Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Food”

Hurricane Irma – One Year Later

At this time last year, I was as secure as I possible could be.  Because of the uncertainty of the path of this storm, which was not determined literally until 24-36 hours before, which was too late for the expensive evacuation process, I had made the decision to secure myself behind storm shutters and ride out the storm.  It was not a decision that I made lightly, but as I said, the uncertainty of the path, and the expense of evacuation were both deterrents in me leaving my home.  All I could do was prepare as best as all of us who remained, were instructed to do.  As I write this, at 12:30pm, three hours later from that time, as previously warned, the eye of Hurricane Irma would pass directly over my city.

You could hear the storm grow in severity as it approached with the winds rattling the storm shutters harder and harder.  Unsecured objects being lifted from their sedentary spots and hurled harder than cannonballs into buildings and shutters.  Of course, being enclosed, there was no way to witness the destruction that was occurring outside.  I could just hear it getting worse, louder and louder.

A calm would come eventually, as the eye passed overhead.  Nothing near the beauty as shown in movies, but it was definitely much more calm than just minutes before.  Against warnings, as the broadcasters knew many would do, I ventured outside to experience this eerie calmness.  It was still raining, and the winds had died down from the 140mph, to at my guess, 20 to 30mph.  And within minutes, the winds instantly returned to the triple digit speed the storm arrived with.

A couple of hours later, Irma was gone except for some remnant bands.

Under normal circumstance, September 11th, would be a day that I remember what happened to our country.  And really, given the charged political atmosphere had become, especially here in Florida, Irma had become a much needed distraction from two sides of people with different ideas and opinions.  For after this storm, we were all one people, trying to recover from one of the worst storms in history.

My building is in the process of finally being repaired, its roof still not completed on this anniversary.  We are in the middle of rainy season, and there is another two potential hurricanes heading to Florida while the Carolina’s brace for Hurricane Florence this week.

Right now however, we have recovered for the most part, at least as far as our lives go.  There are still probably 25% of people that still have repairs that need to be done.

Sadly, the American people of Puerto Rico, were hit with a storm right after Irma, Maria.  And to this day, the island is still in horrible shape.  Over 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico as a result of Maria.  And repairs are still necessary for so many.  They need help.

I have gone through seven hurricanes in my life, this the first one going through the eye of the hurricane.  From moment one following the storm, we learned what it was like to live without power, without running water, without the ability to cook.  The list goes on.  As I said though, neighbors and friends got through this together, not divided.  No matter what our differences, we did prove that we can get along and help each other.

As the expression goes on, literally,  “you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.”



What Happens To Dragons? They Die!

From the time that many of us learned what cigarettes were, the main reason for smoking, was to be cool.  It was cool because of the other cool kids you hung around that smoked.  But what was even cooler, smoking allowed you to breath smoke, just like dragons.

Do not worry, I am not going to go off on a rant on cigarettes and tobacco, much.  Because in our quest to find a safer way to breath smoke like a dragon, vaping came a long.  Instead of smoking tobacco and all of its toxins, it was believed that inhaling a vapor, with its known chemicals (some toxic) would at least be healthier, and you could still look like a dragon.  It has not been around long, but it did not take long to figure out, vaping has its own safety issues, and is actually considered more dangerous.

With laws targeting kids under 18 to prevent smoking, kids have found an option to not getting caught smoking.  Vaping.  And as usual, there is the sense of invincibility that nothing will happen to them.  Best yet, with no hot tip to extinguish, the vaping stick can be easily hidden, with an appearance that quickly dissipates, and an aroma that can often pass off for either a body spray or perfume.  While we assume it is happening in high school, do you realize it is already happening as early as middle school?  Seriously, the kids know it is going on in the bathrooms.

While walking through the mall the other day with my daughters, we came across a dessert stand.  They were selling “Dragon Breath”.

Dragon Breath is the latest craze that allows you to ingest something, and exhale “breath” like a dragon.  A cool mist resulting from liquid nitrogen sealed in the puff treat.  Once in your mouth and eaten, you can begin to breath like a dragon.

Cool, right?  Do you really know about liquid nitrogen?  You know the solid form of liquid nitrogen… dry ice.  Do you know what happens if you handle dry ice with bare hands?  Frost bite.  Do you have any idea how long it takes to heal from frost bite?  You get the idea.  While the liquid nitrogen being used in this “food” is nowhere near the temperature of dry ice, it is still super cold.  In fact, now there are ice cream parlors that freeze ice cream in front of your eyes in minutes using liquid nitrogen.  Liquid nitrogen itself is not toxic, but the damage it can cause from frost bite or other cold issues, is serious.

Recently, a child had an asthma attack in Florida.  How could someone have an asthma attack from eating cold.  It is not the eating cold, but inhaling to cold liquid nitrogen.

While I do not smoke, I do not vape, and I certainly will not eat “Dragon’s Breath”.  First, personally I do not see anything appealing about smoke or mist coming out of someone’s face.  I know, that makes me a killjoy.  But seriously, you need to understand how fragile our only set of lungs really are, and how crucial they are to every day living.

