Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Tiger Behind One Door, Lion Behind The Other

My father’s current battle against lung cancer has stirred up an internal struggle within himself, that I know that just like millions of others, including myself have gone through.

A diagnosis of cancer is bad enough because without any form of treatment, whether it be just surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy, or a combination of any or all, the result is almost always going to be death. But we have seen the television commercials for all kinds of prescription medications for any number of maladies that promise the possibility of relief, but come with a risk of making things worse. Okay, men take the “blue pill” to still function in the bedroom, but the risk is a possible drop in blood pressure. For men, this may be worth the risk. I personally would not know. Medications for blood pressure or preventing blood clots may actually increase the risk of a cardiac event. And the most disturbing of all, taking an antidepressant that might just actually increase the risk of committing suicide. It is a wonder that we risk taking anything at all.

But unlike the prior mentioned illnesses and others, there is no other choice when it comes to cancer. I do not mean any disrespect at all to those who choose to go the holistic route, but as a long term survivor of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I have to stand firm that I believe as a cancer patient, you must go with what has been scientifically proven, if you want any chance of seeing remission. Holistic can be complimentary, with approval from the oncologist, but unless it is a last resort, holistic should not be considered alternative.

As a long term survivor of cancer, I actually do still recall the days when I was warned of possible short term side effects. It was not known back then the risks of late developing side effects like I have now. But even the list of short term side effects were enough to have me concerned, but the alternative was far worse. For my dad, it was no different.

Surgery was supposed to take care of what was supposed to be a stage 1 lung cancer, that quickly was upgraded to stage 3. Surgery was supposed to have taken care of the cancer, but then the oncologist recommended chemotherapy to take care of any straggler cancer cells not picked up on with blood work or scan. My dad knew what that would mean, and of course, the information sheets came out with the list of possible side effects for both of the drugs he would be given. But just as he completed chemo, and was feeling good about his accomplishment, he felt the rug being pulled out from underneath him as the oncologist informed him that it was felt radiation should still be considered just in case any cancer cells survived the chemo. Though the likelihood of any cancer cells still existed, the doctor convinced my father the benefit to undergoing radiation therapy far outweighed the risk of any side effects. This is in spite of what my father has witnessed me go through.

So now my father has gone through, surgery, chemo, and radiation, all to survive radiation cancer. And he has gotten through it. But the rug has been pulled out from under him again, and he does not hold back his feeling on this. Though the cause is unknown, and I have my suspicions, my father’s chest is filling with fluid, and now is facing yet another surgery to deal with the drainage. I have grown frustrated with this situation, because my father is being put through so much, “just in case”, and now we have an issue that is quite serious. Fluid in the lungs makes it difficult to breath, and puts pressure on the heart. While it has been his signature that has given the permission to proceed with each step, I still hold the doctors responsible for convincing for any and all things that are developing with my dad. There are many risks that my dad faces with each step of this journey, yet I seem to be the only one who is concerned about them?.

During my father’s latest hospitalization for this fluid issue, I convinced the doctors to order an echochardiogram for his heart. The doctors have been treating him as pulmonary, but with my father’s cardiac history, and having been exposed to chemo and radiation, this should have been a no-brainer, yet for months now has gone without attention. But with my history, knowledge, and experience, I convinced my father’s nurse, who then convinced the doctor, to order that simple test to see if that was the possible cause of the fluid build up. You see, if you heart does not beat like it should, due to the fluid, it can lead to congestive heart failure. But the test can also reveal that the heart has taken some sort of abuse from the chemo and the radiation.

The echo has revealed some slight decrease in function as well as some fluid around the heart, though it is not the cause of his fluid build up currently. But my anger that is growing with my father’s care, is why did it take my arguing to confirm this? Just recently, a family lost their 24 year old son, because the doctors were not following up for developing side effects.

I am grateful that now my father will be followed up for this developing cardiac issue so that it can be managed before it gets too late as mine almost was. I understand my father’s frustration when he gets through one thing, and then finds himself opening yet another door only to be greeted by another unfriendly challenge. But I do give my dad credit. He is not giving up as he wants to be there for his wife who he cares for her needs at home.

In the meantime, we still do not know what is actually causing the fluid build up. We just prepare to manage it.

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