Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Education”

It All Seems So Long Ago

Reality is beginning to set in for me.  My daughters are growing up.  I knew it would happen.  I saw it happen to all the kids of my friends.  Nobody seems to have been able to stop time so that we can hold on to these childhoods, just a little bit longer.

I do miss the days of Backyardigans and Little Einsteins, messy table settings, and telling bedtime stories and singing lullabies to my daughters.

A promise I made to myself, and I would think every parent would want the same, was to make sure that my children were not only prepared for their future, but would also be given as best an opportunity to get there.  We should always want better for our children.  I know that I do.

In recent years, homework assignments have become much more serious, and detailed.  Social and recreational activities soon needed to be scheduled.  And of course, shopping for clothing is no longer done at the Children’s Place or Justice.

The reality of growing up occurred recently as I took my daughters clothing shopping, partly to see if they could spend their Christmas gift cards, the other, with a specific task of choosing a dress for a school dance.  I, as well as my opinion, have been replaced by sibling support.  I get to participate only as a witness, only as a courtesy.  Together, the two sisters decided which looks best on who.  I am just driving them from store to store.

With both daughters in the final quarter of their secondary education, they are encouraged to begin to consider the direction in life that they want to take.  My daughters are sisters, both are intelligent, and other than those facts, any comparison of the two is completely unfair to both.  The ideas that both are considering for their futures could not be any more different from achieving higher education to job selection.  How both get to their goals ultimately will be up to each of themselves.  It is my job as their father, to make sure that they have the opportunities, and to help figure out how to get there.  And I want only for them to have that success.  And other than my health issues, it is the futures of my daughters that consume my time.

As both continue to progress, and earn their own individual accolades and achievements, I offer nothing less than praise and congratulations.  Like any proud parent, admittedly I probably go overboard with the amount of “I am proud of you” I give to each of my daughters.  Again, they are each their own person, their own personality, their own style, and their own future.  But they are sisters.  Most importantly, their achievements, have been because of their own hard work.

I should not be shocked by where I am at right now in parenthood.  It is what drives me every day.  My doctors have told me, together they will make sure that in spite of my health issues, I will get to see my daughters grow old.  And in order to get there, that means accepting they are getting older as well.

I miss those younger years.  But man… the memories I am making today are so worth it.

More Than Just A Resolution

I stopped making New Year’s resolutions long ago.  I simply do not like obligating myself to do things.  My inspiration is simply my will to want to do it.  Exercise is one of those things that is often challenged as a resolution, and as a survivor of so many different health issues, I do not need any incentive to make exercise a resolution.  That does not change the fact, that it is something that I should want to make a part of my every day life.

Even with my physical limitations, there is nothing really stopping me from daily walks except for when climate is involved.  Range of motion prevents my arms from elevating to a certain point, but it does not prevent me using my arms.  So that means really, any kind of limit or prevention that I have to doing any exercise, is mostly mental.

Up until my emergency heart bypass back in 2008, I would consider myself an average exerciser.  Average in that I  would exercise, now and then, and again, and so forth.  Being somewhat overweight, and hearing regular lectures from my doctor about “being shorter” than my doctor, meant I needed to “weigh less” than my doctor, while I was very much interested in building strength, I knew I needed to burn calories in order to lose weight.

I had gained over 70 pounds since my last chemotherapy (and radiation).  Although the pieces of the puzzle at that time had not been put together, it was just assumed that my thyroid had something to do with the weight issue.  Of course it would later be discovered how badly my thyroid was affected during my cancer days.  Anyway, that is another post.

In January of 2008, I made my final resolution ever, to get into shape, to lose the weight, once and for all.   I would spend about an hour doing cardio, and another forty-five minutes in the strength training.  Having done weight training before, I already knew the plan I wanted to follow.  But in order to burn calories, I had to do a little investigation first, which would help me to burn more, and faster.

The eliptical, stepper, or stryder, would be the equipment I would use for that purpose.  With different levels of effort, due to either speed, or tension, I estimated I would be able to burn close to a thousand calories in an hour.  I would spend an hour on the machine, then head over to the gym for strengthening.

On the center grips, there are two metal grips, that sense your heart rate.  Obviously, getting your heart rate to increase to a targeted range, is what would help burn the calories.  That is all I knew.

Here is what happened.

I would start to step, increasing my speed, and tension.  Within less than a minute, I would have a tightness across the left side of my chest, almost like a cramp, much like a side sticker when running in cold weather.  As uncomfortable as it felt, I followed the “no pain no gain” mantra.  After all, the heart rate display was showing, my heart rate was indeed increasing, which I needed it to do.

That said, I am NOT a physical fitness expert, and the level that my heart rate was not only increasing, but the actual rate it got to, was not only safe, it could have been fatal for me.  (please read  my page, CABG – More Than Just A Green Leafy Vegetable and you will read what happened).

My heart rate went from the mid-70’s to 152 within less than a minute.  Unfortunately, that discomfort that I had, went away after a minute.  And with my heart rate elevated like I thought it was supposed to, I just kept on going, for the remaining 59 minutes, and then over to the gym.  No pain, no gain.

