Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the tag “heart”

In Defense Of Jimmy


Four years after this photo was taken, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma back in November of 1988.  Decades later, Hodgkin’s is still considered a rare cancer, and in spite of many figures of celebrity status, gets very little attention, especially compared to the big cancers such as breast, lung, and colon cancers.  Of course, social media was also not much of a communication tool to reach others with the intent to advocate for Hodgkin’s awareness.

I was a nobody.  And as I mentioned, there were many actors and athletes who had dealt with Hodgkin’s Lympoma, yet not even many doctors are aware how to look for and diagnose this rare cancer.  Needless to say, none of those other Hodgkin’s survivors used their celebrity status to either draw attention to themselves or to advocate.  There were plenty of other famous people stepping up and out for the other big cancers, but not for Hodgkin’s.

Then perhaps the most famous person to be diagnosed and survive Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Pittsburgh Penguins player and owner, Mario Lemieux, announced that he had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  I do not recall his staging, or treatments.  But to be honest, I was only hoping selfishly, that he would use his notoriety to bring attention to the same cancer I and many others had dealt with.  We would finally have a “spokesperson” or “face” to get us the help and care we needed.  Yes, selfish I know, but dealing with something that can kill you, can make you selfish when you need help.

Lemieux took leave for treatments, and came back to play.  Of course there was “by the way” conversation of his health issue, but to my knowledge, nothing near the attention I had hoped would be given.  Even today, as I write this, I have no idea of Lemieux”s health or if he participates in any kind of advocacy for lymphoma.

This was our (lymphoma survivors) opportunity.  I was a nobody.  And attention to Hodgkin’s would go back into obscurity.

So, on Monday, after a lengthy absence, late night TV host Jimmy Kimmel returned to the air, with clearly a heavy heart for what should have been a celebratory event.

Kimmel’s wife had given birth to their second child, a son.  He had been born with a critical heart condition.  You can see the seventeen minute monologue anywhere on the internet.  But Kimmel, clearly shaken, had chosen to take the opportunity to bring awareness to several issues, as well as publicly thank those, that saved his son’s life.

I have had my own health issues to deal with my children and hospitals.  And of course, and this is why I am mentioning this, because I understand all too well about heart issues, as I had open heart surgery to treat a late effect caused by treatments for a pre existing condition, my lymphoma.

So, I understand heart surgery very well.  I know the efforts that are taken to save the life of someone about to die.  What I do not know, is what it is like to go from just seeing your son being  born, to rushing to save his life.

I was 42 years older than this poor child.  But I recall the image myself, as well as the confusion of what had just happened to me, and dealing with the pain.

From the moment that Kimmel started his monologue, I was in tears, as is often the case, when I hear stories of others who have gone through similar situations that I can clearly relate to.

Kimmel spent most of the monologue explaining what happened, and even let the audience know that there was a happy ending.  But that did not stop us from seeing how very upsetting and concerning this was, even for a funny man.  He also took the opportunity to thank as many as he could, for saving his sons life, and to encourage awareness to situations like this.

His monologue lasted about 17 minutes.  And clearly he was speaking from his heart.  There is not doubt.  And the thing about speaking from your heart, you speak with your emotions.  And emotions can often be more powerful than the words themselves.  Often times, I find myself not publishing any “raw” or unedited posts, because I do not want to take away from what I am trying to do.  But I am also very well known for speaking or writing unfiltered, blazing with emotion.  And when you do that, you can make some people upset.  And usually, the ones that you upset, are those that just want something to disagree with.

After singing the praises of those that treated his son, Kimmel began talking about the importance of the health care that his son had, and would need.  Today, this is a huge deal as health care dominates our headlines.  Kimmel spoke against our president’s efforts to reduce the NIH budget which clearly has an impact on research and medicine.  He also spoke about the issue of pre existing conditions which now his son had.

As someone who deals with more than a dozen pre existing conditions myself, as a blogger, I can only reach so many to make aware of the needs we have, and the protections we need to have.  But still, I consider myself a nobody.  So count me as one of those, who applaud Jimmy Kimmel, for taking that difficult moment, not only to put his personal life on display in heartbreaking fashion, for using his celebrity to bring awareness of what we need as far as health care.

And for those with a certain political lean who complained that Kimmel used his status to bring evidence to the needs of the American people, too bad.  The House Republicans should be ashamed of themselves for what they are trying to accomplish.  I have written before about the consequences of repealing the Affordable Care Act for me and others.  I know what is at stake because my life depends on it.  Fortunately, I do not believe this bill will be approved, because it is inhumane, and definitely does not lead to America being great.

Mr. Kimmel, I give you a lot of credit for what you did.  I know what it took for you to do that.  And I am thankful that you were able to bring awareness to the issue and needs of health care in the United States.  Ignore Joe Walsh, Michele Malkin, and others.  They are nobody and should be ashamed of themselves for ridiculing you in one of your family’s darkest hours, saved by heroic efforts by great medical personnel.

I wish your son a complete recovery.  Thank you for showing the happy ending.

