Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the tag “smoking”

Just Inconsiderate? Or Child Abuse?


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If you are reading this post, I would certainly hope not.

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If you are reading this post, I would certainly hope this offends you.

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Only until the turn of the century has attention been paid to this issue.  Admittedly, some of us who are a little “long in the tooth”, recall days of riding in the backs of pick-up trucks, sitting in the old station wagon in the back seat which faced the rear of the car, and of course, riding in the front seat with no seat belt on.  There are many who would argue, “we turned out alright, right?”  Sure we did.  But times have changed in regard to traffic and relying on other people’s driving skills.

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But one thing that unfortunately still exists, and as I witnessed recently, is an adult smoking in a car with a child in it.  Now while the age of the child should not make a difference, admittedly I was more enraged because the child was a toddler.  Sure, back in the 1960’s and 1970’s my parents (all 4 of them – I had two step parents), smoked while I was in the car.  I did not like the smell of it, but I was just a kid.  My opinion did not matter.

But something happened once we entered into the new millennium.

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As it became more and more apparent as to the dangers of second hand smoke, finally the concern for children was being raised by some lawmakers, which was not coming from the parents by the way.  But think about it, and this is not a lecture for someone who wants to smoke, but we can all agree, smoking causes cancer and other awful end-of-life issues.  And those who smoke, chose to begin willingly.  As for being able to stop “any time they want”, well the tobacco companies and lobbyists have done their best to make sure that smokers do not stop.  And with the popularity of vaping increasing, even amongst “new” smokers who simply took up electronic cigarettes because they have been lied to that e-cigs are not as dangerous, again more lies.  But bottom line, adults make the choice.  And as an adult, I can make the choice if I want to stand in the direction of second hand smoke or not, or be in a vehicle when someone is smoking.  A child cannot.  A child is never given the chance to say, “no”.

A child in the back seat of a car has NEVER made the choice that it wants to be subjected to second hand smoke, or begin their first risk towards lung cancer and heart disease.  But the fact is, in spite of knowing everything we know about second hand smoke, and as much as a parent may claim to love their child, some love their cigarettes more.

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If someone spanked a child, society would be in an uproar yelling “child abuse”.  And not to take it lightly, under normal circumstances, a spanking might just leave a minor red mark on the buttocks.  But why is it that we do not charge a parent with child abuse for smoking within the vicinity of a child?

Because, whether a lifetime smoker, or someone who has just picked up the habit, the attitude is always the same, “won’t happen to me.”  My dad smoked with half of his lung removed for lung cancer, and through his chemo and radiation therapy until the day he died, still in denial, “I didn’t think it would happen to me.”  Parents have many rights with their children, but subjecting them to something so toxic, and deadly, is not one of them.  So unfortunately, we now have laws created to protect our children.  Of course that does not mean that they law will be enforced, or even prevent a parent from smoking in the car with a baby (of course the window was open to allow the smoke to exit the car – because there is no way that any smoke reached the back seat…right?).

I will not sugar coat it.  Smoking in front of a child, is two forms of child abuse.  Physical because the child is exposed to the second hand smoke which will put the child at risk for lung cancer in the future.  Emotional, because our children are taught that smoking kills.  My daughters know that their grandfather died directly from smoking.  Imagine how upset they are when they see even a stranger smoking a cigarette, a cigar, pipe, or vaping.  My daughters have seen first hand, that people die from smoking.  And I will not just limit it to the car either, because even if you are at an outdoor picnic, on a porch, anywhere you can smell a cigarette (or any other product), that means you are breathing it in.  Just because they are not in the direct stream of the smoke, does not mean that they are not being exposed to it.

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We should not need a law to protect children from smoking.  But we do need to protect our children who have no say when they are exposed to something so deadly and addictive.  Exposing children to second hand smoke is child abuse.

If I Had Only Known…


Growing up, I had this uncle with a very warped sense of humor. Back in the 60’s and 70’s no doubt we were all exposed to the “they will do it just once” and our parents let us find things out on our own, such as touching the burner on a stove when it was hot. The thought being that the really smart ones would learn from that scorching mistake in judgement.

Around eight years of age, I pondered what would happen if I held on to the prongs of an electrical cord and plugged it into the wall. My uncle told me he did not know and I should try it if I was curious. After all, I did know that the cord was connected to a lamp, so I knew it could turn the lamp on. And then of course there was Uncle Fester on the TV who could light up a bulb by just sticking it in his mouth.

Fortunately, there was nothing in the path of my tragectory as I was thrown backwards from the jolt of 110 volts going through my hand. I hated that uncle ever since. He could have just said “no” and in theory I would have listened.

