Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the month “June, 2015”

I Can’t Wait For Christmas!!


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Anyone who knows me personally, after seeing the title of this post, has probably thought, “okay, Paul has finally lost it.”  I am normally quite strict about the time frame for recognizing the Christmas season.  But this year it is different.

Before I get started, I need to preface with this, I have a lot of health issues, some quite serious.  I have good days, and I have bad days.  But it was a conversation that I once had with my late brother-in-law that taught me, there will be days when I need to give myself a break.  We were at the dinner table, and both of us were dealing with swallowing issues related to our health.  My issues were related to radiation damage from cancer treatments.  His issue was related to Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  The key difference, he was going to eventually pass away from his disease.  We both were having swallowing difficulties.  But it was as he saw me struggle, and then me just trying to “suck it up” and hide what I was going through, he made the following comment to me.  “Look, yes, I am going to die, and just because you may not die from yours, that does not make the issues you are going through any less real, or painful.  You need to cut yourself some slack.”

And so it goes with this post.  This past Sunday was Father’s Day.  For the first time in my life, I was not with my daughters on Father’s Day.  Let’s be clear, I was legally kept from being with my daughters as a result of my ongoing divorce process.  Now for those in my life who think that my current residence has anything to do with not being allowed to see my children, absolutely not.  If I were living next door to them right now, I would not have been able to be with them.  There are a couple of processes under way right now to correct this situation which would have allowed me to be with my daughters, but other than my estranged wife and I agreeing to let the processes work out, which has not happened, I have no choice but to wait for the two systems go their course.  Were my daughters sad they could not be with me?  Sure they were.  Was I sad?  I was devastated.

I assured my daughters this was the last year that I was going to let another holiday or event go by without being allowed to be with them.  And just as I mentioned the health reference, the situation with custody with my daughters seemed very similar to keep in perspective.

First, my daughters are adopted from a foreign land.  They never knew either parent.  They never got to know their foster parents, though I have information for them when they are older to pursue this knowledge if they so choose.  My daughters have suffered huge losses already in their lives, never to be replaced.

I have several friends and family members who have lost a child.  Every year, Father’s Day comes around, and all it does is remind of a permanent loss.  For some children, on holidays such as Father’s Day and Mother’s Day, the loss of a parent also is a solemn day, rather than a Hallmark and FTD windfall occasion.  Just last year, my father passed away from lung cancer.

That being said, my heart goes out to everyone who has suffered such permanent losses.  And yes, the time that I have lost with my daughters is only temporary, and cannot compare to the death of a loved one.  But that does not mean that the pain that my daughters and I feel is any less real, or any less expected.

So now I look forward.  With the last of the special holidays taken away from me over the past year, I have my sights set on the Christmas season.  I have to let the processes I mentioned earlier to work out, and unfortunately, as I explain to my daughters, “grown ups some times take a long time to decide on things.”  It is still a long way, but I have dealt with far worse, for longer periods of time.  And just like that, I can deal with this also.  All I want for Christmas is to hold my daughters again.

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Happy Father’s Day


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I would like to wish all the dads reading “Paul’s Heart” a Happy Father’s Day.  And at the same time, I would like to wish all the moms having to fill both roles, a Happy Parent’s Day as well.

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Father’s Day has always been special to me.  From the first day that I held each daughter in my arms, I knew that I was blessed to have such beautiful, kind, and loving children.  They are constantly in my thoughts and in my dreams.  Half of their childhood has gone by already, and so quickly too.

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Together, we have experienced so much already.  You came to me with so much love from a land on the other side of the world.  You pulled me through emergencies that none of us had expected, but for certain, if it were not for you, I could have easily given up.  My doctor’s goal is a simple one, in spite of everything my body is dealing with, he plans on making sure that I see you graduate, get married (if you so choose), and to be a grandfather (I will hope).  So far, he has gotten me 1/3 of the way there.

I love both of you so much Madison and Emmalie.  And I always will.