 

I Love Rock N Roll


Wow.  I just looked at my recent posts and realized that my topics have been quite heavy and it was time to write something a little more on the lighter side.  So, this is going to be a post, not about dealing with cancer, or my divorce, although to be honest, both are affected by this topic.

I rely on music to reduce stress and get me through difficult times.  I use image and visualization, along with the music to get me beyond my difficult times.  And the great thing, for the most part, at least the way that I enjoy music as of late, it is free.

I will start on a small scale.  If I can find a place that offers free music, and great local talent, I will be there.  I have some favorite bands down here that will find me in their audience regularly.  I do not dance.  And although I do enjoy karaoke, I have not joined any of them on stage.  When I go to hear them, it is all about hearing good music, cover songs, or originals.  And I have no problem giving them plugs right here, Essence, The Steve Peterman Trio, and the Robert Williamson Band.

But when I am sitting in my apartment, I usually have either my radio on, or listen to my CD’s, and so that no one things I am that technically disadvantaged, I also listen to my Ipod.

The thing is, I have listened to music my entire life, and as I hit my fifth decade at the end of the year, I have been listening to a lot of music over these years.  And that means that the bands that I listen to are quite old.  In fact, many of them are still recording and performing.

But is it right for a band to call itself by its original name, when the band is made up of different members than what it originally started with?  I am talking beyond the “Mike Love” and “Beach Boys” split concerts, and of course, members of fifties bands appearing solo on cruise ships.

These days, it is very rare for bands to have retained all of their original members.  Two of my favorite bands are Green Day and U2.

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Green Day has been around since the 1990’s, and U2, well, I remember playing them on college radio before they became popular courtesy of MTV.  But both of these bands have retained their original members and are still going today.

Over the years, lead singers seemed to want more notoriety than just being front men for the majorly successful bands.  Many wanted bigger “pieces of the pie,” and in some cases, personal issues were the cause for departures of bands.

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INXS was a popular band in the 1980’s and 1990’s.  But with the suicide of lead singer Michael Hutchens, the band just waited for an opportunity to regain its success.  But you just could not do it simply by replacing Hutchens.  INXS had a sound.  So a television show was created, called “Rock Star” in which a new lead singer would be found, ala “American Idol” like competition to become the new lead singer of INXS.  And they found one by the name of JD Fortune.

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Fortune’s voice was perfect for the band to not only create new music, but perform INXS classics.  Alas, the relationship did not last long, and I have long not heard anything new from INXS.  But they are not the first, nor will they be the last to try to continue their history.

ASIA

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A supergroup consisting of members from already successful bands, they had two gangbuster albums, and then split up.  The group had a variety of other members, but it was not until the late 2000’s that the original band reunited, and yes, they were just as good as in 1982 when they debuted.  But the thing is, no one wanted to hear the “other” lead singer, John Payne, because we knew it was not John Wetton.  If we were going to pay for an “original” band, it needed to sound like it.

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Chicago

This band has seen numerous changes over the years, including the tragic death of guitarist Terry Kath.  But it really was not until one of the voices of Chicago, Peter Cetera chose to pursue a solo career, that the band had to look for the “sound” to replace Cetera.  And they found it in Jason Scheff.  With a similar sound to Cetera, joining relative newcomer Bill Champlain, Chicago was good for many more years.  In the late 2000’s however, Champlain has been replaced, but the band is still putting out the Chicago sound that has existed for nearly 50 years.  And yes, some of those band members are now approaching 70 years old.

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Eagles

Pretty much, the line up has been the same.  No one has filled in for anybody.  Sure, they have broken up, left, come back, but at least when you attend an Eagles concert, you know you are getting either Henley, Frey, Schmidt, or Walsh.

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Foreigner

This is a strange situation.  The band started off fairly large.  Then by their 4th album, ironically, they ended up down to just four members.  But health issues would force the “voice” of Foreigner to take leave.  Other lead singers tried to replace Lou Graham, but no one could sound like Graham, and Foreigner struggled.  That is until Kelly Hanson joined the band.  Now to be fair, currently the only original member of Foreigner is founder Mick Jones.  And for this reason, I have no problem with the band being called Foreigner.  With Hanson’s voice, and the instruments sounding like Foreigner, it is Foreigner.

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Journey

Everybody knows Journey.  But when Steve Perry left, no one ever gave Journey a second chance.  Perry’s voice was so unique.  Even finding a singer with somewhat of a similar voice, ironically names Steve Oteri, there was no sound like the old Journey.  Until the band discovered Phillipino Arnel Pineta, and they have been going strong ever since with original members Neil Schon, Ross Valory, and of course, Jonathan Cain.  Yes, they still get to call themselves Journey.  And continue to put out new music.

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STYX

Another one of my favorite bands, this band has had its share of tragedy as well.  After frontman Dennis DeYoung split for whatever reason you want to believe, the original drummer of Styx died.  But just as other bands have successfully done, they found the right musicians and the right “voice” to make up for the losses.

