Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the month “November, 2019”

That Time Of Year Again. So What?

If you have followed my blog over the years, you know this is not a good time of year for me.  Like many others, holidays increase stress, remind us of loss, and well… given today’s political climate, never a dull moment.

It was around Thanksgiving that I was diagnosed with cancer, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  Of course, I would carry this nightmare through the entire Christmas season and all of the other holidays that followed, including my birthday.  Ironically, as I have been writing about the 30th anniversary that I recognize in remission of my Hodgkin’s, coming up in March, it was declared in November, just before Thanksgiving that after three cycles, it appeared that my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma was in remission, still leaving me many months to go with preventative treatments (that is why I recognize March, when I was actually done with all my treatments).

So, no, that does not create a “wash” situation.  My diagnosis and remission both in the same month, just before the same holiday do not cancel out my dislike of the holidays.  Admittedly for decades though, I would blame my grudge on just my cancer history.  In reality, there was, and is, much more to it than that.

Going back to my childhood, my house would experience a fire while celebrating my birthday (in December) in 1976.  Two years later, at least four relatives would pass away during the Fall/Winter holiday season.  Though still too young at that point to let these tragedies affect me, came my diagnosis in 1988.  Several years later, just days before Christmas, my stepmother would be hit by a car, with my father witnessing the impact.

For the time being, that was enough events in my life to make dislike the holiday season.  And I was not alone.

With the adoption of my daughters, there was hope that I could put my resistance to holidays aside, if for no other reason, than the innocence of my daughters.  I would at least go through the motions of enthusiasm for the days to come, for their sakes, getting into the spirit.

That became more of a challenge however, because unfortunately, there were issues within our house, that were only dealt with by sacrifices.  And by sacrifices, I mean, we liked stuff.  We wanted stuff.  And to have that stuff, that meant, working on my days off, the holidays, pretty much all of them, all year round, so that we could have stuff.  And it was nice stuff.  Stuff that we no longer kept, including the opportunity of salvaging holidays for someone who finally had a reason to celebrate them, only to not be able to experience them, because I was at work.  I would also experience another major health even just weeks before Christmas in 2012, actually a relapse of an event earlier in the year.

Years later, following divorce, there would be a time period, that I was unable to see or spend the holiday season at all with my daughters.  In fact, it was my disregard for celebrating holidays that led me to actually give every holiday to their mother for regular custody, because the holidays became worthless to me.

But as I have reflected, while I blamed  the event of my cancer on my distaste for holidays, it is way deeper than that.  And to be honest, I do not miss celebrating the holidays either, at least on the holidays themselves.  I do celebrate with my daughters around the holidays, just not on them.  Because the time I get to spend with them, is more valuable to me than the holiday itself.

Perhaps some day, I will take another swing at holidays, if my daughters, and my doctors give me the opportunity to be a grandfather, still many years away hopefully.  But for now, I am okay, just going through another day, another year, no stress, not really giving any thought about all the losses that I have experienced, and definitely no talk of politics, and just simply watch some football.

I do not write this story for pity.  Quite the contrary.  This is a choice I have made.  But the truth is, there are many though who do struggle with the holidays.  Unfortunately, you may not know who they are, as I recently shared a meme recently that said, “check on your strong friends.  They are the ones bleeding in silence.”

And yes, after all this, I am still going to say, Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.  I really am quite thankful for all the care, support, and encouragement that I have gotten over the years, whether through my cancer and related illnesses, or tragic events and crisis in my life.

Why You Need, And Should Want Therapy

So, maybe this post could have been called “You’re Too Young For This – Part 2.”  I had made comments about my experiences lacking in physical therapy, and during cardiac therapy.

When we experience any kind of trauma to our bodies, whether it be physical or emotional, we need to repair whatever damage has happened.  This is called rehabilitation, or therapy.  We should expect to either go through this rehab supervised, or at home.  No matter where it occurs, it needs to be done.

Besides the fact that therapies are often not suggested, there is sometimes a cost factor involved, especially if benefits do not provide or do not provide enough coverage.  But as a fellow long term Hodgkin’s survivor once told me, “do not let economics determine the care you need.”

