Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Bullying”

How Is This Still An Argument?

A couple notable things occurred today. In the county where I live, today was the ending of a mask mandate for helping to prevent spreading of Covid19, which our country is still dealing with in numbers as large as last year this time. You do not need to be a mathematician to figure out, that is not a good thing, and a huge reason if any to continue the mandate until we get down to numbers that are at least 20% of what they currently are (this would have been the equivalent of February or March of 2020.

Businesses had already ripped up the floor stickers and taken down any signage about social distancing, equating the ending of the mask mandate as the “all clear” to go back to the way we behaved in December of 2019, when we never heard of Covid19.

There is no doubt, vaccines have made a huge difference in this pandemic. And we have made the progress faster than ever could have been imagined. At this point, it is a matter of outpacing new cases with vaccine administrations. Consider this analogy, you battle a brush fire, by trying to contain it, not chase it. When you hear that a brush fire is 100% contained, that does not mean it is out, but rather, not expected to spread any further. If we could just hold on a little longer, get our new daily cases below 10,000, while vaccinating, we will have contained this Covid19 “brushfire.”

But we are tired. It has been so long. The fact is, it did not need to be. We spent so much time arguing with each other, denying reality, and too many, made it clear, losses were going to be acceptable.

I am glad not to shake anyone’s hand anymore, or greet anyone with a hug or kiss. I have never liked these traditions and it has nothing to do with being a germaphobe. And crowds, I avoid them like the plague, pun intended with the current situation, so social distancing for me is no big deal. And seriously, was it really that big of a deal to expect people to wash their hands, or for businesses to clean if not better, at least at all?

But the mask thing, that was a line that was going to separate our country. The ironic thing, and again, we study history so that we do not repeat it, the mask issue was a major problem when our country dealt with the last major pandemic back in 1917. People protested masks back then as well, although to be honest, the current mask protest was more linked to politics than it was safety concerns.

I had posted before, the only mask that we were going to be able to use that would guarantee prevention, was an N95 respirator. But it needed to be properly fitted and worn. Which usually takes someone showing you how to do so. But we had a shortage of this equipment, and officials made the mistake of not being up front with the recommendation that masks would do nothing, in hopes of preventing us, the common folk, from buying all the masks, leaving none for first responders who needed it to work with Covid19 patients.

Then we learned that any kind of face covering would help, not prevent, but help. Seriously, what do we sneeze into? A tissue. Perhaps the crook of our elbow. When we cough, what do we cover our mouth with? Or at least we should cover our mouth. This is why the mask was so important. For the lazy slobs who did not cover their orifices when they sneezed or coughed. Of course, the concern included general conversation and anything else expelling air.

The stories that came out why not to wear a mask were down right stupid and selfish, and nothing had to do with nothing. “You get sick from the masks”. No, you don’t. “Because they are not clean and you touch it with your hands which are dirty,” yada yada yada. That falls back on the wash your hands thing. “You breath in your own air, and that makes you pass out.” No, you don’t. Doctors do it all day. Nurses do it all day. Dentists do it all day. The list goes on.

How about the real reasons? “The person I respect the most discouraged wearing a mask.” “This virus isn’t real.” Or my favorite, “I will look silly in it.”

As you can see in my photo, I am not wearing a normal “surgical” boring looking mask. I prefer to “accessorize”, make it less sterile looking. I have several masks with different designs. Some actually end up conversation starters. The one pictured above, recognizes my Native American heritage. I could wear the boring blue surgical mask. I choose not to. And I have not gotten sick once from my mask from Covid19 or any other germ.

For those who were protesting the masks, there was a huge opportunity that was missed. Just like I chose to make my mask a little more easier to look at, as political as the mask situation got, it was an opportunity for mask wearers who object to anything, to put their message on a mask. Be a walking billboard for their cause. We saw this in Congress after the election. We saw it after the murder of George Floyd. The point is, the mask does not have to boring, or ugly to you, it just needs to be worn to be effective.

I guess time will tell, just as the rush to reopen businesses to full capacity, if trusting people to wear the masks on their own, will have the same effect. The fact is, our daily new Covid19 cases are too high not to be impacted by the relaxing of this mitigation effort.

The other big news, which of course I am sure the Anti-vax movement will jump all over, is actually a move that should be hailed for its precaution. The government recommended pausing the use of the Johnson and Johnson, one dose vaccine for Covid19. Of course, the AV movement is going to use this opportunity to smear the entire vaccine program at all costs. They already use an unfortunate tactic taking information that is displayed on the actual CDC web site, a system for reporting side effects of vaccines called VAERS, and swearing it as gospel. But the AV movement is “cherry picking” as they say, only issuing information that they want you to see. The AV movement does not share the disclaimer information how VAERS works, that information supplied is just reported and not necessarily factual or confirmed, and can in fact be biased. So, just shut up anti-vaxxers with this. The vaccines have enough to work through without your misleading claims.