And finally…

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Van Halen

This is one of the stranger histories.  Lead singer David Lee Roth.  Lead singer Sammy Hagar.  And if you want to count former lead singer of Extreme Gary Cherone.  Then back to lead singer Roth, minus bass player Michael Anthony replaced by Wolfgang Van Halen.  Ugh.  For me, the only lineup I did not care for, was with Cherone (though I do like him in Extreme).

But the bottom line for me has always been, put out great music.  Perform good music.  And as long as you have at least an original founding member in the band, you may still use its name.  And if you need a vocalist that sounds like your history, I am okay with that as long as you are not lip syncing, and you actually sound like the band.

There are a lot more bands that I like that have gone through this process… Heart, Def Leppard, .38 Special, and more.  Is it better to be like Led Zepplin or the Beatles and to say, “not all of the original members, you don’t get to be that band anymore?”  Perhaps.  But then again, reincarnations of popular bands, even as either entirely new entities, or supergroups, have not been as successful as the bands I mentioned above.

Time Travel – Changing History


H.G. Wells did it.  Sam Beckett did it.  Bill and Ted did it.  Superman had to do it for Lois.  Even Bart Simpson has done it.  Time travel.  All had the desire to go back into time to either research or alter time.  Each had their own mode for making the journey – an actual time travel machine, Ziggy the computer, a phone booth, a cape, and as a parody of “Back To The Future,” a DeLorean complete with Christopher Lloyd.

The concept is simple.  Go back in time.  Fix what needs to be corrected.  Come back to the future.  Of all the time travelling media, Sam Beckett in Quantum Leap was my favorite.  You see, when you change the past, you change the present and the future.  Beckett had to be careful so that he only changed the history of the person he was sent to help.  And there were times when it was extremely personal for him, like saving his wife, or even stopping this project which he found out eventually was much bigger than the invention that he created.

There is a different way to change history though, without going back through time.  We do it as children, and we often live through it as adults.  We study history.  The idea of studying history in one aspect, is to not repeat it.  Wars.  Space Shuttle disasters.  Tough economical times.  Medical crisis.  We study the examples so that we learn from them, and do not repeat them.

When we are born, our path is set.  There is a natural progression to aging, infancy to toddler, toddler through child, child into puberty, then to adulthood, and senior status.  And there are things that we know, are likely to happen to our bodies as we get older and our bodies get tired.  But just as travelling back into history to “fix” something, for me personally, the cancer diagnosis being the time traveller, forever changed my present and future.  There are bad things that came of it, but there are also good things that came of it.

For example, when I went through the radiation treatments, there were some things that were known that could happen as a result (called a side effect), but there was so much that was unknown.  Of course I knew what could happen.  Mr. McGee could make me very angry and I would go through my wardrobe very quickly not to mention look like I belonged on a can of vegetables (Incredible Hulk reference for those that need it).  Well, I did get a lot of radiation, too much in fact.  At the time, it was what worked, that is all researchers knew.  In today’s treatments, doctors know that they can use much less and by that, I mean ALOT less and have just the same effect or better.

So as I said, I received too much radiation, amounting to four times the lifetime allowance of exposure.  There are many who work at nuclear power plants that are not exposed to what myself and others were exposed to.  The sad thing, I know plenty more people who were treated with much more radiation and different types, like Cobalt.  We have all been told as children that radiation is bad – “don’t stand too close to the TV”, “don’t stand in front of the microwave”, “cell phones cause brain cancer.”  Not only does it treat cancer, and cure cancer, but it can cause cancer.  That is why if you are smart and able, you put sunscreen on your body.

Well, just like on the outside, when you get sunburned, with radiation treatments like I received, the burns were on the inside as well.  To my knowledge, it is something that I will always have.  So the radiation and chemotherapy start doing damage to my body, inside and out, which gradually gets worse over the years.  To understand, if you drive a car that has one tire that is not inflated properly, do you think that will affect the other tires?  The overall performance of the car?

As it is, that I believe about my body.  With the first lymph node that was removed and biopsied, so my body had to adjust.  With the staging laparotomy, my spleen was removed leaving my body challenged forever against infections and contagions.  When my heart bypass surgery was complete, blood was flowing at the rate once done before, my body parts not used to.  The list goes on.  My body’s natural physiology was changed back in 1988.  As far as I am concerned, everything that is happening to me today, is because of the things that happened from that time on.  And so far, this has been confirmed.

So given the chance, would I go back in time?  Knowing what I know now, would I take the opportunity to change my mind to any of the procedures, or even to allow the doctors to treat me?  Given the two choices that I had, death or most likely cure, how would today be different for me today? 

Hodgkin’s Disease has been one of the more curable forms of cancer for decades.  Treatments have gotten better, safer.  But would I have had that much time to wait decades for a cure that would not have had the impact on my health today?    I have two very very good reasons to not even entertain that option. 

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All I can do now, is make sure that any more decisions do not give me cause to want to go back in time to correct a regret.  Then again, what if I already had gone back in time?  What if…

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