Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the month “July, 2018”

What Happens To Dragons? They Die!


From the time that many of us learned what cigarettes were, the main reason for smoking, was to be cool.  It was cool because of the other cool kids you hung around that smoked.  But what was even cooler, smoking allowed you to breath smoke, just like dragons.

Do not worry, I am not going to go off on a rant on cigarettes and tobacco, much.  Because in our quest to find a safer way to breath smoke like a dragon, vaping came a long.  Instead of smoking tobacco and all of its toxins, it was believed that inhaling a vapor, with its known chemicals (some toxic) would at least be healthier, and you could still look like a dragon.  It has not been around long, but it did not take long to figure out, vaping has its own safety issues, and is actually considered more dangerous.

With laws targeting kids under 18 to prevent smoking, kids have found an option to not getting caught smoking.  Vaping.  And as usual, there is the sense of invincibility that nothing will happen to them.  Best yet, with no hot tip to extinguish, the vaping stick can be easily hidden, with an appearance that quickly dissipates, and an aroma that can often pass off for either a body spray or perfume.  While we assume it is happening in high school, do you realize it is already happening as early as middle school?  Seriously, the kids know it is going on in the bathrooms.

While walking through the mall the other day with my daughters, we came across a dessert stand.  They were selling “Dragon Breath”.

Dragon Breath is the latest craze that allows you to ingest something, and exhale “breath” like a dragon.  A cool mist resulting from liquid nitrogen sealed in the puff treat.  Once in your mouth and eaten, you can begin to breath like a dragon.

Cool, right?  Do you really know about liquid nitrogen?  You know the solid form of liquid nitrogen… dry ice.  Do you know what happens if you handle dry ice with bare hands?  Frost bite.  Do you have any idea how long it takes to heal from frost bite?  You get the idea.  While the liquid nitrogen being used in this “food” is nowhere near the temperature of dry ice, it is still super cold.  In fact, now there are ice cream parlors that freeze ice cream in front of your eyes in minutes using liquid nitrogen.  Liquid nitrogen itself is not toxic, but the damage it can cause from frost bite or other cold issues, is serious.

Recently, a child had an asthma attack in Florida.  How could someone have an asthma attack from eating cold.  It is not the eating cold, but inhaling to cold liquid nitrogen.

While I do not smoke, I do not vape, and I certainly will not eat “Dragon’s Breath”.  First, personally I do not see anything appealing about smoke or mist coming out of someone’s face.  I know, that makes me a killjoy.  But seriously, you need to understand how fragile our only set of lungs really are, and how crucial they are to every day living.

I wish this was what my lungs looked like today.  This is actually a picture of lungs after having been exposed to 20 grays of radiation.  You can see it does not look healthy.  So, thirty years ago, I was hit with nearly 4000 grays to treat my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  To this day, the lower lobe in my left lung is described as “dead”, and I have many “spots” on both my lungs that have never been identified, but rather are being watched to see if they turn into cancer.  Pulmonary function testing reveals that over the three decades, my lung capacity has been reduced down to 76% which is one of the reasons I sometimes experience a shortness of breath, especially during peak times of humidity or cold air.  That’s right, inhaling humidity or cold air trigger a response similar to an asthma attack for me, the only difference is, inhalers offer no relief.  I simply have to find a comfortable climate, sit, try to breath, and wait for the episode to abate.

Most of us at one time or another have been drinking something, and it has “gone down the wrong pipe” and we begin to cough.  There is a reason.  Liquid does not belong in our lungs.  Sick and elderly patients near the end stages of life often experience fluid build up in the lungs, often only to find relief in having the fluid drained.

Yeah, I know I am being a fuddy-duddy.  But going what I have gone through, and watching my dad die from lung cancer from nearly 6 decades of looking like a dragon, I have no interest in ending up like one.

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What Did I Just Hear?


My daughters and I have been enjoying our Summer visit with each other.  Just as I have done their whole lives, I try to work with them educationally, with outreach, and of course fun.  They get a little of each.  Yesterday was one of the “fun” days, or at least it was supposed to be.

I decided to take my daughters to a pottery studio to let them try something new.  Of course, my rule is, do not expect them to do something that I am not willing to do so also.  But with fair warning, when it comes to art, I have difficulties even drawing a stick person.  My hopes would be, that the pieces my daughters were working on, would make anyone not pay any attention to the monstrosity that I was working on.

It was a typical sunny day, with no school, so my idea was not unique as there were other families there as well.  There were two sets of fathers with his kids, and a mother with her kids.  About an hour in, a father walked in with four young girls, one his own daughter, probably around ten years old.  He set everyone up at a table with paints, and pieces, and then informed them, that he would be back in a while.  Apparently, he is a multi-tasker as he told them that he was going to “work out” while they are painting and will return.

Well, he did return.  And it soon became obvious that the only work out he got was an arm curl lifting some form of drink.  He wreaked of alcohol and cigarettes, and his demeanor had changed from when he dropped the girls off.  Paying him no mind after the smelly cloud evaporated from our table, I went back to my “project” and my daughters continued with theirs.

Not hearing how the conversation started, the father stood up, with one of the children’s pieces and yelled out, “what, is everything made in China?”

I imagine this is how incidents start that are now becoming a regular occurrence on Facetime and YouTube.  His voice caught my attention, but unsure exactly what he said, or prompted it, I put my brush down, and looked up.  He was approaching a table that had a woman and older son at it.  So I figured he was just some obnoxious ass showing off for someone he may have known.  But he walked by her and continued toward the shelves of unpainted ceramic items and began to lift each piece looking underneath for identification where they were made.

