Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Recreation”

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.

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Married Or Divorced – The Title And Responsibilities Of Dad Do Not Change


Since they came into my life, I have tried to raise my daughters with three different directions in life:  education, humility, and of course, fun.  During the years of separation and divorce, those directions have never changed.  My daughters know that they can count on my consistency through the years.  I have not changed.

My custody time with my daughters vary, and that often determines the kinds of things we do.  If it is a short period, it is more likely to be of the fun variety such as a movie or park, or perhaps visiting a friend.  But during the extended periods of time, that is when more time can be spent, while money is not, learning about life, what is ahead of them, and what I hope for them.

No matter what, my daughters have been able to count on having to do homework with me.  Whether during the school year, of summer break, this has never changed.  What has changed are the methods.  With schools now requiring summer reading, I no longer supply the “transitional” workbooks to prepare them for the next grades.  And what is even more special, watching them help each other.  Which actually becomes critical once Algebra and Calculus comes into play.

But this summer, something was new.  My oldest had informed me that she wanted to get a job.  Another step up the ladder of life (I assume driver’s license will be next), I helped her fill out a few applications, and even took her for her first interview.  Now while she did not get the job, what she got was a huge lesson in her first interview – questions that are asked, get over the nervousness, etc. .

But there are so many activities and opportunities to learn, and you can check your communities, because I am certain that you have them too, and they are usually free.  My daughters love to cook.  A teen class was provided at our library and they learned to prepare and cook a chicken, bake a cake, and make pancakes.  Needless to say, they were anxious to put their skills to the test, and who was I to stop them?

And there are plenty of other things that I try to teach them, opportunities that are not often available, some times about history so that they learn the importance of not repeating certain events, and of course, humility.  That one day, they may not have everything that they once did, or that there are those that have never had.

Years ago, I took my daughters to our Holocaust Museum.  It was a modest sized building, but filled with such tragic history.  They had already been learning about Nazi Germany, so they were able to grasp the severity and horrific events that took place.  The above picture shows a restored boxcar used to transport families to the gas chambers.  While at the cooking class, the boxcar was currently positioned at the library.  There is information inside telling of the history of the Holocaust though clearly not in such detail as the museum, but to actually be able to stand inside, imagine the doors closed, only being able to look through a foot-high window of the box car, not knowing your fate, it was quite chilling.  Later this week, my daughters will actually meet a Holocaust survivor, who was a child back then.  He is giving a lecture on his experience during the Holocaust.

But another thing that we have always enjoyed doing with each other… outreach, helping others.  Whether walking the streets of Philadelphia and seeing a homeless person, or perhaps rescuing a stray pet, my daughters appreciate that there are always going to be others who do not “have” and that it is just a degree of how much or how little.  My daughters and I participated in the second stage of an event here that raises money for food who have difficulty affording food.  The first stage, bowls are molded.  The second stage, the bowls are painted, the stage we participated in.  After they are “fired” the bowls are filled with soup, made by local chefs, and at an event in January, open to the public in one of our parks, people may buy the bowl, filled with soup, and the proceeds go to help the hungry.  The only sad thing is, our bowls look nothing like the finished produce until the are fired, and we really will have no way of finding our bowls.

Around all this, we are having fun doing all of these things, learning, helping, caring.  Watching movies, walks on the beach, playing games, my daughters know one thing, the dad that they had when they were four, is the same dad they have now, only so much more.  And so are they.

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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