Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

The Difference Between Stubbornness And Denial

I got a few comments about my recent posts, following the days leading up to my diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which is approaching 30 years on Monday.  All of them simply put, referred to me being “bullheaded”.  Was my denial of where EVERY doctor that seemed to have a hunch of where this was going, that strong?  Could I have been trying to “will” the bad thoughts away?

I was twenty-two years old.  I would describe my childhood as rough, not something I would want to repeat again.  My early adulthood did not start off too smoothly either with bad choices and bad habits.  But then I met someone who had changed all that for me.

Finally things had turned around for me.  Six months after we had been dating, I decided that I had found someone that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.  Together she and I would do so many things with each other, experience so much, and do a lot of travelling.  She had not only shown me what life could really be like for us, but wanted to make that journey together.

We started making plans about two months before I was diagnosed, big plans.  I will not go into details because they are part of future posts of this 30th Anniversary thread.

As far as the denial was concerned, in 1988, cancer was still portrayed as a death sentence.  Personally, my paternal grandfather died from lung cancer, or complications thereof.  Later in life I would find out my paternal grandmother had cancer of the gall bladder (another post to come later).  On the television, you would only hear of celebrities dying of cancer.  You never heard of those who would survive.

But the truth is, I knew at least two survivors, but the fear and denial of my own suspected path hid those from my recent memories.  My step-sister had battled aplastic anemia in the late 1970’s.  More recently to my diagnosis, my maternal grandmother had beaten her first cancer, breast cancer, just two years earlier.

Was I denying the possibility of having cancer, because when it came to cancer, you only thought of the big ones… breast, lung, colon?  Other lesser known cancers, such as blood cancers like Hodgkin’s Lymphoma may not have been thought of so much as a cancer.  But guess what, a cancer is a cancer, whether it is in the blood or a solid tumor.

Was I angry at my body for betraying me at the best time of my life after twenty-two years?  It had not right to do that to me.

Was it the loss of control that I abruptly began to experience?  All of a sudden, I was having strangers telling me what to do, when to do it, where to go to have it done.  I no longer had any say.  Even as I protested as strongly as I could, I felt like I was losing grip.

Yes, the denial was that strong, and for many reasons.  And I am grateful for all of those professionals who did not give up on this stubborn jackass.  But that is what made them the best that they could be in their field.

As for me, as my current family doctor of nearly 30 years will confirm, I am still that stubborn jackass when it comes to my care.  But it has been my many experiences with my health over the years, that qualifies me to be a part of my treatment team when it comes to issues.  My doctor knows that she will convince me of what I need to do or have done.  I just make it a challenge until I have all the answers I need to make the decision to accept it.  And my friends and fellow survivors too – this jackass appreciates all of you.

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