For the purposes of this post, I am going to talk about cardiac rehab, or cardiac therapy.  Physical therapy and psycho therapy are just as important, but the points I will make using cardiac therapy, actually apply to all three types of therapy.

We can all agree that the heart is the “be all, end all” when it comes to our bodies.  If I oversimplify that all we need to do following any surgery involving the heart, is to just get some exercise, as simply as going for a daily walk it is easy to dismiss the necessity of cardiac therapy.

The question you have to ask yourself however, is how do you know your heart repair is healing properly, getting stronger as it should, and that there are no complications?  After all, were you aware that you had an issue with the heart before the surgery?  Or did someone else need to diagnose that?  For as important as the heart and cardiac system is to us, following a surgery to that system, we need to, and should want to rely on anyone, and anything we have access to, to makes sure our recovery is progressing as it is expected.

Three Things That Cardiac Therapy Accomplishes

The first, you have had physical trauma, whether through open heart surgery or even through catheterization.  Especially when it comes to a cardiac procedure, most patients will agree, you feel almost completely different, better of course, following the procedure.  But for many, depending on how long the patient has been sedentary, we can, and I did, end up very weak, as in lost probably 80-90% of my strength and endurance in less than a couple of days.

Of all the several times that I have had to rehab, more than a half a dozen, I am notorious for pushing myself, often further than I should.  No one wants to return back to what I was like before quicker, than me.  And  because of that, I am likely to not adjust back into a routine, but rather pick up, right where I left off.    And the only way that ends, is with me getting hurt.

A cardiac program will have a therapist set up a program, designed with your goals, as well as how to get there safely.  The therapist will set up based on time of exercise, somewhere between 30 to 40 minutes, different exercises to be done, and what level of resistance or effort to complete each exercise.  That therapist will increase time, and effort as time goes on, and just as your goal was set, it will be reached, safely.  And when therapy is completed, you will have learned how to continue and build on that progress.

The second thing accomplished with a supervised cardiac rehab program, trained staff can actually see what you cannot, your heart.  Remember when I asked if you knew you had a heart issue or if someone had to tell you?  Cardiac therapy gives you a constant set of eyes as you exercise.

All cardiac patients are attached to their own monitor, usually with three leads.  One goes to each side of my chest, another to the left side of my rib cage.  My heart is watched the entire time that I am exercising in the event of any event involving my heart beat.  As I am not one to complain, this is a big deal, because they will see what I do not say, and if necessary, stop the exercise.  Whereas on my own, I would be likely to continue on, pushing my body harder than what it should, potentially ending up with a serious issue.

The other benefit of this therapy, as mentioned, the staff can see what my heart is doing, and can adjust the exercises to achieve goals, one of which is a working heartbeat (as opposed to at rest).  Work loads can be increased to get the heart beating stronger.

And one of the final things cardiac therapy does?  It helps to fight off the excuse, “I don’t have time to exercise.”

Cardiac therapy helps, it does not guarantee.  But, after two and a half months of going three days a week, for forty-five minutes each session, there is really no excuse to say you have no time.  That has been the schedule for two and a half months.  And it has been done with the same time and schedule.  Instead of looking at our newly returned forty-five minutes to our day, we need to keep that forty-five minutes committed to continuing on our own.  As many try to start an exercise program, too many give up just weeks into the program.  A cardiac therapy program helps you to establish a firm routine.

There you have it.  My explanation of why you not only need cardiac rehab, but should want it as well.  It is to your benefit and your family will thank you for it.


There Is Only One You

I am doing some housekeeping.  It seems that I have over 250 prompted posts that I have not published, just sitting there.  This is on top of the nearly 800 I have already written.  I recently just completed an annual writing project that I have done for the last seven years.  That story will be published here some time in March.  In all of this, I now have four book ideas that I need to finally “get off of the pot” and get writing.  So, I will get at least one of those posts sitting in my cue published.  It is a bit of a public service announcement, more than about my survivorship or parenthood, though clearly both have been and can be impacted by the topic.

