Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the month “October, 2014”

The Truth About Amendment 2 – Medicinal Marijuana

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I have made it quite clear that I am in support of Amendment 2 in the state of Florida, to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana for the treatment of pain and other issues associated with living with such horrible diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and others.  Medical studies have already confirmed that the medicinal use of marijuana has given relief to many patients that other prescription medications have not had success.  So if it works, then why not use it?

Early voting has begun in the state of Florida, and of course I received a phone call this morning from a “poll worker” urging me to vote, and to vote against Amendment 2.  Now while my decision already to support Amendment 2, I was courteous to at least let the caller explain why I should vote against a measure that would provide a humane treatment to people suffering?

The answer was extremely disappointing, but not shocking.  Because it is the same answer, and the only answer that those who oppose Amendment 2.  “Voting to approve Amendment 2 will legalize recreational marijuana.  This will lead to an increase in crime, driving under the influence, and lots of lazy stoners.”  Yes, they actually used the word “stoner” making reference to the “pleasant” or “happy” mental state that results from smoking marijuana.  But when I informed the caller that they were not being truthful about the call, I was asked, what was not true that they were saying?

Well, for starters, Amendment 2 is for the legalization of medicinal use of marijuana, not for recreational use.  I told the caller there was no way my vote for or against medicinal marijuana was going to have any impact on the legalization of recreational use of marijuana, which by the way, was not even on the ballot at this time.  And of course, the response was, “yes, but legalizing it for medicinal use will mean that it will appear on the next ballot to make it completely legal.”  Not likely.

Still surprised the caller had not hung up on me yet, my next question was, how many people did the caller personally know who have died or been hurt by any form of marijuana, legal or medicinal.  Then I asked the caller how many people have died from cigarette smoking, or injured (I was not going for the throat with “killed”) from drinking and driving?  The caller snapped back that the issue of medicinal marijuana had nothing to do with smoking and drinking, and that is not why they were calling.

But I insisted, what if the person had cancer from smoking, or liver failure from drinking, and medicinal use of marijuana was the only way to find affordable and effective relief?  No surprise, the caller hung up.

I read an editorial the other day in the SW Spotlight (October edition) written by Dr. Douglas Pratt.  Do not get excited, his is not a medical doctor, but rather a pastor in southwest Florida.  His opinion caught my attention because of the strategy he used to draw the readers into his argument and support his cause, anti-humane against Amendment 2, and for no other reason, than because of fears.  He even jokes, “voters need to wake up and see clearly through the ‘smoke screen’ (pun intended) of the pro-marijuana lobby.”

For a description of Amendment 2, you can go to this link:,_Amendment_2_(2014)

You can decide for yourself, if this is just a “smoke screen” as Pastor Pratt claims.  But where Pratt is seriously wrong in his written effort, is his claim, and it is his claim and opinion only,  that the concern is “for a handful of suffering people with chronic conditions.”  This statement is the biggest lie of all from him, as with just one disease alone, cancer, affects millions of people every year.  Millions of people suffer from the effects of Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  And I can name the stats on nearly every horrible illness.  But I do not have to.  You know the truth.

Speaking of the truth, Pratt eventually gets to the crux of his editorial/opinion.  He quotes an Arab parable, to come across as biblical which of course would have to make it true, something about letting a camel stick its nose inside of a tent, and eventually the whole camel will be in there.  Of course, many of us have probably had that experience with house guests, but to use it in the context of arguing against medicinal marijuana and the relief of suffering not otherwise helped by other prescribed opiates and means, I am sorry, that is not “smoke” I smell, but rather an odor I have not smelled since living next to a dairy.

Pratt went on then for the remaining two thirds talking about the social ills of recreational use of marijuana.  He is timing his opinion to confuse voters who want to support Amendment 2, making voters believe they are voting for something that they are not.

AMENDMENT 2 IN THE STATE OF FLORIDA IS FOR THE LEGALIZATION OF MEDICINAL USE OF MARIJUANA!  And it is that simple.  So if you have ever had to watch a loved one suffer with no relief by other conventional means as I have done twice this year alone, then you know the humane thing is to vote YES for Amendment 2 in the state of Florida.

Let’s keep the issue to the facts.  This Amendment is only about helping those suffering, not the “social ills” of society as one writer believes it to be.  When we talk about tobacco and alcohol being illegal because they are proven to kill not just the users, but others around them, or at the wrong place at the wrong time, then you can argue about recreational use of marijuana.  But Amendment 2 is not that argument.

Stephanie’s Words – Update

Last month, I introduced you to a young and inspirational woman named Stephanie.  You can read her story either by the page “Stephanie’s Words”, or by the post dated in September with the same title (the post is edited for both length and details).

Last evening, in Bucks County, PA, Stephanie continued her fight against Lymphoma participating in the annual “Light The Night” campaign.  “Light The Night” is a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  But just as important, it is an opportunity to bring awareness to blood cancers such as Lymphoma and Leukemia, some, many rare but curable cancers.

Stephanie is approaching her third anniversary in remission, something I would be willing to bet, many friends and family thought they would never see.  But the heart that Stephanie possesses, let no one ever doubt the courage and strength this woman possesses.

On her poster board that she carried during her walk, Stephanie paid tribute to current patients, memorialized a patient who lost his life, and honored those survivors.  If you look on the bottom corner of the sign, she also honored me.  I am over a thousand miles away, but I cannot express what it meant to see my name and my spirit supported by someone more than a 1000 miles away.  But you know, that is the really cool thing about cancer patients and survivors.  We know that we have each other to lean on, and count on.  We know what it is like, and we know what is needed to get through this fight.

Stephanie, you rock.  Thank you.