We all know that vaccines were rushed. In fact, they are not even approved. Nor is it likely that they will be approved soon. The vaccines are simply “authorized” for “emergency use.” And let’s face it, we would be dealing with a lot more fatalities without them. Studies that have been completed, allowing vaccines to proceed, were based on healthy people receiving them. Evidently, in the beginning, there were no notable issues, because recipients were healthy. But now, as other sects of our populations are getting vaccinated, that means less healthy people may react differently to the vaccine.

And then there is the difference between the vaccines authorized for emergency use authorization. Moderna and Pfizer are mRNA vaccines with no virus in them, and the J&J vaccine has inactive virus in it (in other words, a vaccine normally made the way other vaccines have been made in the past). With well over a hundred million Americans being vaccinated, we are on the path of getting through this Covid19 crisis.

I will admit that I do not have the exact number of how many have received the J&J vaccine, but it is believed somewhere around seven million. And out of that, six women have developed blood clots. What has not been determined is if the vaccine was the cause for the pause. Here is what has been explained as to why the action was recommended, and there is nothing conspiratorial in it, sorry anti-vaxxers. It is likely only to be days, but experts are waiting to see if anyone else comes forward having experienced this side affect of the clotting syndrome. Many may not have been aware that this was related to the vaccine. Let’s say that many more women in this issue come forward, then the decision is definitely the correct one, the safe one. And if not, this is what does come out of the pause, time and education. It is understood, this clotting “syndrome,” is not like normal clotting requiring the use of heparin. In the case of this “syndrome,” medical experts need to be aware of other therapeutics before treating the patients they see with this syndrome with heparin. And that could make the difference between life and death.

Try to keep it in perspective. No vaccine and no medicine is ever going to be risk free. Some may have more than others. When it comes to blood clots, six women out of seven million so far have developed this issue. That is one in more than a million. And that is not trying to lessen the concern. But when you factor in other causes of blood clots, women who use birth control and smokers all have higher risks of blood clots. And then of course, there is Covid19 itself, with no vaccine, you go from less than 1% blood clot risk to over 16%.

But again, you have to keep things in perspective, especially when it comes to risks. Myself, I am on blood thinners because I have stents in major arteries as well as my double bypass. But I have other issues from my treatments for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma over three decades ago. I have a medicine I take to control my acid reflux, which impacts not just my entire GI tract, but my lungs and heart. I need this medicine, yet, as some of the doctors of my team will argue, that medicine risks interfering with my blood thinner which could result in, you guessed it, blood clots. But without that stomach medicine, the only one that provides me relief, there is no quality of life.

The risk of the clotting from the vaccine, versus the risk of clotting from the virus is a no-brainer. Get the vaccine. I am sure this pause is only temporary. Cases are rising again, and yes, you can argue hospitalizations and deaths are going down. And that is because the vaccines are doing what they are intended, to reduce the severity of the disease to the most vulnerable. Until cases get low enough, the virus is still going to spread. And that is why the race to vaccinate versus the speed of the spread is so important.

Frustrated By Bystanderism

Like many, I watched the horrific murder of George Floyd in May of last year. And then I watched the anger, the fear, and the wreckoning of understanding that racism is still a major problem in this country, seemingly no better than decades ago, only now, massive awareness.

Like many, I have been watching the trial of the murderer who took the life of George Floyd. Like the jury, I have seen new unseen video footage, including from bodycams and other angles.

I want to be perfectly clear, I support our police and other first responders. And there is a huge difference from a cop that accidently takes the life of a suspect or in self-defense, and one that blatantly disregards human life. No matter how the defense attorney tries to deflect away the true cause of Floyd’s death with accusations against the victim and finding faults in the various witnesses including first responders and police supervision, his client, in the end, well, we all witnessed the same thing.

The average person may not understand all of the medical terminology being thrown around in this trial, but unfortunately, many of the terms are all too familiar to me, given my extensive history as a cancer survivor. I know the terms hypoxia, RCA, lactic acid, and many of the other terms, because they all deal with cardiac concerns, of which is one of the health issues I deal with.

