Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Animals”

32 Years…A Timeline Of Survivorship

Today I recognize yet another anniversary of the day I finished my chemotherapy for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, now 32 years ago. Among my circle of fellow survivors, many of us recognize this date, while others choose to go with the date that they were diagnosed. Going with the diagnosis date as the anniversary date, is supported by a popular concept recognized by many organizations, that just being diagnosed with cancer, makes you a survivor. For me, I use my last day of treatment. Technically, March 2nd was the last injection I received, but I still had one oral drug I was taking until March 3rd.

As I am still following precautions for Covid19, tonight is going to be just as it has been the last two years, just a quiet night, likely a lot of reflecting. As I have mentioned many times before, thirty-one times before in fact, this anniversary is bittersweet to me, because of all the other survivors not just that I have known, but also never had the chance to meet, who either did not survive their battle with Hodgkin’s, or lost their battle with their late developing side effects, similar to what I deal with.

While it is no small fete to continue to survive cancer, now into my fourth decade, the health issues from the treatments that were used to save my life, are a major struggle for me as they continue to add up. This is now the 3rd anniversary that has followed yet another major surgery. I have had three major surgeries in the last three years, two of those surgeries last year. Two of the surgeries involved my heart, the other, a carotid artery.

Looking back, over the decades, in spite of what I have gone through, I would not change my mind in the decision to accept the treatments that saved my life. The alternative was a certain death from one of the most curable forms of cancer.

May 20th, 1990, just over two months of completing chemo, I got married (for the first time). Seven years later, I began a career that not only fulfilled me, but would provide me with one of the most important benefits of my survivorship, health insurance I had otherwise been denied, just because I had cancer.

Another big anniversary, 2004, I became a father for the first time and welcomed my oldest daughter, Madison.

Two years later, 2006, Madison would become a big sister to Emmalie.

In 2008, my life after cancer would change in a dramatic way.

This photo has been used many times on my blog. This photo was taken when I came home following my first heart surgery, an emergency double bypass that would be attributed to damage from the radiation used to treat my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. This would be a major turning point for me. Because in spite of being told at that time that I was going to die, at any time from a fatal heart attack, I could not have wanted to live more. And to that, I credit Madison and Emmalie with giving me every reason to want to live. The thing is, I had no idea, this situation was not something once and done.

I had finally heard the term “long term cancer survivor,” and it was used to describe cancer survivors who faced late developing side effects from their cancer treatments. Health surveillance of me would discover that I had additional damage to my cardiac system (specifically my heart), my lungs, my gastrointestinal system, my thyroid, my upper torso (neck and shoulders), my spine, and more. The damage from my treatments was finally progressing enough that it was getting noticed.

I was determined though. Like I said, my daughters gave me the will to want “tomorrow,” a lot of “tomorrows” in fact. And that will would be tested, again and again.

Between March of 2012 and February of 2013, I would make five trips to the emergency room, one via ambulance again facing a potentially fatal event, the others less critical but serious nonetheless. Each time, all I could think about, were my daughters.

2014 would bring other challenges, not cancer related, divorce from my second wife, mother of my daughters, and the loss of my career, due to the rapid declining of my health. My determination to see my daughters grow up, into adulthood, could not have been any stronger.

In 2019, I would have my second heart surgery, a remnant from my 2008 open heart surgery, that had been left unrepaired, in what turned out to be false hopes of correcting itself via the open heart surgery.

Of course, later in the year, Covid19 would strike. But as my doctor once told me, “I cannot stop or reverse what is happening,” and that meant I would be extra challenged in 2021, not once, but twice. I needed to have my left carotid repaired, and eight months later, my third heart surgery, both performed while not only trying to not get infected with Covid19, but under the strictest of protocols in the hospital.

I expect a few of the upcoming years to be uneventful, at least I hope, which will allow me to steamroll to other exciting things that will happen in my life; my daughters graduating high school, college, and hopefully marriage and grandchildren. These were things I did not expect to see when I was told that I had cancer, and definitely did not expect to see, following that first heart surgery. But now, I will do all I can, and expect everything of my body not to let me down, so that I can complete my life.

On a final note, and yet another reminder of why I do not necessarily celebrate this day, I have a fellow survivor, going through open heart surgery today, again, another survivor of the treatments that cured her of her Hodgkin’s. But she is an even stronger fighter, in that she has beaten cancer multiple times. Gail, you are in my thoughts, and I will be looking for the updates on your recovery.

