Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the month “June, 2019”

Dentists And This Particular Cancer Survivor

After everything that I have been through from the cancer to the many surgeries I have faced, there still lies one caregiver that stresses me out more than anyone, the dentist.  I cannot say when this irrational fear ever began.  To my memory, I had a good pediatric dentist who never hurt me, even when it came to fillings, making sure my head was spinning with plenty of nitrous oxide (laughing gas).

As an young adult, the only thing negative I can recall was the frequent desire of my dentist at the time to want to do “crown work” because of the wonderful dental benefits I carried at work because “you have the benefits, you should use them.”  It did not matter that I still had to shell out half of the payment that the insurance did not cover.

But I am going to skip ahead for a second.  Because it was my last dentist that actually helped me to get over this anxiety that I had, not just because it was normal and irrational, but this dentist knew that with the complicated health history following my treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, dental work was as much an important part of my life as much as the follow up appointments with my doctors.

But it was a simple but determined act on her part, which turned things around for me, especially with my anxiety.  As I found myself cancelling multiple appointments in a row.  Not even my any of my doctors went to the extent that my dentist had gone, actually calling me, repeatedly, encouraging me to get in for an appointment.  Coincidentally,  she had convinced me to come in, just before I unknowingly would undergo my emergency bypass, caused by my radiation therapy treatments.

My dentist understood, that with me being asplenic (not having a spleen), hygiene and gum maintenance were important to maintain.  An odd fact that I learned was that many heart disease cases are discovered during or following dental appointments when bacteria from the gums ends up traveling through the bloodstream leading to cardiac episodes.  But at the moment, that was not even the main concern to her, it was dealing with my anxiety.  Three separate phone calls later, she had convinced me to come in, and together we talked about the anxiety issue.

A lot of that conversation would not have been forgotten following my heart surgery.  You see, it was at that time, it was discovered that my body had been progressively developing late issues from my cancer treatments.  Along with my heart, lungs, spine, muscles, esophagus, thyroid, and more, my teeth would also need to be taken care of more properly and thoroughly.  And my dentist understood this.  She understood the need for prophylactic care, like antibiotics that I would need to take before having any kind of work done to prevent infections.  And of course there was the structure of the teeth.  She was aware of these concerns because she continually learns of latest advances in care and patient needs.

Less than a week after my heart surgery, I broke a tooth.  And for the first time, a filling or crown would not take care of it.  My dentist immediately referred me to an oral surgeon, and the tooth was pulled.  It seemed no big deal to me as it was one of my back molars.  In less than a year, a second tooth would develop a problem, an abscess.  As a cardiac patient, this was the worst thing that could happen to me.  Under normal circumstances, a root canal is done, followed by placement of a crown.  Unfortunately, this was going to carry quite a price tag on it, and I was left with the decision to have my second tooth pulled.  It was no big deal… or so I thought it would be.  As the oral surgeon attempted to pull the tooth, it literally crumbled in his tool.  I could feel it, and hear it.

When I returned to my dentist, we had a detailed conversation that now included prevention, or at least an attempt to prevent any more lost teeth.  It seems the radiation therapy that I had received, the excessive amount of it, had spread from the area intended (no duh, like my heart as well), so not only did my jaw get exposed, so did my teeth.

Meanwhile, on social media pages for cancer survivors, this seemed to be an all-too-common issue for many.  One thing became obvious, prevention did not seem like a likely possibility.  Instead, the concentration needs to be on the corrective action, especially if the tooth must be pulled.

Unfortunately for me, I have no options available as far as root canals and crowns.  If a tooth cannot be fixed, it will be lost.  And it is how it is done that makes a difference.

For the average healthy patient, or the unknowing cancer survivor, dentists and oral surgeons are likely to recommend or require “hyperbaric oxygen treatments” to help heal the jaw bone.