I now realize, this father is a racist bigot, and came back from his “workout” with some liquid courage in him.  My attention squarely focused on him, and for what may come out of his mouth next, or worse, any actions, I hear a softer voice of concern speak out, “Daddy, STOP IT!”  The man’s daughter had obviously seen this play out before, and clearly been affected by it.

I was not the only one to notice this jerk, as other parents had stopped what they were doing as well.  But I was the only one with Asian children.  I could feel my adrenaline pick up.  My daughters are of Asian descent, and my eyes give off the appearance of being Asian as well, though unfortunately I am not.  I am now focused on this father, and what his next words or actions might be.  Then I feel a sharp pain in my left shin.  My daughter, also very aware it seems of the situation, had noticed my protective glare, and had kicked me under the table to snap out of the zone I was in.

And I know why she did it too.  My daughters are very proud of their heritage, although if you do not point it out, they are just my daughters.  But if you do point it out, then it best be complimentary in nature.

Many years ago, I believe my oldest daughter was in second grade, a boy on her bus made the unwise choice to make a stupid comment about China, and without thinking about it, she reacted with a backhand that not only surprised everyone around her, but gave the little racist-in-training a bloody nose and a lesson.  Though I was proud of my daughter for sticking up for herself, more importantly did not provoke anyone, had she been a bit older, she may have responded a bit more tactfully.  Aside from that, I had been running for school board at the time, and one of my platforms was dealing with bullying.  This was going to be a situation I was going to need to deal with.

Back when my daughters were adopted, I was given a book, on learning how to deal with situations concerning mixed ethnicity families.  I read it, but never really gave it any thought in the 21st century, that I was going to have to be dealing with these issues anymore, especially given the racially mixed area that we lived.  Today, where I live, I know that racism exists yet.  I also know that because of a certain section of our society, and with the support of social media platforms, that racist bigotry is in fact becoming mainstream, more prevalent than ever.

So many things went through my mind yesterday, and to be honest, in 2018, there is absolutely no reason, that an asshole, probably twenty years my junior, should have any racial hatred.  Yet here we were.  Protect my daughters from this monster, whether from his words or actions.  Trying to figure the balance so as not to be tolerant or complicit, because that is what enables bigotry to escalate, and I did not want to escalate the situation, I removed my glare in his direction and continued what we were doing.

There will be some who will protest my inaction, and to be fair, there is a part of me that feels it would have been better for my daughters to witness how I would shut out and shut down this racist.  And perhaps if I were alone, I might have reacted differently.  But my priority was protecting my daughters from any more of his hatred.

We all finished our projects shortly after, and went for lunch.  And as we often do, we talked about what had happened.  I got the kick under the table not because I was prepared to defend my daughters, but my daughter, felt sorry for his daughter, who was clearly embarrassed by her father’s bigotry.  We talked about the erroneous ways people think about others with different ethnicities and why.  It was just supposed to be some painting fun.  It turned out to be so much more.

Ian Large, Not Just His Name


I met Ian a long time ago.  So long ago, way before Facebook.  So we were not picture crazy back then, so I have to use one of his current pictures.  We met on an older communication system, a listserve, arranged for patients dealing with or in remission of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  He lived across the pond in England, but that was how great the internet was, allowing those of us, struggling with our cancer, to find support and encouragement, no matter where we lived.

Early in the 2000’s, I decided to hold a gathering, a reunion of people who had battled Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  I would hold it at my home, though everyone would stay nearby in a hotel.  We had about a dozen or so guests who brought their loved ones and had a great time.  I arranged for some guest speakers to talk about post care and such.  And then we had some fun, food, and more fun.

Ian’s last name suited him, “Large”, because that is how he lived his life.  He was the hit of the gathering.  His humor and enjoyment were infectious.  Everybody seemed to enjoy their time so much more.  Even my dog go into the act.

Ian was also physically bigger than me, standing only at 5’7″.  The joke that stayed literally forever, even up to this day, having too much fun, using the ladder to climb out of the pool, Ian had stepped on one of the rungs, and it broke in half.  Though I would never see Ian again in person, we kept in touch, and almost symbolically, the ladder never got repaired even to this day as if to have repaired it would have been like a closure of some sort.

Besides the fact that I no longer live in the house now, the ladder will be repaired.  The ladder is producing a closure.  At the same time, Ian passed away in the last couple of days.  Out of respect for his wife and family, I will not discuss the circumstances, but, like me, Ian had his own long term issues from treatments for his Hodgkin’s.  When we knew each other back then, neither of us were affected yet.

Over the years, we kept in touch, and through Facebook, we were able stay in touch.  Affected by my late effects more than 10 years ago, the way I lived my life had to change.  I was no longer able to do certain activities.  The hard part was balancing what I could do.  The hard part was getting everyone around me to understand, my life was never going to be the same.

I admired Ian, because like I said, he loved to do things “large”.  I envied all the things that he was still able to do, before he had to deal with his issues, and perhaps even after learning of them.  He is not the only long term survivor able to overcome the limitations we have.  But sometimes our decisions to ignore, or “move on” and pretend they never exist, can also lead to our downfalls.  Again, Ian was known to do what he wanted, and he had a great time doing it.

Ian was married to a wonderful woman.  And if anyone knows how large fun was with Ian, it is her.

My deepest sympathies to all of his friends and family.

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