Lock yourself out of your Apple product, or worse, completely forget your super secret information that was originally given when you purchased an Ipad.  What happens?  You are “SOL”, or sh*t outta luck.

Just bought a really cool game system used at a yard sale?  But when you go to sign up for programs or apps, you get a message that the unit has already been registered previously (obviously by its previous owner).

This lengthy number is located just inside of your car’s windshield.  Literally, it is called a vehicle identification number or VIN.  It is a unique identifier to the vehicle and its owner.

We here, in the United States, have our own unique identifier, called a Social Security Number.  This set of digits is just as important as a car’s VIN, a TV game console serial number, or Ipad model number.  Unlike the list of these and many other material items, the security of our SSN, is not only not taken as seriously, is also not as protected.

It is likely at some point in a person’s life, some form of our personal life will be breached, whether bank records or even a social media account.  We deal with any issues that arise with corrections and alterations and move on.  Usually these “hacks” often go without apprehending the individuals committing the illegal acts, often because it is too difficult to determine.

But for being the 9 most important numbers in a person’s life, there are not enough protections in place, and definitely not enough enforcement when incidents are discovered, and luckily solved.  In fact, even if you are a victim of identity theft or identity fraud, involving that SSN, you keep that same SSN.  You do not get a new SSN.  What you get are a whole lot of extra security steps that will get attached to your number, that you will have to remember, but also change everything else associated with your personal life such as bank accounts and credit accounts.  Everything will need extra security steps to help insure your security.

I have studied this issue, because I myself was a victim of identity theft and identity fraud involving my social security number.  And it was not because of anything I did, anything I told anyone, or any of the many forms I filled out that required me to submit my social security number.  My social security number was actually stolen.  But unlike many cases that remain unsolved, I know who did it.  I know who used my information.  The frustrating thing, was in spite of me knowing this information, I was unsuccessful in court not only in having the individual held accountable for his actions, but having the judge totally dismiss the accusation all together.

Having possession of something that does not belong to you, by any means committed, is theft.  Using that illegally possessed information is considered fraud.  I cannot explain what was missing in leading the judge not to protect me, but I do know this much.  I have made all of the corrections I needed to for my privacy.  But also, if I discover anything else being perpetrated against me, my finger will be pointed in that individual’s directions.  At some point, legally, this will catch up to him.

But in the meantime, I want to share this with you, to help you protect yourself.  Because that is what Paul’s Heart is about, sharing my experiences to help you deal with your situations and overcome any obstacles.

The most thorough process you can find to help you deal with an act of identity theft or fraud, can be found at operated by the Federal Trade Commission.  They will take you step by step what you need to do right away, soon after, and how to repair.

The first thing to do is to contact whatever entity was affected, where you know the theft or fraud occurred.  You need to have a fraud alert put on any and all accounts, and possibly consider a “credit freeze.”  The easiest way to figure out who all you need to reach out to, is to get a credit report from all three credit reporting agencies (Experian, Transunion, Equifax).

Once you have done all the notifying, then you need to get to the repairs and corrections.  Fight all fraudulent claims.  Close every account you have and open new, with the extra fraud protections.  I mentioned a “fraud alert” and a “credit freeze,” both of which are meant to do the same thing, protect you, but the alert still allows you to have access as long as verifications are made and is free to have done, and lasts for seven years.  The freeze stops all access until you lift the freeze, with fees depending on individual states, and lasts until you remove it.

Of course, like I mentioned, close every account you have, and open new with the added safe guards.  Of course identity theft and fraud does not limit itself to just credit and social security, but also for taxes, child identity, and even medical theft.

If a company loses your information, or it is breached, you can count on that company being held accountable.  It is when the theft occurs by an unknown person that the uncertainty of a resolution will cause the most stress.  Even as I pointed out, even though I know the identification of the individual, the law was actually used to allow that individual to steal my identity and commit an act of fraud.  But as I said, with all the protections I now have in place, any future attempt, he will be the first one accused.

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