As I always do on this post, I will close with my annual expression, “as I continue down the road of remission, I will keep looking in my rear view mirror to make sure you are still following me. And if you are not on that highway yet, hurry up. It’s a great ride.”

A Tragedy Prevented?

The outrage is to be expected and has not disappointed. The lack of empathy, humanity is not disappointing. The level of stupidity would give Charles Darwin another great case study. The fact that this is not an isolated event is heartbreaking.

The details of the event, as they were being reported in real time, began vague, and unfortunately misleading. There was an attack at a zoo. A woman had been attacked by a tiger, was originally reported. It would be natural for readers to believe that it was likely an caretaker or handler, even thought there are procedures in place meant to prevent such accidents. Then the details got strange. It was a cleaning person, making no reference to gender, leaving readers to still think it was a woman. But now the question was, “how does a cleaning person get attacked by a tiger?” The final identification of the evening described a male, working for a “3rd party cleaning company,” in other words, a sub-contractor hired by the contractor, hired by the zoo to clean its gift shop and restrooms. Now the obvious question. How in the Hell did this individual get attacked by a tiger in the zoo.

Of course, as authorities had been called, local sheriff deputies had not idea, if the tiger had escaped its enclosure, to attack the individual. The area around the zoo is very populated, and who knows what could have happened, had that been the case. But we do know what happened. It was caught on video.

This is a still shot of the tiger enclosure during the incident, towards the conclusion. The body cam footage itself is so tragic and way too graphic, but it is in its entirety. I was shocked that it was released so quickly. But the video shows officers arrive at the zoo, closed for the day nearly two hours earlier, assumed all staff departed, now greeted by one zoo employee. The officer runs back to the tiger enclosure, in pitch darkness, the light of his flashlight his only way to see where he is going.

When the officer arrives near the pen, he can hear the screams of a victim. As he arrives, there is an individual on the ground, feet propped up against the chain link fence, using any and all strength, to prevent being pulled in further into the enclosure. Now, while you are wondering how does someone get pulled into a chain link enclosure, this individual, and it is not being explained what he was actually doing, was either attempting to feed or pet this tiger, and reached his hand through one of the links. And the tiger naturally reacted. This was no attack and I resent it being called that.

It needs to be noted, this individual climbed over the first prevention to get to the tiger enclosure, then stuck his hand through the cage. But I have several other questions. The 9-1-1 call was placed by him, as there was no one else at the zoo. Is there video or are there photos on his camera of his stupid stunt in today’s TikTok world? The individual was to be only in the gift shop area to clean and its bathrooms, no where near the tiger enclosure. How did he gain access to the rest of the preserve? While this individual worked for a contractor, what responsibility does this company have in this event?

I got sidetracked. Assistance from other offers and emergency personnel quickly arrived with the officer. Not having access to any of the equipment zoo personnel would have at their disposal for such an incident, they bravely did what they could to distract the tiger, to release the man’s arm, firmly trapped in the tiger’s mouth. From kicking the fencing to shouting, the tiger would not release the bloody piece of food it had in its mouth.

And I want to be clear, I do not fault the officer at all with what happened next. But what does piss me off, is the reaction of the man (and notice, I refuse to call him a victim), the officer states, “I am going to have to shoot the tiger.” The man shouts back, “SHOOT IT! SHOOT IT!”, begging for his life that he foolishly put in this position. In the darkness, the officers fires one shot, hitting the tiger, who then runs off to the back of his enclosure, freeing up the individual and he is removed and transported to a nearby hospital.

While unable to locate the tiger in the darkness, they would eventually locate the wounded animal, who would later succumb to the gunshot wound. There are all kinds of “Monday morning quarterbacking” going on in this case, as to things the officer could have done differently, there was nothing. Even firing a warning shot in the dark, could cause a ricochet hitting another person. Where were zoo personnel who would have had access to emergency tranquilizer equipment that could have been used instead? The truth is, only one thing could have prevented this ending, and it started not just with the perpetrator, but the zoo itself.

Make no mistake, the zoo itself, while I am no fan of captive animals, do serve a purpose in helping to preserve, rescue, rehabilitate, and educate about various species. I have been to this zoo several times as I live in the area, and I have seen Eko, a beautiful rare Malayan tiger.

So rare is this tiger, there are just over 200 left in the world. Now there is one less.

There are investigations on many levels going on now, including by the zoo itself. It is nationally accredited and recognized by the Association Of Zoos and Aquariums (how they came about having Eko in the first place as part of the Species Survival Plan), and is a member of the American Association Of Zoo Keepers.

If this event sounds familiar, it should. Do you remember Harambe?

