Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

In Defense Of Jimmy

Four years after this photo was taken, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma back in November of 1988.  Decades later, Hodgkin’s is still considered a rare cancer, and in spite of many figures of celebrity status, gets very little attention, especially compared to the big cancers such as breast, lung, and colon cancers.  Of course, social media was also not much of a communication tool to reach others with the intent to advocate for Hodgkin’s awareness.

I was a nobody.  And as I mentioned, there were many actors and athletes who had dealt with Hodgkin’s Lympoma, yet not even many doctors are aware how to look for and diagnose this rare cancer.  Needless to say, none of those other Hodgkin’s survivors used their celebrity status to either draw attention to themselves or to advocate.  There were plenty of other famous people stepping up and out for the other big cancers, but not for Hodgkin’s.

Then perhaps the most famous person to be diagnosed and survive Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Pittsburgh Penguins player and owner, Mario Lemieux, announced that he had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  I do not recall his staging, or treatments.  But to be honest, I was only hoping selfishly, that he would use his notoriety to bring attention to the same cancer I and many others had dealt with.  We would finally have a “spokesperson” or “face” to get us the help and care we needed.  Yes, selfish I know, but dealing with something that can kill you, can make you selfish when you need help.

Lemieux took leave for treatments, and came back to play.  Of course there was “by the way” conversation of his health issue, but to my knowledge, nothing near the attention I had hoped would be given.  Even today, as I write this, I have no idea of Lemieux”s health or if he participates in any kind of advocacy for lymphoma.

This was our (lymphoma survivors) opportunity.  I was a nobody.  And attention to Hodgkin’s would go back into obscurity.

So, on Monday, after a lengthy absence, late night TV host Jimmy Kimmel returned to the air, with clearly a heavy heart for what should have been a celebratory event.

Kimmel’s wife had given birth to their second child, a son.  He had been born with a critical heart condition.  You can see the seventeen minute monologue anywhere on the internet.  But Kimmel, clearly shaken, had chosen to take the opportunity to bring awareness to several issues, as well as publicly thank those, that saved his son’s life.

I have had my own health issues to deal with my children and hospitals.  And of course, and this is why I am mentioning this, because I understand all too well about heart issues, as I had open heart surgery to treat a late effect caused by treatments for a pre existing condition, my lymphoma.

So, I understand heart surgery very well.  I know the efforts that are taken to save the life of someone about to die.  What I do not know, is what it is like to go from just seeing your son being  born, to rushing to save his life.

I was 42 years older than this poor child.  But I recall the image myself, as well as the confusion of what had just happened to me, and dealing with the pain.

From the moment that Kimmel started his monologue, I was in tears, as is often the case, when I hear stories of others who have gone through similar situations that I can clearly relate to.

Kimmel spent most of the monologue explaining what happened, and even let the audience know that there was a happy ending.  But that did not stop us from seeing how very upsetting and concerning this was, even for a funny man.  He also took the opportunity to thank as many as he could, for saving his sons life, and to encourage awareness to situations like this.

His monologue lasted about 17 minutes.  And clearly he was speaking from his heart.  There is not doubt.  And the thing about speaking from your heart, you speak with your emotions.  And emotions can often be more powerful than the words themselves.  Often times, I find myself not publishing any “raw” or unedited posts, because I do not want to take away from what I am trying to do.  But I am also very well known for speaking or writing unfiltered, blazing with emotion.  And when you do that, you can make some people upset.  And usually, the ones that you upset, are those that just want something to disagree with.

After singing the praises of those that treated his son, Kimmel began talking about the importance of the health care that his son had, and would need.  Today, this is a huge deal as health care dominates our headlines.  Kimmel spoke against our president’s efforts to reduce the NIH budget which clearly has an impact on research and medicine.  He also spoke about the issue of pre existing conditions which now his son had.

As someone who deals with more than a dozen pre existing conditions myself, as a blogger, I can only reach so many to make aware of the needs we have, and the protections we need to have.  But still, I consider myself a nobody.  So count me as one of those, who applaud Jimmy Kimmel, for taking that difficult moment, not only to put his personal life on display in heartbreaking fashion, for using his celebrity to bring awareness of what we need as far as health care.

And for those with a certain political lean who complained that Kimmel used his status to bring evidence to the needs of the American people, too bad.  The House Republicans should be ashamed of themselves for what they are trying to accomplish.  I have written before about the consequences of repealing the Affordable Care Act for me and others.  I know what is at stake because my life depends on it.  Fortunately, I do not believe this bill will be approved, because it is inhumane, and definitely does not lead to America being great.

Mr. Kimmel, I give you a lot of credit for what you did.  I know what it took for you to do that.  And I am thankful that you were able to bring awareness to the issue and needs of health care in the United States.  Ignore Joe Walsh, Michele Malkin, and others.  They are nobody and should be ashamed of themselves for ridiculing you in one of your family’s darkest hours, saved by heroic efforts by great medical personnel.

I wish your son a complete recovery.  Thank you for showing the happy ending.

 

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2 thoughts on “In Defense Of Jimmy

  1. Jennifer Henrich on said:

    Paul-great blog entry today as per usual. I have in fact info on Mario Lemieux. I am originally from Pittsburgh and I was diagnosed within about two weeks of Mario and I have some info on him. He was stage 1a or 1b with one module in his neck. He was treated at University of Pittsburgh, Presbyterian hospital cancer center. He returned to the ice a few weeks following treatment. He did not undergo the exploratory laparotomy amd spleenectomy such as myself, you and most of us diagnosed during that era. He did donate a large sum of money in the form of a grant I believe and named the cancer center the Mario Lemieux cancer center. As an aside, Pittsburgh is one of the “hot spots” in the country for Hodgkin’s disease. The center he was treated at is actually known for treating Hodgkin’s disease. After I was diagnosed with heart disease following heart attack number one-btw, I am just recovering from my 4th heart attack. First one at age 29. I am now 46. I called his office d one afternoon because I wanted to warn him to take care and watch his heart. I spoke to his assistant who said he would deliver that message. (Who knows??). About a year later, there was a huge news that he was diagnosed with a-fib (I think-can’t recall right now). I’m not sure what he’s up to now. I gobto Pittsburgh for my cardiology visits so I think I’ll investigate what his status is. Stay well!

    • Jennifer, thank you for the information about Mario Lemieux. I am a Philly Flyer fan so I really do not follow Pittsburgh, so I really had no idea, and as I have stated previously, those of us with HD, or its late effects do not really get attention.
      As for you, I am speechless. 4 heart attacks by the age of 46, with your first one at 29 is just unimaginable. I was 42 before I was diagnosed with what was leading to a fatal heart attack.
      I think it is awesome to have reached out to Lemieux to warn him about the late effects. It does not matter who we are or how famous. Those of us who had gone through treatments so long ago often have no idea.

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