Then why is it, that as adults, we have such a hard time, knowing better with our judgements if we are to guide our younger family members. A patient recently diagnosed with lung cancer seemed genuinely shocked to find out, when asking the doctor what could have caused the lung cancer, that the answer was smoking. The patient wanted to present any other kind of explaination. Major denial.

My generation had the subject “Health” in school. And during the elementary years, a good portion of the class was committed to “smoking”. Looking back, it was really a harsh class. As part of the demonstration, an actual, preserved lung was displayed, that was riddled with emphasema. It was awful. Compared to the healthy lung which was not black and hardened, clearly the message was to get to the children, and then the hope was that the children would convince their family members to quit. Emphasema, COPD, and lung cancer… three major reasons to never start smoking, or to quit if you can.

And that is the tricky part, if you can. Cigarettes are one of the most addicting habits one can ever be trapped with, physically addicting and the cigarette companies know that. So, when someone has been smoking for decades, is most likely going to be unable to quit, or restart. And no matter who brings the message home, that person is practically powerless to do anything about it.

I did come home from elementary school one year, following the anti-smoking campaign lesson. And I begged both my mother and father to quit, and why. I got several reasons why they could not, one of which was, “nothing will happen to me”. And that is what happens to people when they make that choice to start smoking. They do not believe that they will be the ones to get cancer.

Funny… I thought the same thing too. But no one knows what caused my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. With lung cancer, it is usually an obvious answer.

It is sad really, to hear these words from someone who has just been diagnosed with lung cancer, “If I had only known…” I guarantee both my parents knew, but just as I held onto the prongs of the cord, I did not listen.

It is a horrible thing to watch anyone die. But even worse when it is from something that could have been prevented. And the sad thing is, there are those in my life, that my children will see smoking, and feel sorrow for them, because their grandfather is battling lung cancer from smoking. And that is what they will remember about him, and worry about anyone else that is smoking.

Smoking is not just a bad habit, it is a deadly habit. If you do not smoke, do not start. If you do smoke, quit now.

And here are a few other things I can let you know now, you can prevent later:
Sun burns skin – wear sunblock
Fast Food burgers – not good for your cholesterol
Clean hands – less germs spread
Reality TV… not very real

Now you know.

Going Home


It is a homecoming of sorts for me tonight on many fronts.  I grew up in the Lehigh Valley and tonight I return to the Bethlehem area for a special occasion, one that affects me personally, the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life.

I have been doing a lot of public speaking appearances over the past few years, but on a different level, in a different arena all together, local government.  Tonight, I return to inspirational talk, cancer survival.

It will no doubt be an emotional evening not just for myself, but for everyone in attendance.  Everyone will have their own reason for being there.  Just a few miles away is the hospital where I was treated and cured of my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  This will also be the first time that I have publicly spoken of my survival other than in written form since emergency surgery necessary for a late side effect.  I am giving a survival speech tonight that of all the people that I need to hear my speech this evening, will not be there to hear it, my Dad.  Just a few short weeks ago, he recieved news that he has lung cancer.

It was kind of a good news/bad news situation that should not really have come as a surprise to someone who has been smoking for over 57 years.  He had a cough that has been persistant since the Fall.  Annoyed with the fact that his doctor was ordering a CT scan, which of course costs money, just to check for a cough, seemed outrageous and unreasonable to my Dad.  But as obvious as the answer to my Dad’s first question, “so Doc, what do you think caused this?”, the results for a CT scan for a cold were also quite obvious.

Fortunately, further testing (called staging) would declare that my Dad has no signs of further disease elsewhere.  This is great news.  He will have a great chance at remission, something a lot of 50, 40, 30, and even 20 year smokers do not normally get.

This will not be the first time my father will hear the word “survival”.  He has been my stepmother’s caregiver since a tragic accident nearly decades ago.  His own health path had him face a major heart attack.  Now, he faces once more, one of the toughest fights he must take on for those that count on him.  Most of us would consider ourselves fortunate if we ever only faced one crisis in our lifetime.  Yet my father is now on his third crisis.  But of all things that I hope that he recalls of survivorship, I have his blood.  He has witnessed nearly every day of my twenty three years of survival.

The answer to my Dad’s question to the doctor, “smoking”.  With a positive outlook on his upcoming weeks, and not wanting to take advantage of the opportunity, I am proud of my dad, that he has finally quit smoking.

So when I speak tonight, it will be in honor of a man who has demonstrated endless courage and stamina, a true survivor who must take on yet, another fight.  You will get through this Dad.

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