As a boy, I was raised by my grandmother for the most part. She was a great example up to her dying day, one that I still follow to this day. Though I truly miss her moral compass, I live under the credo, “do for others first, then me.” That usually translates to never getting around to me, which I am perfectly okay with, in fact, that is what makes me happy, satisfied, fullfilled.
My neighborhood friends all loved my grandmother and called her grandma because she was such a safe place to fall, especially when they did fall. Great at medical care, satisfying hunger with a quick snack, or even just cuddling up, knowing that I was in the safest spot, protected from anything bad, because that is what she did.
Even with a pending diagnosis of breast cancer, unbeknownst to me, she did all that she could to help me secure an apartment, including arranging for the deposit. It was a week after I moved in that I heard the news. I would never have left her had I known. For all the years that she was there for me, it was now my place to be there for her, and she knowingly sent me away.
She has been gone from this earth for a very long time now. My moral compass now in jeopardy, my values continue to stay in tact. Just as I looked up to my grandmother I know that there are people who look up to me, seemingly in all places of my life.
Adoption – people want to be moms and dads. When it comes to adoption, it helps when people reach out and share their experience. Which is what led us to make the decision on China to adopt our daughters. We attended an information meeting, where Lily Grace was sitting patiently and lovely, and we knew right away that was what we would do. When we returned from China, just a few months later, we made the decision not only to adopt a second child, but to also speak at an information meeting as well, to hopefully inspire other parents as well. The decision and process of any adoption, let alone international can be daunting. It felt great to be able to tell and show that it could be done quite easily with assistance.
Animals – all I wanted was a dog. What I got instead was a trip to Manhattan just after 9/11 with my Golden Retriever. From a simple cardiac seizure to an all-out blitz resulting in a history of the dark world of Amish Puppy Mills, I stirred the attention of the PA Department Of Agriculture and dog warden, the USDA, and even a couple of newspapers. But the ultimate was an offer to appear, with Pollo, on The People’s Court to settle my case where I had asked for valid paperwork for the dog, as well as information on his parents. There was also the matter of his medical bills. What I got was a sad lesson on what we as consumers do, condemming other dogs, just so that we may have that cute little puppy.
Bullying – I hate bullying in all forms, in all ages. I do not feel that enough is done. I do not feel that at some point, the victim must stand up for themselves. It is a violation of a person’s civil rights to be emotionally or physically abused. It is about the lack of respect for the person wanting to claim power over another. With movies like Bully and programs like Olweus, hopefully we are getting closer to stopping this vicious issue.
Cancer – what can be said, on Sunday, I will hit 23 years cancer free! While I know the impact that I have on my children, and they are getting to the age where they can understand what I went through, in the here and now, I hope that #23 has an impact for so many people. I am just two years away from 25 years cancer free from Hodgkin’s Disease. This is a big deal as statistics generally only refer to “five year” marks. Along with writing, this year I have made the decision to tour and speak about cancer survival. I am warming up for that monstrous anniversary. The great thing? I still am in awe of those who have survived their cancers even longer. I actually know someone sixty years post-cancer.
Education and Politics – So my latest endeavor over recent years was to toss my hat into local politics. Those around me often remark, “do you really need that in your life given everything you have been through?” The answer is yes. Running for the office of school board director is important to me, because protecting public education has a direct impact on my children, who have another ten years to go. And I believe that everyone’s children will benefit from the effort that I will put into that office. It is so inspiring and meaningful to stand up in front of so many people, many of them strangers, give a heart felt speech about how you will represent them and why, and when you are finished, you receive a standing ovation because they not only believe you and have faith in you, they trust you and want you to know that they are standing behind you. It is one thing to be recognized as a passerby, but it is such an honor to be encouraged and supported.
Family & Friends – This is one area where I tend to lay low. My family is not very open when it comes to health and emotions. And I have a tendency not to lean on my wife’s family either. It seems to be a much scarier experience to be that close to someone who has battled a serious illness such as cancer or an attack like a cardiac episode, than if it is just a story you may have seen on social media. But it is through social media that I consider so many, my friends.
Side Effects/Survivorship – I have been an active participant on an internet support group called “American Cancer Online Resources”, ACOR.ORG for close to sixteen years. For years I have watched so many deal with the “rewards”, rather consequences of their decision to fight and defeat their cancer. A tremendous amount of progress has been made in just the short time that I was treated from treatments, diagnotics, and follow-up protocol to make sure that patients get the most out of their cure. I want to make it perfectly clear, I have no regrets about the treatments that I went through. I just want to serve as inspiration and hope to the millions who will either be diagnosed, or who are currently battling cancer. The technology is out there to help us with our late term issues. Unfortunately, just as with our cancer battle, we have to fight to locate this assistance, and then pursue it, but it is there. If you have had cancer and been treated, and you just cannot come up with an answer to what is making you feel awful or causing pain, it just might be time to do some research. As one of my doctors puts it, “we cannot reverse them or stop them (the side effects), but we can slow them down so that you get to enjoy your grandchildren”. Which is hopefully at least another twenty years before I hear that word.
Heart Issues – Just one of the many side effects that I have had to deal with, no one looks at me and knows that I had heart surgery unless I have told them. Which again, is due to progress and care. The care that I recieved to diagnose, treat, and rehabilitate. Now, it is about maintainance and not looking back. I know everyone is watching.