Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

The First Time Around

When you go to the doctor because you do not feel well, you give the doctor all the symptoms that you are feeling so that you can get an accurate diagnosis.  While driving through the drivethru of your favorite fast food hole, the attendant repeats back the order you just gave so that you can enjoy your meal when you get home.  Trick-or-treaters give you fair notice when you answer your door, what your best response should be.  All of these things are examples of the importance of communication.  Relationships, such as boyfriend/girlfriend, spousal, or parternships all require good communication in order to live “happily ever after.”

I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease just six months before my wedding (the first one).  I had been with Judy close to two years at that point.  Looking back, we sure did a lot of partying and whatever else.  But when it came to what we had planned for the next 10, 20, 30 or more years, I do not think we ever talked about it.

But when I sat across from Judy, and told her that I had cancer, that door of communication should have been blown clear open.  Though there are not many people who would bail on someone in their greatest time of need (and no one can blame them when it comes to having to deal with a serious issue such as mine), I still offered Judy the opportunity to back out of our pending nuptuals, with no ill feelings.

It was clear that our lives together would no longer be “Fairy Tale” or perhaps as she had once dreamed.  There was a good chance that I would become sterile from the treatments (which did end up happening) and we would have no children.  I could die.  There was no conversation, just silence, some tears, and an embrace.  Her only reply was that we would get through it together.  I want to go on the record and state, Judy had a great heart, and there was never any chance that she would bail on me.  She had been through tragedy before when a boyfriend lost his life in a motorcycle accident.  I went through the rest of the diagnostic staging, radiation treatments, and we were married on May 20, 1989.  We came back from our improvised honeymoon to find out I had new disease and began chemotherapy.

Judy drove me to my appointments, but that was pretty much it for her as far as involvement.  She preferred not to talk about what I was going through, in fact, could not understand why my words flowed so freely with anyone willing to lend an ear.  But I went through nine months of chemotherapy, seemingly all on my own.  My recovery, on my own.  The years that followed it was obvious that we were drifting apart.  Words were hardly spoken, intimate contact nearly non-existent unless alcohol had been involved.  My doubts about recurrence were so strong, and then it had been confirmed I could not get Judy pregnant (good news if I ever decided to run for president and somone came forward claiming to be my illegitimate child).

I got more involved in activities that took me away from home to occupy my time.  Arguments began, and since there was no communication about our feelings, resentment started to show, and silence inside our two-bedroom rancher became the norm.  Imagine sitting across from someone, only five feet away, not saying a word, for as long as two weeks at a shot.

Judy had been involved in a head-on car collision that in all honesty, should have killed her.  But as soon as she was able to talk, and listen to me, I expressed my wishes that we take the opportunity of her survival and run with it.  It was a second chance.  Surely she would have to appreciate the new lease on life that I had often talked about.  Perhaps we could discuss options of still pursuing a family.

“We’ll talk about it soon.”  The famous war cry I heard repeatedly whenever I brought up starting a family.  And nothing would come of it.  Until March of 1999.  I decided to finally communicate.

“Ever since we found out that I couldn’t get you pregnant, you stopped showing any interest in me physically and emotionally.”

“Don’t you think for one minute, that if I really wanted to have children, we would have had them by now?”

Two different statements, two different meanings, but one result.  It was over.  Thirteen years came down to two sentences.  And there would be no turning back.  I left the house that evening as I was totally crushed.  She called my cell phone repeatedly in an attempt to get me to return home but I just could not do it.  Soon, she would make the statement, “I didn’t mean that I never wanted to have children.”  Instead of me accepting her explaination and continue our marriage as if nothing had ever happened, now the feeling running through my head was, which was the truth at this point?  Did she not want to have children?  Or was she just desperate to keep our marriage together to avoid embarrassment?  I was no more happy about our marriage ending.  I saw it as failure.  I had finally “quit” something.

We made an attempt at counseling.  But it was clear that there was no chance to save our marriage.  She did not care about the concerns I raised as far as feelings of mistrust and betrayal over just that one statement.  Even the counselor tried to get her to comprehend what I was trying to get across.

At that point, I was faced with a critical decision.  I could either continue with the counseling, with the feelings that our marriage would still not work, and risk becoming too much older to start a family, or perhaps the counseling could work.  Or should I move on and start another relationship?  And would that be enough time?  My history was complicated enough – did not know how to communicate, ended one marriage, and whoever would be my next partner would have to accept that I had cancer, when I decided to bring it up, if ever.

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