But, besides the fact, that Floyd lay unconscious, unresponsive for as long as he did until paramedics arrived, and the murderer remained on the neck of Floyd ignoring his obligation to be responsible medically for the victim has left so many scratching their heads, what else could have been done, since the killer would not relent.

In the schoolyard, probably all of us at one time or another, had witnessed a fight on the playground. Two combatants in the middle of a huge crowd, being cheered on. Likely, one fighter a bully, the other the target. Or perhaps you witnessed someone being pushed around publicly in a restaurant. Witness a parent just wailing on a kid’s ass in a grocery store? There are three participants in an act of bullying, the bully themselves, the target, and the third, the bystander. This is the person who for whatever reason, is unable to stop or prevent the assault from going any further.

The reasons of the bystander(s) can vary from apathy, to fear and apprehension, physical, or even health issues. If you really want to understand the mind of a bystander, you could not have a better example, than those who witnessed the murder of George Floyd. Testimonies by the many witnesses who gathered at the scene, finding their words as the only method to try and stop the murder. Sure, there will be those who will claim the behavior and language only enflamed the situation. Really? Could you picture yourself at that scene? All you had to do is watch the testimonies, and you could see why there was no easy solution for them to save the life of George Floyd. We see a fight… we try to stop it, and get hurt in the process. We see a cop killing an unarmed, restrained, and unconscious human being, if we lunge at the officer, the only thing that clearly would have prevented this killing, we would have been shot by the other officers at the scene.

My friend, fellow Hodgkin’s Lymphoma survivor, actress, author, Annie Lanzilloto did what she does best a couple of days ago, put her feelings, the way many of us feel, into words. With her permission, I am sharing the gut-wrenching monologue and video. An advocate for many causes, these words strike a hard reality. And that there is the possibility as history is witness to, justice still is at risk to not be served in the end. Floyd will still be dead. And we will still not have an answer, how to protect others from those who are supposed to protect us.

With that, I present the text and the video about “Bystanderism, the risk of stepping in,” by Annie Lanzilloto. Annie, these words are perfect!

“It’s Good Friday, and the crucifixion is happening every day. Bystanderism is unbearable testimony in the Chauvin case. The guilt the underage witness Darnella Frazier feels, saying, “I’m sorry George.” Meanwhile without her witness and steady hand, where would we be? Frazier’s video is the gospel of the Passion. It is how we best know what happened second by second. The helplessness and rage of off-duty firefighter Genevieve Hansen and all the witnesses. What they have to bear is unbearable. If they rushed the officers, they would have been shot. Yes I wish we all bumrush bullies of one stripe or another—that the three Marys tackled the Roman guards and got all three guys off the crosses, that we could all be like Todd Beamer and passengers on flight 93 on 911 headed for D.C. rushing the terrorists together, that the doormen in the lobby tackled the attacker of the Asian senior citizen woman on 43rd Street as he stomped her. Me? I cut my baby teeth on my father’s kneecaps biting through his green work pants as he shook my mother by her hair in the Bronx, 1969. Baby teeth are sharp. Bystanderism. The mortal risk of stepping in, I know well, as I got kicked across the room, into the piano. The guilt the witnesses bear and do not deserve. Kitty Genovese, 1964. What have we learned. Where are we? Who are we? And the horror of the Defense message about “interfering with police business” this Passover, Easter Week, and Spring Break, the timing of the Chauvin case on the calendar when we all are home watching. There are only two kinds of people now: when you look at George Floyd, do you say, “He is me,” or “He is not me.” He is me.”

A Four Letter Word Never To Say To Me

This post is actually a follow up to yesterday’s post (“Someone Moved My Cheese”), as I received several comments, echoing my journey with frustrations and acceptance of things that I physically can no longer enjoy doing, because of the late side effects from my cancer treatments for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma decades ago. In summary, these conditions cover the spectrum of muscular damage, cardiac damage, and pulmonary damage.

Before I proceed, a disclaimer, because I am going to use a couple of phrases that are offensive to some, but admittedly not as offensive to me, as something else that can be said. And several of my fellow Hodgkin’s survivors would agree.

I have no problem if someone tells me to “fuck off” or “fuck you.” Using that phrase with me tells me that it is your problem, not mine. But the four-letter word that I consider far worse, a fighting word, is “lazy.”

Garfield the cat had no problem with the label “lazy.” It was badge that he wore proudly.

As a society, many have no issue judging someone that they see either inactive or uninvolved as “lazy.” It does not matter why the target of the judgement appears as such, the declaration is made. It gives a person a feeling of superiority to be able to declare that they are better than someone else. But is calling someone lazy really setting a bar high in thinking of yourself as superior? What if there is an actual reason, why someone is unable or unwilling to do something, and it has nothing to do with laziness?

