Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

That Did Not Last Long

* The following is a continuation of the 30th anniversary of my journey of the diagnosis of my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

I admit that I can be stubborn.  And it is no exception when I get a doctor’s order.  But as all three of my primary care doctors that I have ever had, two no longer practicing (one actually would be over 100 years old now), I do not see a doctor unless I pretty much have a limb falling off.  But at this point, if my doctor prescribed something for me, to help me, I never questioned it.  If I was at the doctor, I had a problem, it needed to be dealt with.

I was not happy with the doctor’s orders of rest for two weeks.  But with the large lump in my neck, I was no longer comfortable.  Take the anti-inflammatory for two weeks, rest, and I will be good to go.  No weightlifting, and worse, no playing basketball.  We had just started a city league basketball team at work which I was totally psyched to be playing on, now sidelined for two weeks.  But my doctor assured me the medicine would work.  I had some sort of cold or infection.  If the lump would have been in different location, he admitted his plan would have been different but was confident in his plan and prognosis.

And the medicine did work.  The lump went down nearly 80% and as the two week “rest period” neared its end, I could not wait to get back to the gym, get myself back into condition to hit the court again.

Another unfortunate quirk about myself, is that I do not have a dimmer switch.  I go full tilt with everything I do.  I was so frustrated with not being able to train for two weeks, instead of just easing back into the training, I went right back at the weights and times that I stopped at because I did not want the two week rest to have any impact on me.  I felt up to it.  And it was what I wanted to do.

And of course, instead of just easing back, going as hard as the day I stopped, even if only two weeks, I developed a pain in my left arm pit whenever I extended my left arm straight.  I had hurt myself.

I spoke to my friend and co-worker, Stephen (disclaimer, this photo is not of either of us) and explained to him my frustrations about now being hurt and not able to play that night as I had hoped.  He understood, and suggested that I see his doctor as Stephen had seen his doctor for injuries and felt confident that his doctor could help me bounce back quick.  Even though I had my own doctor, my sights were set on getting better enough to get back on the court.  I made the call, and got in to see his doctor that evening.

And that is when things got confusing, and my stubbornness came out.



The 30 Year Itch

I am coming up on a day that I never thought I would see.  In fact, many who have been in a similar situation would never think of seeing this day.

As my counter shows on the lead page, I am approaching my 30th year, in remission of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  But in order to get to that wonderful milestone, that means that there is another milestone that I get to first.

Over the course of the next sixteen months, as I often do, I will be remembering all too vividly, and not by choice, every day that I went through, because it still haunts me.  This milestone journey will be different than in the past.

My daughters were not around during my battle against Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  They will proudly state that I am a long term cancer survivor, though they have no idea what I went through.  As they are older now, I have decided that it is this milestone path, they will now be told how I, and how they came to be my daughters.

For some of you reading future posts, it may be a sad reminder for you, and I apologize.  For some of you, too new to understand the progress made in diagnosis and treatment in thirty years, it may help you to keep things in perspective if you find yourself struggling emotionally.

But it started thirty years ago with an itch.  You cannot see it in this photo, taken just now, but there was a huge lymph node just under my chain.  An unbearable and instant itch drew my attention to a large lump in my neck.  At a young age of twenty-two, I was not thinking anything more than, I need to contact my family doctor.

I am a virtual stranger to my doctor as I really on had visits once a year for a seasonal allergy shot.  But this lump was something that was clearly not normal.  So I made a call to my doctor, who happened to only be the second primary care doctor in my life (my first practiced well into his 80’s).

My doctor felt it was some sort of infection, perhaps just a little more than a cold.  He gave me some anti-inflammatory medicine and told me to just take it easy for a couple of weeks.  A simple enough order from the doctor.

If You Would Have Known

If there is one thing that my daughters know about me, they can always count on me.  My daughters know that I will always encourage them.  Both of my daughters know that I believe in them.  They also know that they can come to me when they need help or advice.

I want to be careful here so that I do not upset other parents.  It is a parent’s choice the decisions that they make with their child as far as extracurricular activities and how many they participate in.  My approach was two-pronged.  First, I wanted them to find something that they liked to do.  Second, they commit to it.

If there is one lesson in life that I remember growing up, it was learning the importance of an education, and not just relying on the dreams of being a pro-football player or movie star, or someone else earning popularity or riches.  The odds would be against me, nothing would just fall into my lap.  And if I worked and studied hard, I would find out that my life would be pretty good even if I did not make that superstardom.

My oldest daughter had an interesting, yet I am sure not a unique approach, not wanting to practice, just do it.  From the first dance class, she showed quite a bit of talent.  And when it came to singing in the church choir, she shined.  But as I said, when it came to practice, it is not that she did not feel that she want to practice, she was bored with the level of performance that was expected, as when the participation actually meant something.  It was not unheard of during karate classes, for the instructor to ask me, “where did she learn to do that?”  To which I replied, “I thought you taught her to do that,” referring to a higher level of move than what she should have been able to do.

My younger daughter took practicing differently.  She is a bit of a social butterfly, so she enjoyed the extra time around all of the other children.  And like her older sister, she did well.  She would learn many techniques, and be promoted in belt rankings several times.  But for whatever reason, she had just one issue.  Competition.

The odd thing was, during practices and even belt promotions, all of the same participants were there.  The same parents attended each event and practice, and my daughter knew them all.  But for whatever reason, she would totally break down, when it would come to a competition, where she needed to perform individually.  I never expected to see that from someone who had only shown confidence, and fun.  But it was something that I learned about my daughter.  And it would be a lesson that would make a difference to her later on in life.

Neither of my children are attention hounds, but during school, there will be times that you are called upon in class.  Whether it will be to reach a page from a book, or answer a math problem, a student will have to speak up in front of others.  And on a minor level of participation like this, is one thing.  I would find out during her foreign language course that she takes, that her experiences in karate helped her to overcome.

In order to be graded in a foreign language, you not only have to be able to read it and write it, but you must also speak it.  And unlike reading and writing, speaking must be done individually.  And that would mean that my daughter would be in a similar “arena” as she was during competitions in karate.  Only now, able to overcome the pressure that would torment her.

I am proud of all of the efforts that my daughters put in to what they do.  And now that they are older, they now talk of their future, and their course selections will mirror their needs to achieve those goals.  Neither back down from any challenge, and if they feel they are not challenged enough, the challenge themselves.  And at the end of the day, they know that I am proud of them, believe in them, and love them.

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