even two years prior, another off-year election.
I still miss Pollo so much. I have finally stopped automatically going for his feed bowl or the back door to let him out first thing in the morning. But I do still miss his faithful tail wag and inability to get mad for any reason. But the loss has been so painful.
As for the divorce, the end will come. But my attention now has to focus on my daughters. I will not discuss the circumstances of the divorce. But the effects are showing on my daughters. I know what it is like to be caught in the middle of a bitter custody situation and I am doing my best to make sure that they know that both of their parents are going to be a part of their lives not just for 2014, but for years after that. Both of us will have wonderful new changes for the girls providing them plenty of wonderful experiences, just not the misery and stress of watching us not getting along with each other. For everyone else in our lives, I do hope that in 2014 you realize that what led to our breakup was best kept between she and , and had nothing to do with anyone else.
I have lots of hopes for 2014 for the one direction I am making. But I will not forget those that will also be struggling with either their employment, finances, health, or their relationships.
I prefer to clean up the “grape juice.” Not ask why it spilled. To all of you reading this and “Paul’s Heart,” I wish you all a happy, healthy, prosperous new year.
Happy New Year everyone.

I Won’t Be Home For Christmas

For the first time in forty eight years, I will not be in my home for Christmas. I will not be putting out the neighborhood traditional luminaries on Christmas Eve. I will not be putting on the Santa hat, going through the house with a sack of toys to put under the Christmas tree, while I am being videotaped so that my daughters still see that Santa exists. I will not be going to Christmas Eve church with my daughters. In fact, I will not even be seeing them Christmas Eve or most of Christmas Day. Such as the life of a father in the middle of divorce with children. I knew this day would someday come.

In the grand scheme of things, overall, I am lucky. There are millions of people who face a different Christmas with much more heartbreak, and not by choice.

Our brave service men and women who are deployed away from their families at best if they are lucky might be able to see electronic video messages to wish each other Merry Christmas. Our emergency responders, police, fire departments, ambulance workers, and hospital workers will all spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day away from their families because that is what they do.

Then there are the families who are displaced away from their homes for any number of reasons. Especially those who sit in a hospital waiting room, anxiously waiting for positive news from the surgeon, that everything went the way it was supposed to, but it would still be several days before anything was certain. And then, there are those who will get sad news.

I am away from my daughters during “the most wonderful time of the year.” I know my daughters are having a great time with their friends and cousins doing all kinds of Christmasy things. And they will be happy to see me Christmas night, of course because I will have their presents. Until then, I am spending time with loved ones. While this is not a time that I ever thought I would see when I became a father, that time is here. And I will create new traditions for and with my daughters. I am lucky because I have that chance. There are so many however, whose holidays hang in the balance while they await news or fate.

This is a wonderful time of year. But for those who must be away from their homes, please keep them in your hearts. Especially a young friend of mine and his family. It is now over two months since he fell seriously ill. Today he is still in intensive care while his family is by his side waiting for the best Christmas gift they could ever receive. And that is how they will all spend their holiday. Please keep them, and everyone else going through difficult times in your hearts and minds, and whether you say prayers or might just offer a moment of thought, to send a positive hope to all during this time of year.

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