I was, a third generation blue collar worker until about thirteen years ago. I worked nearly every day, normally perfect attendance except during the time period of my cancer with the occasional days that I missed. My mentality, like my family before me, we showed up to work, even if we were rolled into work on our death bed. Reliability was definitely one of my strong suits. In the end of my working career, it was not unheard of for me to work 50-60 hours at my full-time job, and perform three to four gigs disc jockeying over the weekend. Some may see this as being committed to providing for my family, which I was. But it was also who I was. I just worked. It is what I did. It was so bad for me, that my daughter at age nine, asked me, “daddy, why are you always working? We never get to see you.”

When you do not make the conscious decision to do something, sometimes it is taken out of your hands and the decision gets made for you. And that happened to me, nearly thirteen years ago this month. It was the beginning of learning not only that my body was no longer capable of carrying the load that I had done my whole life, but why. And my doctors gave me a decision to make. I could either keep going at the pace I was, and expedite my issues and my fate, or I could give myself a break, allow my body the rest it so desperately needed, and slow a process down, that can never be reversed if I ever wanted to see my children grow old.

The denial was powerful. “How dare you tell me I have to learn to take it easy? Fix me. I will be good as new and continue on. You don’t know me and what I am capable of. I don’t know the words “give up.”

But my body did know the words “give up.” And since I would not make the decision on my own, soon after that event in April of 2018, emergency open heart surgery, my body would frequently, and severely, give me reminders that I was not taking the advice from my doctors seriously, resulting in multiple trips to the hospital, too many in critical conditions.

In 2012 and 2013, still fighting my fate, with my heels dug in against my body, another direction occurred, affecting me and my health. This was purely coincidental, but the benefits to my body, would finally do, what I had struggled to do, give my body the break it needed. In as brief as I can explain, my company was going through major downsizing. Up to this point, the company had accommodated my health restrictions as required by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). But with the downsizing, there was no longer any other work I was capable of doing for them. With their assistance, I was placed on the path to disability. This was something I had heard of so many other fellow survivors, but nothing I was prepared to accept for myself. But now, I had no choice. It was out of my hands.

And then I heard it for the first time. “He is just lazy.” These were words that I heard from a co-worker. Unlike my openness here on “Paul’s Heart,” I was not as open with my health issues at work, as those issues often got used against me. But, this individual, and many others to follow, felt they were qualified to summarize with their limited knowledge of me, that I was “lazy.”

Honestly, I did not give a lot of value to these opinions at work. There is credence to the fact, that we spend more time with our co-workers than our own family (at least in the awake hours), but that does not mean there is understanding like you would have from family members who know what you may be dealing with. That was definitely the situation in my case. All that mattered to them, was that I was not being given the same work load as them, and I was still making the same pay grade. I got away with being “lazy.”

And if it were only my co-workers who felt like this, that would be the end of this post, but it is not. It got worse. Because then family did join in with this belief towards me. Most of my immediate family, not only feel that my inability to perform certain functions anymore, is due to laziness, they actually deny the seriousness of my health issues overall. Forget the fact that many were witnesses to the multiple events that I experienced medically. Forget the fact that some family members were present when doctors explained everything to me, what was happening, and how I would never get better. They were there, yet they still deny it. Instead, they too, call me “lazy.”

By the time I left my employer, I was on three separate opiodes for pain, and a major sleep aid to get to sleep, and even that was no longer working. All so that I could work the amount of hours that I was working, that I was expected to. And the damage to my body from my treatments continued to progress and escalate in severity. This was my quality of life. My doctors told me, I was killing myself by pushing as hard as I was.

I am far from “lazy.” And the same is said for all of my fellow Hodgkin’s survivors that are reading this. We are far from lazy. We had monstrous things done to us to cure us of our cancers. And we get through our lives the best that we can, enjoying what we can, and most importantly, using the time that we have, to spend it with those that we love. In the end, that is what matters to us.

I have plenty left in me if you want to challenge my abilities. I am far from “lazy.” But as strong as I feel about that four letter word, will be met with one of my own if you call me that. Fuck you! And like everyone else who has taken that stance with me, you are erased from my life. You mean nothing. You are pitiful that you are actually jealous of a situation that I and others have to live with the rest of our lives. You are pathetic. You want to trade places with us, because you think we have it so good, have at it. I know plenty of takers who would give anything to enjoy life the way everyone else gets to.

Unlike those people however, we appreciate what we have, the time we have, and the people who want to be a part of our lives.

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