Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Food”

The Days After


The first few days following a major hurricane can be described in any number of ways, likely depending on how much the devastation has affected a person individually. Shock and sadness are a given as the loss sets in that our once daily lives in paradise are changed forever, perhaps, irreparably. It is easy to feel overwhelmed at the amount of clean up and repair in the days ahead, not even knowing where to start. And when our mind stops whirling like a cyclone from all that must be done, either common sense or survivalist tendencies kick in. It is this behavior that can either help, or make things worse.

There are two main things that those in the path of a hurricane, or the devastation of a hurricane, will need, gasoline and bottled water. The demand for both is an immediate switch that gets flipped, with the first words uttered by a weather forecaster, before suppliers have a chance to prepare. Artificial shortages are created, leading to panic of the possibility of not having what is needed. Someone with a calm demeanor can rationalize, that if we just purchase our goods at our normal rate, we should be able to get by until increased supplies arrive. Instead, supplies are empty of both within hours, and from there, supplies of both are not able to be kept up with. As the storm passes, all anyone knows is that there is no gas and no water. Lines form for hours at any gas station able to operate, and grocery stores, ration out water supplies as they become available. Then come the days after.

There are several behaviors that come forward in a time like this. First and most obvious, the curiosity of the devastation. As soon as you step outside of where you rode the storm out, you can see the immediate impact. But without power, cable, and wifi, we want to know just how bad it really got. This actually ends up being a bad decision for several reasons. One, with downed lines and trees, these dangers, especially if submerged in water, can be deadly. Second, “looky-loos” as they are called, often get in the way of rescue efforts, in worst cases, needing being rescued themselves. And of course, there is the unnecessary waste of gas just “riding around.”

Which of course, leads to the next issue, finding gas, or even an operating gas station. Relying on the “gas buddy” app could be misleading with people putting in false information. But the first thing you had to do was to find if a station was working, which if you saw a nearby traffic signal working, was an encouraging sign. Likewise, there would be a lengthy line of cars, many there for seven to ten hours, having hopes of being lucky to buy gas. It is inevitable that throughout this process, there would be at least one jackass somewhere, cutting into the line, causing authorities to respond as tempers flare.

Grocery stores, would open as soon as they could, if able to, usually with the help of a generator. But as good as sign as this was, anything in the store that was refrigerated would be tossed and unsellable. You would be able to buy bottled water as long as supplies lasted. I can tell you that as of today, four days after Ian, all shelves locally are still completely empty of fruit, vegetable, and dairy products. But as supplies come in, they will be gobbled up and hoarded by those afraid it may be too long before they get a chance to buy more. So this supply will remain near zero.

Traffic is a major safety concern, as many intersections no longer having operating traffic signals, with a six lane road intersection. It is a “courtesy” situation, everyone is expected to stop at each light that is not working. Six lanes of north and south traffic intersecting with six lanes of east and west traffic, all trusting each other to be courteous and take turns, until someone just says “fuck it” and ignores the unwritten respect. Then it becomes a free-for-all and then humans are placed in the intersection to direct traffic. This is another reason authorities do not want unnecessary vehicles on the road. But you know society, “I have a right to be on the road.”

There are several local businesses who may have been able to survive with little damage, enough to still be able to be open. Many will work to serve food to first responders and emergency workers. Others will try to prepare foods for locals, unable to cook or even have a place to stay. Unfortunately, there will be those who look at the open sanctuaries as an opportunity for “life as usual – ‘I’m out for a nice dinner” and end up being demeaning and disrespectful because the restaurant may not be able to offer a full meal, service may be slow, because workers still have their own mess to deal with damage wise back at home.

Finally, this is a heavy tourist area. And once the fall rolls around, along with hurricanes, so come all the vacationers, snowbirds, and seasonal homeowners. Things are bad enough for us as locals with the devastation and shortages, but curious or entitled travelers will soon arrive, compounding our problem. On social media pages, you can already see locals emploring everyone to stay away, at least for the the time being. If you need to come down, to check out property, and it must be done personally, fine. Plus, with groceries already at a minimum, gas in short supply, we do not need the thousands and thousands of visitors right at this moment compounding our needs. But the reality is most will come down to pick up their seasonal traditions of eating at coastline restaurants, boating excursions, and many more activities that make this such a great place to live.

But as I experienced with Irma five years ago, and the great everglade brush fire two years later, those here for recreation are not shy expressing their displeasure with having their fun times interrupted by inconvenience, expecting everything to be normal before they arrive. But the truth is, it will be a long time before anything is considered normal. And if that is how they want to spend this season, and they know this upfront, then fine. They have no right to complain how slow recovery is going, or how short supply things are, especially if they are adding to the problem.

Like I said, you can either stay out of the way, help, or add to the dilemma. It does not take long to see who is who.

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 Shortage I Just Don’t Understand


Not since the great Liverwurst shortage at the beginning of the Covid19 pandemic, has my life been so affected. But it seems, there is a shortage of my favorite breakfast treat, the cinnamon fry from Publix. I do not eat them often, but oh are they ever the best when they are fresh and warm. Krispy Kreme eat your heart out.

Alas, the last several times that I have gone in search of these mouth-watering treats, now going on several weeks, the slot inside the bakery cabinet that they are normally located, is a replacement donut. When I ask, and plead with the employee how much I enjoy these baked goods, the person behind the counter acknowledges the fact that they are that good, but has no solid answer as to when to expect a new supply. Come on man, it is just dough and a couple other ingredients. This makes no sense. There is no shortage of dough.

Do you know what else makes no sense?

A self-created gas shortage. Now, in full disclosure, these are not my photos, but rather shared from other friends social pages, so I do not know if these are actually current pictures or where they are located. But besides the stupidity of the concept of rushing out to panic buy gasoline, when there is no shortage, is actually creating one. And I will at least give some credit to the ones using actual legal containers.

Ok, so this last one did happen today, and locally. Yep, can’t wait until this dope has to hit her brakes hard enough and the fuel starts slopping all over the car. Then again, she might be planning on re-enacting a Pinto episode (you have to be old enough to remember that fiasco).

A Russian hacker took advantage of our insufficient infrastructure and got into the system of one of our pipelines. It should never have happened, but the actions of the hacker shut down the flow of oil all along the east coast of the United States. That is the simple explanation. The hacking should be the only serious problem because, well, we have other things that are clearly vulnerable as well, such as our water supply, our electrical grids, and medical system just to name three. Our country is so behind in cyber security, these should be real issues. Instead, we, collectively, are creating another one, a self manufactured gas shortage.

First, there had been no shortage of gasoline to stations until people started going out, panic buying gas. The truth is, there was plenty of gas at the pumps and distributors until the panic buying started. Then the pipeline being shut down became a problem. In Florida, it was just sheer stupidity, because most of Florida does not rely on that pipeline, as it gets its fuel from Gulf resources.

So, there you have it. To quote Forest Gump, “stupid is as stupid does.” Once again, like the great toilet paper shortage of 2020, we have done it to ourselves again. Greed, hoarding, and just plain selfish behavior have done it again.

Now, about real shortage, how soon before those cinnamon fries come back in? What do we need to do to restore the flow of these yummy donuts?

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