To be honest, I know nothing about this part of a tooth extraction, other than I cannot go through this.  Forget the cost involved, because of another cancer treatment related issue, exposing myself to this option could cause even greater complications.  You see, one particular chemo drug I got, called Bleomyacin, even years and decades following, evidently plays a negative role in hyperbaric treatments in what has been described to me as sort of a “reactivation of the drug”, causing damage to the alveoli of the lungs, you know the little sacs, causing an issue with fluid, called pulmonary edema.  As a patient with as many health issues that I have from my treatments, I really do not need to add any more complications.

And as I faced yet another extraction, luckily all have been in the rear of my mouth, it was only after multiple attempts to find an oral surgeon who would either not force me to undergo the treatment, or have a different option.

Platelet-Rich Plasma therapy (PRP) is a process where blood is drawn from you, the plasma processed to be used, by injecting into the hole left from the vacant tooth, to help the bone heal.  It is an inexpensive process, and not only not time consumptive, but done in minutes following the extraction.  The tooth pulled, the PRP administered, and the healing begins.

The only other issue to consider, is whether to replace the space.  Again, having radiation damage, I do not have the option of either an implant, and well… a bridge would just be too expensive.  The implant is not an option, because of the risk of osteonecrosis.  This simply put, is an increased risk of the jaw bone breaking, as in placing an implant would likely cause this.  To be honest, I can put up with some lost teeth in the back of my mouth, but not really willing to risk any damage to my jaw.

I had originally planned a different post tonight, but on my social media pages, there was a lot of buzz about this issue, so I have put out what my experiences have been.  It is what it is as far as I am concerned.  It is all about managing what I have to deal with, and cosmetically, it means doing all I can to keep what teeth I have left (although I have been told there are likely three more that eventually will face the fate of the others that have come out).  But because I have learned to manage the anxiety I had about going to the dentist, I am able to face this particular late effect issue, unfortunately on as seemingly a regular basis as my check-ups.

And just like my other health issues I deal from the late effects of my cancer treatments, unless I tell you, or, at least as long as my smile does not show any differently, you will never know that I am dealing with this.

“Paul’s Heart” – 50,000 Views Strong!!!

Typically, people dread Mondays.  While I do not dread them, Mondays are not my favorite day of the week.  HOWEVER, today is a great Monday!  As the counter states, “Paul’s Heart” has had over 50,000 views officially this past weekend.  Among some of the other stats that I have completely not remembered, I have published 764 posts (765 including this one).  There are 252 more posts in draft form, and hundreds that are just prompts.  And then there are more than a dozen published stories and articles that I have share on this site.  So many readers have either commented or written me with questions, situations, seeking advice, or simply just to say, “yeah, I totally get that.”

Just some of the topics that I cover regularly:

  • cancer and survivorship
  • adoption
  • parenting
  • healthcare
  • discrimination
  • parental alienation
  • education
  • bullying

I am driven by the expression, “those who cannot do, teach.”  Because I am a cancer survivor, I cannot donate blood or organs.  Because of cancer treatments, I discovered the world of adoption.  I have taken on discrimination and won.  I do not tolerate bullying at all.

But my one goal with “Paul’s Heart” has not been met yet.  Actually writing a book.  I have begun the process many times, each with a different concept or approach.  The only conclusion that I can reach as to why, is that I have not experienced yet, that one key moment that will either be the beginning, the focus, or the conclusion of such an endeavor.

In the meantime, I will keep writing about things I cannot do, but can help.  I will continue to be a voice for those that do not have the ability or confidence.  I will research and find answers, point in directions where to find answers.

I will also keep looking for, and printing guest stories from you, the readers.

From the bottom of my most grateful heart, thank you to all of you who have read, shared, and appreciated “Paul’s Heart” over the years.


Help For My Friend Danny

I am asking my readers to share this story.  It is not about money.  It is about getting my friend Danny the medical help necessary to recover from a horrific accident.  I must warn you, a picture will appear towards the end that is quite graphic, meant only to show the extent to how serious this injury is.