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Daddy.

Cancer – Facing Fears Of Relapse


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The line from Indian Jones that everyone remembers, “Snakes, I hate snakes!”  Always followed up in other IJ movies, “why does it always have to be snakes?”

This morning I was asked, “what are you afraid of?”  The individual was quite shocked at my reply, “nothing.”  Sure, there are things I do not like, there are situations that concern me, but being afraid, fear, is an often paralyzing circumstance.

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In the cancer world, and this is just my opinion, I do not think the feeling of fear is as strong at diagnosis, as it becomes post treatment.  Of course, we do not look forward to a diagnosis of cancer, but I think the majority of us faced with this situation will make up our minds, “I am going to get through this.”  We may not be crazy about some of the diagnostic tests that we get put through, but there generally is no fear at work.

Oddly, fear hits cancer patients, and survivors, usually after treatment ends.  And it can be a crippling fear, the fear of relapse, or recurrence.  And this is perfectly normal.  After all, it was one thing to take on the beast once, and beat it.  It is another to worry that it could come back.  And if it came back, knowing what we went through the first time, and to deal with it again, would use stronger methods of treatment that we could not be certain we could tolerate, or worse, not work at all because perhaps our cancer was not curable after all.  This is a legitimate feeling.

So, how do you deal with it?  I could tell you it gets better, just that simple.  And of course you would probably roll your eyes hearing me say that because that simply will not erase your concern.  But I will tell you, it does get better.  I am proof.  I went through the first follow up scan… to the six month mark… to my first anniversary… to number five.  And to be honest, even 25 years out now, the possibility exists that I could still face it again.  But the nerves of that first scan, soon faded months later, and then completely within a couple of years.

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I have faced a lot in my 25 year survivor period, and the two years battling cancer.  And I could easily let fear influence my prognosis.  But I do not.  I like the above phrasing of the letters from the word “fear”.  I will use another instance of my life where I actually apply the phrases of “fear” to get through my trials.  And it works no matter what situation I have faced, or will face in the future.

As if cancer were not bad enough, I faced open heart surgery in 2008.  If fear would have any appropriate time or place, this would be one of those instances.  But…

1)  I “faced it.”  I was going to die without the emergency bypass.  Fear had no place in the decision making.  I wanted to live.

2)  I “explored it.”  I checked out my surgeons, options.  I studied what could potentially happen to prepare for the surgery, and for life after the procedure.  I made sure everything was in place for my personal life, should anything happen.

3)  I “accepted it.”  I was either going to get through the surgery, or I was going to die.  It was that simple.  Only two results.  I was going to survive and move on with my life, in which case everything matters, or I would die, and then what exactly could I do about that?  So the idea was simple.  I was going to get through it.

4)  I “responded.”  My surgical team and post care team were the best.  I put all my faith in each and every one to deal with the risks, and especially pain management.  I could control nothing that they were in control of themselves.

I have used this philosophy many times in my life, and not just for illnesses.  And accepting what I must face, instead of being afraid of it, is what gets me through every time.  Even as I approach my sixth decade of existence, there are still things that I have not had to face in my life.  And I will face everything the same way as I have succeeded before.

I currently have friends who are still going through treatments, dealing with relapses, and some who are knocking on that door of the word “remission.”  And these are definitely scary times.  But in time, one day turns to one week.  One week turns to one month.  One month turns into one year.  One year turns into five years.  Five years turns into ten years.  Ten years turns into twenty-five.  And so on.  And each day you face those fears head on, you succeed because you know you have to.  And it does get easier.  I have been there and done that.

Yes, I know you want the treatments to end.  Yes, I know you want to hear the word remission.  Yes, I know you do not want to hear “new disease” or “relapse.”  But the fact is, it can happen.  But what will you do about it?  You will fight it just as hard as you did before.  And you know how to do it, and get through it.  There is no room for fear.  You face it, explore it, accept it, and respond.

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