I did this for five days a week, until the middle of April when it was discovered that I had a “widow maker” blockage to the main artery going to my heart, blocked 90%.  I would discover this was caused also by my treatments for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

My cardiologist gave me the somber words, “it was not a question of ‘if’ you were going to die, but ‘when'”.  Some how, I got through 100 sessions of exercising with a near fatal condition, not dropping over dead.

Why am I bringing this up?

Because, as a cardiac patient and survivor, I have annual follow-ups, and have had additional issues.  And just as I had to complete cardiac therapy following my bypass, I found myself recently being required to go through additional therapy.  The goal, to get a better control on my blood pressure and perhaps help with my circulation.  In the beginning, it seemed similar to what I had gone through previously as far as exercises… a treadmill, a hand bike, a bike.

After two weeks, I was informed of an additional exercise.

I stood there paralyzed with an unrecognizable fear.  As with other issues that can trigger my cancer-related PTSD, this moment was one of those moments.  This machine literally nearly killed me.  And I was expected to get on it again.  I had refused to even go near this machine with the numerous gym memberships I had, since April of 2008 because of what happened.

I was not being given any choice in the matter.  The cardiac therapist wanted me to maximize my routine and health benefits, and just like before, this was going to do it.

But unlike the last time I stepped onto this machine, I was being monitored.  My blood pressure, and my heart rate were all being monitored by a nurse sitting at a computer station.  And I needed to trust my therapists.  I had seen them in action when someone’s vitals were not right, and they interceded.  I really had nothing to fear.  I needed to get back on to that machine.

It has been over a month now, and this is the result.

That is right.  Exercising at the speed shown, and the tension shown, my heart rate was 121 at the five minute mark, just 7 beats below my maximum.  This was a huge hurdle for me to get over.  I am no longer intimidated, um… afraid of this machine.

The records kept while I have been going through this program show I have been doing the right thing.  The results physically may not show (as far as my weight), but blood work and physiology are showing that I am doing the right thing.  This cannot be a resolution for me.  Resolutions are not kept.  This is a lifestyle I need to keep up when my therapy program is over.

It Is So Quiet

A family, when including both a mother and father, untouched by divorce, have routines for their children following the holidays, getting back to the normal day-to-day activities of school, work, and things around the home that need to be done.  Moms and Dads seemingly pick up, right where things leave off.

But for families who have gone through divorce, have a different process to go through, because there is a process called “custody”, normally dictated by a court though sometimes simply agreed on by both mothers and fathers.  This means, that following the holiday, one parent will continue to pick up the activities of the children as mentioned above, for others, it is just so quiet.

I do not talk about my own specific details of my divorce for many reasons that I will not get into.  I will clearly specify when things pertain to another family.  But for the purposes of this post, I am simply talking about an emotion.

During custodial periods, especially during a holiday period, for however long that period lasts, the non-custodial parent gets to enjoy the quality of time with his or her children, like that which once was uninterrupted and filled with tradition and lots of fun.  There are increased bathroom routines under the roof with the additional family.  Though meal times may remain relatively unaffected, bed times are often extended either out of pure excitement, or the difference of the times between homes.  The mornings can be just as upside down and staggered causing all kinds of adjustments to be made to the day.  And this will go on for every day of the custodial visit.

The parent who normally spends the majority of their time alone, perhaps with a partner is likely to enjoy the return of the activity around the home and the lack of any down time to recover.  For the non-custodial parent, the time being spent is not infinite.  That particular period does have an end.  And that end, is just so quiet.

That first morning after, it is just so quiet.  There are no extra breakfasts to make.  There are no plans to be made.  There are no “chimes” from a text message being received in the bedroom just twenty feet away.  There is no random appearance from your child just to say “Hi.”

There were a lot of memories shared during this period.  And of course the attention is steered toward the next visit and the activities that await.  But for now, it is just so quiet.

When two people make the decision to become parents, it is more than likely, a divorce being in their future is the furthest thing from their mind.  But things happen.  And though husband and wife divorce, mother and father do not.  And regardless of where either parent lives, when two parents are involved, the child has the right to spend time with, be loved by, and love, both parents.  Mother and Father do not divorce.

During custodial periods, especially holiday periods, that is when the relationships are not only put to the test, but when allowed to continue naturally, allow everyone to move on in a progression of peace.  And the children end up all the better for that.

I relish every moment I get to spend with my daughters.  I do not take this for granted.  There are too many fathers and mothers who do not get to spend time with their children for any number of reasons.  As a child of divorce myself, I know what it was like not to have my father around.  I applaud the state of Pennsylvania, as well as others, that have either taken the steps, or are in the process of, enacting legislation to make shared 50-50 custody the presumption when it comes to the children.  Pennsylvania house bill HB1397 gives the starting point for both parents, as if they were married, both equal parents.  With the exception of domestic violence (or any other criminal act), the children have the right, in their best interest, to relationships and time, with both parents.

It is really common sense when you think about it.  If there was nothing wrong in the house between parent and child, why should the parent be penalized with anything less than equal time with their child?  If something were to happen to the one parent, without question, the other parent would take full responsibility for the child, rightfully so.  So why then, should children be expected, and parents forced to accept, anything less than equal time with both parents?

Sure, there will be some who object to this simple to understand concept, and I will not discuss what I am aware of.  But the simple logic, children deserve a relationship with both parents, when there is no recognizable danger to the child.

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