Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the month “March, 2014”

If I Had Only Known…

Growing up, I had this uncle with a very warped sense of humor. Back in the 60’s and 70’s no doubt we were all exposed to the “they will do it just once” and our parents let us find things out on our own, such as touching the burner on a stove when it was hot. The thought being that the really smart ones would learn from that scorching mistake in judgement.

Around eight years of age, I pondered what would happen if I held on to the prongs of an electrical cord and plugged it into the wall. My uncle told me he did not know and I should try it if I was curious. After all, I did know that the cord was connected to a lamp, so I knew it could turn the lamp on. And then of course there was Uncle Fester on the TV who could light up a bulb by just sticking it in his mouth.

Fortunately, there was nothing in the path of my tragectory as I was thrown backwards from the jolt of 110 volts going through my hand. I hated that uncle ever since. He could have just said “no” and in theory I would have listened.

Then why is it, that as adults, we have such a hard time, knowing better with our judgements if we are to guide our younger family members. A patient recently diagnosed with lung cancer seemed genuinely shocked to find out, when asking the doctor what could have caused the lung cancer, that the answer was smoking. The patient wanted to present any other kind of explaination. Major denial.

My generation had the subject “Health” in school. And during the elementary years, a good portion of the class was committed to “smoking”. Looking back, it was really a harsh class. As part of the demonstration, an actual, preserved lung was displayed, that was riddled with emphasema. It was awful. Compared to the healthy lung which was not black and hardened, clearly the message was to get to the children, and then the hope was that the children would convince their family members to quit. Emphasema, COPD, and lung cancer… three major reasons to never start smoking, or to quit if you can.

And that is the tricky part, if you can. Cigarettes are one of the most addicting habits one can ever be trapped with, physically addicting and the cigarette companies know that. So, when someone has been smoking for decades, is most likely going to be unable to quit, or restart. And no matter who brings the message home, that person is practically powerless to do anything about it.

I did come home from elementary school one year, following the anti-smoking campaign lesson. And I begged both my mother and father to quit, and why. I got several reasons why they could not, one of which was, “nothing will happen to me”. And that is what happens to people when they make that choice to start smoking. They do not believe that they will be the ones to get cancer.

Funny… I thought the same thing too. But no one knows what caused my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. With lung cancer, it is usually an obvious answer.

It is sad really, to hear these words from someone who has just been diagnosed with lung cancer, “If I had only known…” I guarantee both my parents knew, but just as I held onto the prongs of the cord, I did not listen.

It is a horrible thing to watch anyone die. But even worse when it is from something that could have been prevented. And the sad thing is, there are those in my life, that my children will see smoking, and feel sorrow for them, because their grandfather is battling lung cancer from smoking. And that is what they will remember about him, and worry about anyone else that is smoking.

Smoking is not just a bad habit, it is a deadly habit. If you do not smoke, do not start. If you do smoke, quit now.

And here are a few other things I can let you know now, you can prevent later:
Sun burns skin – wear sunblock
Fast Food burgers – not good for your cholesterol
Clean hands – less germs spread
Reality TV… not very real

Now you know.

Tween Time

Happy Birthday to my oldest daughter today. She is very proud to announce to me that she is just two years away from being a teenager. The funny thing is, she says it without knowing why. So Madison is now heading into the second half of her childhood now, or as it is called, being a “tweenager.” This is the period of time that a lot of changes have already taken place in her life, but more importantly, she is becoming more aware of her surroundings, and the things that are out in the world for her to experience.

It is easy to remember what birthdays I looked forward to. Turning sixteen was a major one for most all of us because it was the gateway to adulthood and independence, getting a driver’s license. I have put the kibosh on that theory with Madison, because when we discussed when she would be able to drive, I negotiated a sweet deal, as close to never as I could get, thirty eight years of age.

Another milestone was turning twenty one. While the responsible goal was to have turned the age to be able to make your opinion count by voting, many of us saw twenty one as an opportunity to experience why all the other adults we watched were always so happy, consuming alcohol. Well, I know Madison has not expressed her interest in politics just yet. And I know that Madison does not really understand the concept of drinking alcohol, as she never really witnessed either of her parents drink other than the occasional glass with a meal.

Hmmmm… so what could Madison be all excited about being two years away from being a teenager? I tried to remember what it was like for me and the things that I did back then. The bad thing for Madison is that I am going to remember from the male perspective. I played a lot of baseball and football, rode my bike, did my homework, hey… wait a minute. At around that age, I was crossing the vortex that allowed me to recognize that girls were a good thing.

Television had shows that displayed boyfriend and girlfriend relationships, and that it was cool to have an interest in someone. Hey… you do not think… wait a minute… she is not… could… no. She cannot be excited about turning eleven because of…?

Yes, the reality of fatherhood and a little girl who is excited about a particular birthday. For many years, she has playfully talked about her “boy friends”. One in particular she has laid claim to as her husband for the last six years or so. She is noticing boys. But fortunately one thing in my favor is that Madison has a little sister who is willing to blow the whistle on any ill-fated attempts to disrespect my daughter.

In all seriousness, this is a difficult year for Madison and I. As it is another special day that we are doing differently, because of the pending divorce. One new tradition that I have started with her, and will do the same with my younger daughter, is picking a birthday meal. In the past, because extended family were invited, Madison never got to choose her birthday dinner. And ultimately, it is her birthday. Not everyone was crazy about tuna noodle casserole when I was a kid, but it was my birthday, and my dinner. And so, for our new birthday tradition, Madison chose Taco Bell.

It does not take a lot to make Madison happy as her father. She wants attention. She wants to do the things that she wants to do. I could not be more proud of her (I am equally proud of both of my daughters). Happy Birthday my “Ting Ting”. Don’t rush the teenage years on me.

Two Good Items To Note

Two items of great news to note. The first, to follow up the story “Hot Potato”, it is with great joy to tell you that the couple has been reunited, as of yesterday. To keep this post positive, the details of the admission will be written in another post. But I want to tell you the joy witnessed when the spouse who was already at the facility saw the other spouse being wheeled through the hallways, provided the most satisfaction I have ever felt as a health advocate. While the prognosis is not favorable, at least one wish had come true. I have been told that this situation is very similar to the movie “The Notebook”. I guess I need to see it.

Second, all months long I have been harping about the importance of preventive screening for colon cancer, among other cancers. Last week, I underwent three screenings, all part of my follow up care for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I still have more to go for other body systems, but I can now cross these three off for a little while.

According to a dermatologist I saw, he was quite amazed that I did not have basal cancer cells given the amount of radiation I had been exposed to. But cross that off… no skin cancer. Another test I underwent was an endoscopy, a camera put down my esophagus to check for many things, but to follow up on a pre-cancerous condition I have from radiation therapy, Barrett’s Esophagus among some others. The test showed that everything remains stable. Cross that one off.

So, March is Colon/Rectal Cancer Month, so the final test I had done was a colonoscopy. Again, it is a camera going where cameras do not usually go. And while they are there, if polyps are found, they are removed and biopsied. If pathology confirms they are not cancerous, then by having removed them, the polyps have been prevented from turning cancerous. And if they are cancerous, hopefully it allows enough time to treat.

Yes, for the second time, I have had polyps removed. And for the second time, they were not cancerous. But had I been like so many who do not get this simple screening for silly fears and ignorance, given my health history, I could be writing a different post.

That is what makes a colonoscopy so valuable and important. How does the expression go… “an ounce of prevention.”?

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