Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

What Color Is A Purple Roof?

“Oh, come on now. What color is a purple roof?” This was a stupid question that my chemistry teacher in high school would ask us when we were asked a question that he felt the answer was going to be that obvious. I would often look around the class after watching victim after victim of this clear insult to see who would be the student to put the other out of his misery.

I guess looking back, and knowing a little more about chemistry as an adult than I did as a teenager, perhaps the answers might have been that obvious. Or were they?

As I walked into the hospital to see my father, who is battling lung cancer after smoking cigarettes for over fifty years, a gentleman stopped me just before I was about to enter the building. “Yo man, got a cigarette I can have?” I generally do not ridicule someone who makes a decision on a vice, unfortunately gets addicted to it, and will someday most likely face the scenario that my father is, but today it happened. I had already walked by him when he asked me the question. I am really curious what the expression was on my face. In the last month alone I have been at the hospital with my father well over 90% of the time. So let us just say that after all that time, I am having sleep issues, really tired of hospital food, and continue to battle things that I have been exposed to that I should not.

I turned around, much like one of the monstrous pro wrestlers who has had his ass kicked enough in the ring that all of a sudden as if a miracle, he has the intestinal fortitude, turns around and glares at his opponent in sheer defiance before he unloads his wrath resulting in victory. I kind of did that. I turned around, gave the man a glare as if I were a pro-wrestler, and then… said, “no”. And I walked away from him.

It is not my concern or my responsibility to be a public service announcement for people to realize the dangers of smoking. My father knows this first hand, and yet, many close to me, and are aware of my father’s situation, and either start to smoke, continue to smoke, or pick the habit back up. Even being diagnosed with lung cancer, having half of his lung removed, going through chemo and radiation, having fluid build up in his chest, was not enough to convince him to kick the habit. Come on now, what color is a purple roof?

The second part of my post, also deals with the same obvious question about the purple roof. When we go for our treatments, we get blood work done to check our levels to see if we are able to go through with our treatments or if need be, to modify them. Just the blood work. But with the help of “Paul’s Heart” and its many readers, I want to start a movement. And it is just this obvious.

The good thing about treatments, in most cases, it kills cancer cells. The bad thing about treatments, they kill good cells too. But they can also affect body systems. For instance, two of the drugs that I was given affected major body parts for me. One drug affected my heart, the other affected my lungs. Now just as a blood test was done prior to each treatment, and knowing that two drugs had the possibility of affecting my heart and lungs, guess how many times either heart or lungs were checked during eight months of chemo? Or better yet, radiation therapy, especially at the large doses I was given, the extreme likelihood of damage to the heart, how many times during my 30 treatments should my heart have been checked? Come on now, what color is a purple roof?

I do not care if a treatment only states a 5% possibility to have a side effect. If you know this is a chance, then you need to be checking for it, before the damage is too bad. If damage has begun, if a simple echocardiogram could be done after a certain number of treatments, instead of waiting until three months after treatment ends (as many protocols state), the opportunity to switch treatment plans to something less toxic than the body is able to deal with is still a possibility.

There are many families out in the world who not only wish they had this information before it was too late, but also wish that every doctor had the protocol of following up for side effect damage during treatments instead of months after treatment has ended, and the severe damage could be done. Here lies my challenge to you, my readers, and my mission. If you are reading this, and you know of someone who is getting a cancer treatment, learn the potential side effects. Then become their advocate and insist of the doctors following up that particular body part or system at a minimum one time during the treatment process (if only once, half way through would be a good beginning). Lives will be saved by this effort because I know the color of a purple roof is purple.

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