Harambe was a lowland gorilla that was killed, when a small child, unattended by its parent(s), not paying attention, had climbed into the gorilla’s enclosure. To save the child’s life, which likely the gorilla would have taken, the gorilla was shot and killed.

Many do not like zoos at all for one reason, that they do not feel animals belong captive. I do see the big picture that in some cases, and I have been to several, the zoos are about conservation and preservation. But the most important part of that goal, is PROTECTION. And now, at least in my knowledge, I am aware of two such examples that we have failed to protect these rare and beautiful animals, from the stupid and selfish acts.

I am not likely to return to this zoo, as my disappointment is immeasurable. In a bank, ALL of the money is secured when a cleaning company comes into the bank. There is no chance of a worker walking off with cash. Why in the Hell, if there would be no zoo personnel present, after hours, while an outside contractor was supposed to be restricted to the main entrance part of the zoo, did this individual get back into the living habitats of the many animals kept on the outside of the structure he was limited to? Why was there no zoo supervision? So many questions.

Yes, there is outrage for Eko. And there should be.

Yes, there is lack of empathy for the individual responsible for this tragic loss of such a beautiful animal. The comments, in a good majority, claim that the officer shot the wrong target, should have let the tiger finish the guy off, while a small group of people offer a more peaceful and humane support of the wounded contractor. While I do not wish harm on anyone ever, I cannot find any space currently, in my heart for this individual and his stupidity. He will recover, his arm permanently maimed. But for those who got to see Eko in person, and even more difficult, those who were his handlers, this is a tragic loss that did not need to happen.

A Dad’s Thoughts

Ask anyone who knows me personally, and they will tell you that I think of my daughters all of the time.  Whether they were at daycare, in school, at a friend’s house, or in between visits, my mind is always going.

There are things that they have witnessed as children, they still have not taken the time to grasp, if they even will at all.  I have been completely open with my daughters that their questions should be answered.  And likely, there will be doozies that they were involved with, from issues related to the divorce, to their adoptions.

In the meantime, their lives have been spent with me making sure that they grew up with basic values, respect, trust, love.  It was important that they not only learned right from wrong, but why it was so.  I taught them that nothing that they succeed in, can come at anyone else’s expense.

The last several years, have been spent learning about prioritizing, time and money management, thinking about… THE FUTURE!!!!  Not to make the mistakes I made growing up.

The one thing that has been consistent?  I have let my daughters know, every chance that I get, that I am proud of who they are, and the things that they have done.  Of course, now older teenagers, when I do this, there is a response of an eye roll so bad into the backs of their heads, it produces a crashing sound of thunder.  Have I done it so much, that it has lost meaning over time?

This weekend is the first opportunity for the SATs in 2021.  As a rule, I loathe standardized tests as too much time in schools is spent teaching to take those tests.  But the SATs are different.

I do not remember that much about my first, and only SAT.  That was almost forty years ago, YIKES!  I had no prep.  I had no PSAT for practice.  I knew of no other opportunities to take the SAT again.  I had no guidance.  I was on my own.  This is referred to as “the school of hard knocks.”

My Dad was not there for me, most of my childhood and that was the way most of my life went, without all of these influences and needs being met.  There were no examples laying before me or any kind of playbook on decisions that had to be made with my daughters.  I raised my daughters the way that I wish I had been.

I cannot imagine the kind of student, or teenager I would have been, had my Father been as much of an influence as me with my daughters.  I was not an “eyeroller” because I just did whatever the Hell I wanted.  I was unsupervised.

All I knew was, my daughters were going to know that I love them and care about them, unconditionally.

Learning from my past, my older daughter heads into her first opportunity with the SAT, understanding that she is going to take the SAT at the minimum a second time.  She has had tutoring to help her along the way, with a huge study guide, and an on-line study program.  She has taken the PSAT (practice SAT) twice.  In other words, unlike I did forty years ago, just showing up on a Saturday morning to take the SAT, my daughter is as prepared for the SAT as she can be.  My younger daughter is just behind her at the PSAT level.

And yes, cue the sound of the “eyeroll thunder.”  I am proud of them.  And I will let them know it.  I am pretty sure that my older daughter would make a great poker player, as she never shows her hand when it comes to nerves.  If she is nervous about this weekend, she is not showing it.  She never has.  It is that one final thing that both have been taught, in the end, she did her best.  And whatever score she gets, that was her best.  If it needs to be better, she will work on it.  But for now, she gives her best, does her best.  It is her best.

Good luck to my older daughter this weekend.  I know you will do well.

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