Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the month “April, 2016”

The Secret To Longevity


Every now and then, during a “fluff” piece on the news, you will see a “centarian” being interviewed as to what was the “secret” to their long life.  And we all sit there in disbelief when their answers reveal that they smoked, drank, and ate fried foods.  But along with those vices, they will add that they enjoyed life.

Today with all the concerns over GMO’s, gluten free diets, the millions of different exercise styles, combined with a much more strenuous and fast-paced lifestyle, we are more likely to witness those much younger than those that live a full century, be fortunate enough to see even 3/4 of a century.  And this in spite of many sharing the same “secret” of smoking and drinking.

Every now and then, as someone hears that at one time I had a golden retriever, and that he lived nearly 15 years, I get asked, “what was the secret to such a long life for him?”

DSCF1638

Just as the woman aged 103 answered so nonchalantly, “I just let Pollo be a dog.”

Though I originally got him from a pet store, it was discovered that he was originally from a puppy mill in Lancaster County in Pennsylvania.  I will never purchase from a pet store again for this reason as most pet stores get their dogs from puppy mills, or if they play with semantics, they buy them from brokers, who buy the animals from puppy mills.  The origin is the same.

December 2009 - 24

Wow, a puppy mill dog that lived nearly 15 years, in spite of a breed known for developing hip dysplasia, cancer, and cardiac issues?  A breed that is really only known to live 7-10 years as it is?  Seriously, what was my secret?

DSC05323 DSC05335

I let Pollo be a dog.

He went through his life, doing what he wanted, when he wanted.  Sure, he spent most of his time as my shadow.  He was a good loyal friend.  He asked nothing of me, other than to feed him.

I did not force him to do athletic tricks or perform in agility competitions, many of which animals risk injury due to falls or collisions.  If Pollo wanted to run, he ran.  If he wanted to play ball, he brought it to me, and it would get thrown until he gave me the look, “seriously, you are going to need to fetch this one, I am done.”  If he felt like swimming, he either crawled in on the steps, or would run full speed and fly through the air, Superman style across the water, reaching at least 10 feet through the air before landing in the water.

He enjoyed walks.  He could “smell” snow in the air before the first flake even fell.  I used to joke that he suffered from “grass deafness.”  You now, no matter how much or how loud you call them, they do not hear you, unless you yell something more important like “ride” or “treat”.

DSC04914 December 2009 - 24

He also enjoyed the company of his family, whether they be my daughters, or other critters (he outlived 3 of our cats).  Whether they used him as a bed, or a ride, he was just content to go through his day as it went.

DSCF1555

All of this seems to satisfy people’s curiosity.  And then they remember one other area that has not been addressed… diet.  This part of his life leaves many shaking their heads.  I have many friends who spend all kinds of money on special diet from gluten free to corn free to other special formulas.  And while I am not promoting a brand intentionally, this is what I fed him, Pedigree dry food.  Sure, he got the different formulas for the stage of his life.  And though I would eventually figure out not to follow the serving chart, I still found ways to compensate for the lesser amount of food from adding “gravies” or French cut green beans, which filled up his belly.  I know not everyone approves of popular brands, but just as the old person on the TV, it worked for them, and the lifestyle I gave my best friend, worked for him.

20131204_082619 20131204_082522 20131204_105759

My point is this, that as a long term cancer survivor, with many serious and potentially life-threatening late side effects, I can either stress, micro-manage, worry my way through the rest of my life, or I can simply just do what makes me happy.  I know the many things that I face, but I just do not dwell on them.  As my doctors have assured me, they are going to do all that they can to make sure that I get to see the day of being a grandfather.  And with my daughters only entering their teen years now, I will still have a long way to go.

The secret to longevity is, there is no secret.  It is just life.  And the length of life is nothing compared to the quality of life you have enjoyed.

Advertisements

When You Hear The Word “Cancer” Again


No one wants to hear the words “you have cancer” even once.  And for those who have heard it once, once done with treatments, you spend quite a bit of time worrying about recurrence.  But the fear is powerful.  For some, remission is short lived.  For others, especially in my world of long term survivors, we face the risk of not only recurrence, but due to late effects from the treatments, we are at an increased risk for secondary cancers.

In reality, once we hit 10 years out, most of us feel that we have beaten cancer for good, and there are no thoughts of having to hear it again.  And it makes perfect sense to think decades later, and I mean several, the risk of recurrence is not even a thought.

Sadly, a close friend of mine, after 40 years is facing a diagnosis of her cancer again.  And this is on top of her late effects that she deals with.  I am not disclosing her name.  I know she reads “Paul’s Heart.”  We are more than a thousand miles apart, but that does not stop me from wanting to help her.

I spoke with her on the telephone, and gave her “peer to peer” advice on how she might better deal with the stresses of this possible diagnosis.  It is a miniscule consolation when facing cancer… again.

I am copying and pasting a section of an article from the web site “Cancer.net” dealing with cancer recurrence.  It gives suggestions on how to deal or cope with the possible diagnosis of cancer again.

