Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

You Can’t Take It With You

If there is one thing that being a cancer survivor has taught me, is that life will carry on with or without you, and all the possessions you have mean nothing, if life carries on without you.  In a matter of minutes, you can go from thinking no one can get along without you.  And if you are lucky enough, that you get a second chance,  what hurts almost as much, is to see that as you recover, you may not be as valuable as you thought you were.

I get it.  Because it happened to me.  I was told I needed emergency heart surgery.  Just like that, all the money I had made, all the things that I had purchased, no longer mattered.  All I could think about were my two young daughters and the possibility that they could end up without their father.

My car, my house, vacations, all things material… nothing mattered to me at that moment, than getting through the surgery for my daughters.

Over the last week, in Southwest Florida, weather conditions have left the area prime for brush fires.  With windy conditions, drought conditions, and plenty of dead vegetation, it took no time at all for the fire to spread to 7500 acres.  But as fire fighters tried to contain the fire, winds pushed the fire towards urbanized areas.  Mandatory evacuations were issued.  And just as with any other natural disaster, there are always people who will defy those types of orders.  We have all seen people interviewed on television in situations such as being in the path of a brush fire, or hurricane, who insist on staying put in their homes.

It is sad and frustrating to watch.  Homeowners basically sacrifice their lives to protect their property.  They are willing leave their family and to die for their belongings.  Worse, as first responders are known to do, emergency personnel often find themselves having to rescue these people, putting their own lives at risk.  As one emergency personnel member put it during the recent brush fire, “if you choose to remain in your home, not only may we not be able to save you, but we will not be able to do flyovers dumping water and flame retardant over your home, for fear of injuring you with the impact of the liquid.  And yes, you can get hurt by the impact of the water down below.

Thinking about it, I never hear one person say what they will do to protect their home from the fire, or flooding.  They just say, that they are going to do all that they can.  They do not say “why” they are doing it, only that “it’s all they have.”  Could a homeowner actually prevent their home from burning to the ground with a garden hose?  Can a homeowner actually keep floodwaters from flushing out the contents of their home?  Of course not by themselves.  And they have to know that.  Though they do not state it, could they be afraid of looters?  In an evacuation area, police and sometimes national guard members are deployed to the evacuated areas to prevent looting.  Do they realize that they are putting others at risk to potentially need to save them or prevent other damage?

It is sad to say, that often through tragedy or crisis, we realize what is important, what we can really do without.  How many have attics packed with knickknacks that have not been seen in decades, but during an emergency, they become a priority more so than our lives?  It makes no sense really.  Having been there, in that life or death situation, I know my priority.

I went into a cardiologist office for a simple treadmill test (or so I thought).  I was told it needed to be corrected as soon as possible, like “tomorrow.”  And once on the table, it was discovered that it was far worse than imagined, and I would need open heart surgery.  I had explained to my daughters, that I was just going in to the doctor to have something simple done, that I would see them the next day.  I went through the next 36 hours without seeing them or holding them while I waited for my surgery.  Because of my late effect damage from radiation and chemotherapy treatments for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, the surgery was going to be quite risky.  I might not make it through the surgery, and all I could think about was holding my daughters one final time, and not getting the chance.

Yeah, if I am told to evacuate because of fire or hurricane, you can bet your ass, I am out of there.  There is absolutely nothing more important than those in my life.  Everything else can be replaced.

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