My friend Danny and I are from different sides of the country, and in fact, really have only met face to face one time.  But through the years, if I am counting right, going on ten years now, we have remained in touch with each other, offering laughs and support.  We share many things in common.  We both have daughters.  We both had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma many years ago.  And we both have to deal with late effects from the treatments that we were exposed to, in order to save our lives.  Many of those issues are similar as well.

One of the only differences I am aware of, and I am thankful for this, was Danny’s service in the military.  And if I am not mistaken, it was during his service that he faced his battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Danny is one of the most positive people I will ever know.  He loves nature.  He spends as much time as he can with his family.  And he loves his sports.  He splits his loyalties between where he is from, and where he resides.

Of everything that Danny has been through, between cancer, issues from survivorship, his military record, nothing seems to have had as much of a permanent impact on Danny as what happened to him while attending a Seattle Mariners baseball game.

This was Danny’s view on June 5th.  And it would be the last time he would see it with perfect vision from both eyes.  A line drive foul ball struck Danny in his right eye, flush.  The picture is gruesome, and honestly, he is probably lucky that his injuries were not as severe.  A baseball thrown from a pitcher can be thrown between 80-100 mph on average.  A line drive of a ball from a bat travels much faster.  There is little time to react.

The three major sports all have some sort of protective netting to protect fans.

But the netting is only partial.  Behind the goal posts in Pro Football.  Only around the blue lines in a hockey arena on both sides of the ice.  And only behind home plate of a baseball game.  Sure as a fan, we all hope to have a shot of going home with a free souvenir like a hockey puck that gets tipped into the stands, or have a ballboy or ballgirl, toss a foul ball to a young fan.   Hockey players are sitting ducks on the bench as they wait for their turns to go out onto the ice, just as the fans behind them.  Sure the most powerful shots will be headed toward the goals, but that does not mean that a player or fan will not take a shot to the face with a puck.  Baseball is no different, as foul balls constantly head toward the player dugouts at crazy speeds, with the fans unprotected just beyond those dugouts.  But history shows, only until a tragedy hits, does any of the big three professional sports do anything to make good or prevent.  For hockey, it took a girl being killed.  Just a few weeks ago, a national story broke the hearts of everyone, when a little girl was hit in the head by a fly foul ball.  Our hearts wrenched as the player who hit the ball, broke down in tears.  Since then, we have heard nothing.  I say we, meaning the public.

But as a friend of Danny’s, only some of us heard what happened to him.  There was no news coverage.

Honestly, I have no idea how he is even dealing with this.  The status of his vision, or the eye itself is still not determined.  Bleeding has been an issue even a week later because of medications he takes for issues related to his cancer survivorship.  Even doctors right now are baffled how to provide any relief from the pressure, the pain, and the bleeding.

The response from the Seattle Mariners?

Some momentos, get well tokens if you will.

My friend Danny does not need an autographed baseball or picture or flowers.  He needs the Seattle Mariner organization to step up and help Danny find the medical care he needs to heal and recover.  If this was one of the Mariner players, like Santana or Bruce that took a shot like Danny did to the face, you know the Mariners would spare no expense to get the player the medical help needed.

Danny has health care, including from the VA for having served our country in the Army.  But what he does not have, and the Mariners can help with, is getting him the medical resources necessary to help him recover.

It’s great that baseball teams like the Chicago White Sox and Texas Rangers are among the first to finally extend the safety netting down the field.  I am curious that as the Mariners at one time had talked about extending some netting, January 31, 2018 ( news) why only to extend the netting to 11 feet high to the end of the dugouts.

Danny has many friends who are supporting him emotionally, and trying to rally the Mariners to do more than what they have.  Danny needs medical help.

Besides sharing this post, your are encouraged to write to Major League Baseball commissioner  Rob Manfred, contact the Seattle Mariners via email

Most importantly Danny, know that so many are behind you.  And we are all hoping for a full recovery.  But it should not take a tragedy like this (or worse) for the Mariners or MLB to do something.

Just moments after I published this post, Danny has been informed he will lose his eye.

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