One would think that as a cancer survivor, a diagnosis of cancer again should not be as difficult for us to deal with.  I will not pretend to know that statement as certainty.  Just because we beat cancer, just because we got through the treatments, does not mean we necessarily know what to expect this time.  Of course there is hope that one would have the same fight and determination and fight to beat the beast again, but until you are in those shoes, you just never know.

And with that, I would like to share text from Cancer.net, the article titled, “Dealing With Cancer Recurrence – Coping With Recurrent Cancer” which you can find the complete article at:

http://www.cancer.net/survivorship/dealing-cancer-recurrence

Coping with recurrent cancer

You may experience many of the same feelings you did when first diagnosed with cancer. Shock, disbelief, anxiety, fear, anger, grief, and a sense of loss of control are common emotions. All these feelings are normal responses to this difficult experience. Some people may even find this diagnosis more upsetting than the first one.

Many people with recurrent cancer also experience self-doubt about their original treatment decisions or choices after treatment. Remember that you and your doctor based those treatment choices on the information available at the time. Neither you nor your doctor could predict the future.

Understandably, you may worry about having the strength to cope with another round of tests and treatments. However, many patients find that their previous experience better prepares them to face the challenges. For example, patients with recurrent cancer have the following resources:

  • Knowledge about cancer, which helps reduce some fear and anxiety related to the unknown
  • Previous relationships with doctors, nurses, and clinic or hospital staff
  • An understanding of the medical system, commonly used terms, and health insurance
  • Knowledge of cancer treatments and their side effects, as well as strategies to reduce side effects
  • Where to go for support, including family and friends, support groups, and professionals trained in providing emotional support
  • Experience practicing stress-reducing methods, such as exercise, meditation, or spending time with friends

It’s normal to experience emotional distress after a diagnosis of recurrent cancer. However, seek professional help when the distress is long lasting and interferes with your ability to carry out daily activities. Counseling may help you in several ways, including:

  • Learning ways to cope with difficult feelings
  • Managing cancer symptoms and treatment side effects
  • Exploring the meaning of your cancer experience

Tweens And Elections


1461702194353 1461702205570

Though my daughters were old enough to remember my two local school board campaigns, they were too young to really care what that all would mean, or politics in general.  They knew that I was away a lot, talking to a lot of people about how I wanted to represent students and the residents of our school district.  And that was all that mattered.  They were shielded from nearly all of the negative stuff that comes out during election season.  And since those elections, politics have not been brought up.

Until Monday night.  A phone call from my youngest daughter mentioned that a robo-call had come from the school district, but that she was unaware what the message was about.  I told her that it was most likely because on Tuesday, Pennsylvania was holding its primary election, and since the district decided as usual to make up a snow day (kids always celebrate getting the day off for snow, not really understanding they will make the day up later – it does not matter to them), the district was probably calling to explain to parents the special procedures in place to make sure the children were safe, while adults would enter the school to cast their votes.  I had always been against this, but the district assured that everything would be alright, sectioning off the gym, allowing voters access to the building through one door going straight to the gym.

Of course, the children are inconvenienced during their school day, access to the gym, entrance and exit procedures different, and, even though elementary age, having to deal with conversations about candidates.

And so with that, I had my first official political conversation with my daughters, at their request.  There are certain things as they have grown up, that I have insisted upon, things that I have encouraged, and things that I have left up to them to decide.  I made sure that they learned good eating habits.  I taught them that respect, honesty, and loyalty are three of the most important values they can have and give.

But when the conversation turned to individual candidates, my preferences, and the chatter among their friends, though they are way to young to vote yet, I want them to know just how important the process will be to them in the future, and as they learn about our election system, to pay attention.

I know how I am perceived, and wrongly so.  I do not believe in the whole “you are either a conservative or a liberal” thing.  I want to vote for someone who will represent the things that I consider important.  I want to vote for someone that is not going to try and cram their ideals and morals down my throat.  There are some things that I accept from both major parties, but there are a lot I detest in both parties as well.  This election cycle is going to go down in history as one of the most bizarre and embarrassing elections.  And it was difficult to explain to my children that what they were witnessing in politics is something none of us have ever seen before, and then explain all the efforts do not follow the will of the majority of voters.

First we talked about the primary process itself.  In Pennsylvania, it is very confusing as it is, because only those committed to the two major parties are allowed to vote, ignoring anyone registered as “independent.”  I was asked why they cannot vote.  And of course the follow up, “then why don’t they just sign up for one of the two parties?”

But it is more complicated today.  Because they have heard about the front runner of one party, and how the political party is doing everything they can to prevent that candidate from being the nominee, including bully tactics as seen on playgrounds (ganging up).  And the other party is no different with the popularity of one candidate simply being ignored, and a delegate system being advertised repeatedly to discourage voting for a particular candidate.  And then finally, to explain to my daughters, that even after the primary elections are over, the two parties are prepared to ignore the will of the voters.

Thought we did talk about some of the issues of each candidate that they asked about, I did not discuss who I will vote for with my daughters.  And when they are old enough to vote, I will not ask them who they will vote for.  Along with eating right, behaving properly, they have to make the decision on the candidate that will best represent what they expect from a government.  And unlike our leaders, if they grow up more left or right, or even meet in the middle, I will at least respect them for wanting to be informed, and getting out to vote.

Post Navigation