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The Loch Ness Monster Is Easier To Find

One of the first things to smack me in the face of my survivorship of cancer, was the first time I went to look for a job.  Granted, this was back in 1990.  Prior to the 1990’s, employers were pretty much unchecked with discriminating against employees or hiring new employees.  Sure it was illegal, but too many employers got away with it.

But it was an application with a nationally known insurance company, who was originally “on my side”, when I first applied, I seemed like the ideal candidate.  My application looked good for only a half dozen years in the workforce.  I was completing the required education courses for working in the insurance industry, breezing through all the testing.  Everything looked great as far as getting hired.  Then the company rep informed me that I would have to undergo a physical.

I did not suspect anything.  I was in remission, and my doctor’s confidence led me to believe that it would be forever.  I had rehabilitated myself back into shape, and overall felt real well.  I completed the physical and expected to be given a “start date” to begin working.  Then I found out the insurance company was not “on my side.”

I was informed by the district manager, that the company would prefer that I was in remission for my cancer longer, FLAT OUT DISCRIMINATION!  I remembered feeling so dejected.  Was I going to go through this every time I looked for a job?  I would never find a job simply because I had cancer.  I decided I was not going to stand for this, and as I am prone to do, started making phone calls.  The first call that I made was to the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board.  Of course I was only making the call because I “knew” this had to be wrong to discriminate against me like this.  But I had no idea what I would find out.

Eventually, a hearing would be set up with myself and my representative (my social worker from the hospital, one of my biggest advocates), a representative from the PLRB, and then two reps from the insurance company.  I was not in this for monetary gain, only to be able to earn money.  This was about principle for me.  Both of us testified against each other.  The insurance company denied that they ever told me I had to be in remission longer and that I had removed my application.  This was silly because of how far I went process-wise to get the job.  Needless to say, the PRLB called “bullshit”, and informed the company of a new law, having just been passed, called the American With Disabilities Act.  While the law is not perfect, it did guarantee that applicants could not be discriminated against due to health reasons, and accommodations may need to be made for certain working conditions.  But the biggest thing that came out in my favor, was I discovered that part of this new law, employers were no longer allowed to ask you health questions, or subject you to a physical, unless you met all of the conditions necessary for the job.  So there it was, no more discriminatory hiring practices.

Don’t worry, I did not just fall off of a turnip truck.  There are still loopholes to every law that ever gets passed.  And of course, with social media, there are plenty of ways to know ahead of time, any history of any perspective employee, and prepare how to deny an applicant for any other purpose.  I eventually found work, in fact, actually two more jobs following that, each one, progressing to a better opportunity.

So what is it like to apply for a job today?  How do you go about finding work as a cancer survivor?  Today, it is much more involved of a process, but depending on the level of job you are looking for, health clearly does not come into the hiring process anymore.  To give you and example, I am going to show you the difference between applying for a small business job, and a big business job.


No matter the job, you still want to have a well prepared, and brief resume.  With a properly written resume, you need only put “key” words, and also have an opportunity to have an opportunity to highlight certain aspects of your work history so far.  But by no means, do you ever mention your health.

Now is when it gets complicated.  Getting hired with a small business, many still do their hiring the old-fashioned way, having you come into the business and fill out a job application.  At this point, you will make a first impression, and possibly even get an interview.  And that is a good thing, and you still will not have to deal with your health history.

But with a big company, it is much different.  There are no more applications to fill out at the location.  Resumes and applications (if necessary) are submitted only over the internet.  This saves big businesses lots of money, but for the applicant, it is a huge disadvantage.  Application and resume programs are set up with a filter.  So if you do not meet all of the requirements for the job, your submission will not get passed the filter.  You could be the best thing since sliced bread to come along, but an employer will never get the chance to know that, because of the dehumanization of the application process.

In search of the perfect applicant, not necessarily the one who is the best candidate for the job, if you get through the first screening, often times there will be an additional on-line screening.  Most likely a behavioral or personality assessment will be the next level of the hiring process.  But either way, there still will not likely be any human interaction, and still, nothing to answer about your health.

But of course, for the big business application, just like the small business application, when you do get the opportunity for the actual face to face interview, that is your time to “SHINE!!!”  And still, you do not have to mention anything about being a cancer survivor, or even a patient if you are currently going though treatment (though honestly, that will eventually come up once you are hired anyway if you have to take off for treatments).  With an interview, that is your moment to show they type of worker you are.  You did everything right to get to this step, big or small business.

Regardless, of the size of the employment opportunity, the process takes time, sometimes a long time.  You have to have patience.  But at no time do you ever have to mention that you have or had cancer, until the moment they tell you that you are a candidate for hire, pending the “passing” of a health physical if it is pertinent to the job you are applying for.  And as long as you pass the physical, even if you had cancer yesterday, they cannot turn you down for employment.

I remember 24 years ago, how proud I was of myself, for dealing with my cancer the way that I did.  I wanted to be a role model for other survivors and patients, to show that they could get through their battles as well.  I was proud of the fact of the limited time I missed from work during my illness.  I missed only time for surgical diagnostics, an hour in the mornings for my radiation treatments, and two hours every other Friday afternoon to get my chemo injections.  I missed no other work during my cancer history.  I was proud of my dedication and loyalty to my employer during that time, and felt that it should have been the ultimate commitment this employee would bring if hired.  Unfortunately, back in 1990, it did not work that way.

What I can tell you is this, if you do not have anyone that can personally hand your resume to someone in a big business, be prepared for disappointment.  I am not saying not to try, it can be done, but it is frustrating.  My resume attracts all kinds of opportunities from social networks, but when it comes to the actual application process, I get lost in the system.  I enjoy the interview process itself, because like I said, it is the time that you can actually prove your worth to the company that you want to work for.  All the while, they have no idea that at one time you were sick.  You will be judged by what you can do, not what you had.

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