I wish this was what my lungs looked like today.  This is actually a picture of lungs after having been exposed to 20 grays of radiation.  You can see it does not look healthy.  So, thirty years ago, I was hit with nearly 4000 grays to treat my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  To this day, the lower lobe in my left lung is described as “dead”, and I have many “spots” on both my lungs that have never been identified, but rather are being watched to see if they turn into cancer.  Pulmonary function testing reveals that over the three decades, my lung capacity has been reduced down to 76% which is one of the reasons I sometimes experience a shortness of breath, especially during peak times of humidity or cold air.  That’s right, inhaling humidity or cold air trigger a response similar to an asthma attack for me, the only difference is, inhalers offer no relief.  I simply have to find a comfortable climate, sit, try to breath, and wait for the episode to abate.

Most of us at one time or another have been drinking something, and it has “gone down the wrong pipe” and we begin to cough.  There is a reason.  Liquid does not belong in our lungs.  Sick and elderly patients near the end stages of life often experience fluid build up in the lungs, often only to find relief in having the fluid drained.

Yeah, I know I am being a fuddy-duddy.  But going what I have gone through, and watching my dad die from lung cancer from nearly 6 decades of looking like a dragon, I have no interest in ending up like one.

Summer Vacation – A Learning Experience

As a kid, who did not love Summer vacation?  But as an adult, I love it so much more.  I have always been the type of person who enjoys watching others’ happiness, more than my own.  And now that I get to witness things as a father, through my daughters’ eyes, yes, I love every chance I get to spend with my daughters.

My daughters love the reality television show, Big Brother.  By default, that means when they visit me during the Summer, I am stuck watching the show with them.  It is unavoidable because I live in a one-room apartment.  A similar situation if you will to the living arrangements on Big Brother, more than a dozen people, trapped in a contained studio house, for over 90 days, with someone being kicked out of the house every week.  Every move is watched.  Every word is heard.  Trapped.

Ok, so our situation is not identical per se, but, the three of us are staying in the same room, for 49 days, but no one is being evicted.  Ok, we get to leave the apartment and do things.  Ok, there is no backstabbing and lying to get favors.  But there is one thing that our situations do have in common, learning about each other.

I have spent most of my cancer survivorship, proving to everyone, that I will be fine.  At the same time, I have spent all of my time, convincing everyone that the many issues I face as a result of my treatments thirty years ago, are very real.  They are not once and done episodes, but a progression of situations, monitored, waiting to have no choice but to be dealt with some day, hopefully before it is too late (read “CABG – Not Just A Green Leafy Vegetable and you will see what I mean).

My daughters were 3 and 5 when my body let me know, that while I may have beaten cancer, it came at a price.  And there would be several more episodes in the upcoming years.  But I have always been of the mindset, to let my kids be kids, let them deal with childish things.  And as I realized how much happier off they were just to know “Daddy was okay,” I used this mentality when it came to family, friends, and co-workers.  By doing so, I did myself a disservice, as well as perhaps other cancer survivors as well.  I figured, if I could keep all the issues hidden that I have to deal with, then I would not have to worry about anyone worrying about me.  The unrealistic part of that is, anytime a crisis would come up, there would be worry.  But then that would be followed up with “get over it already, you are better”, or worse, “just faking it.”

It is ten years now since my daughters saw me hooked up to all kinds of machines, recovering from open heart surgery, and having witnessed many of the other events.  Already during this visit, questions are beginning to come up.  Because of the warmer climate here, many of my scars are exposed, and these lead to questions.  Both daughters were never there when I went through my cancer, though are very proud of me for having made it all these years.  But as they grasp that the fact that many of the things that I deal with health-wise are because of my treatments, they now understand, my body will never get better, only worse.

They know that I have good days, and they have certainly seen my bad days.  They know the issues that I deal with are very real.  But that is not what are visits are about.  Yes, they are learning about me, and I am learning about them.  And I have so much more to teach them.  I take them to visit preserves, complete computer courses that may benefit them in their future, and another first, helped my oldest apply for her first job.  And we still do workbook exercises to prepare them for the new school year, though I have now pared the work down to a specific course that either may have struggled with in school (they each had one).

But there is still so much more for us to do together.  And I cherish every moment I have with them.  And I know that they are enjoying the time with me.  I know that they care about me.  They want to do what they can to keep me around a lot longer, whether it be a better diet, or exercise (we have a nightly walk routine after just 3 days).

They know that in just a few years, our roles may change with each other as I will have to give them responsibilities, as far as things they definitely need to know, and perhaps, prepare for.  They will become my legal guardians and our roles will switch.  If I am faced with the difficult situation of being incapacitated as I have with past events, they will be the ones that will need to carry out my wishes should decisions need to be made.

In the meantime, like I said, I want to let my kids, be kids.  But at least they know, just because I do not show it, does not mean that I am not dealing with some serious health issues.

And just as my children are learning, just because you see this, but do not see something obvious with the person getting out of the vehicle, does not mean that they do not have a health issue that they are dealing with.  But if you feel that you are justified in criticizing anyone anyway?  Feel right on free to trade places with us.

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