In retrospect, over thirty years, and over recent days as I reflect on the 30th Anniversary of my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma diagnosis, I may just have figured out what so many, myself included, what makes me tick.
Upon leaving the doctor’s office following his interpretation and opinion of the pathology report, that I do in fact have cancer, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, my personality had already undergone a change in how I not only handled this situation, but how I would handle everything else that would occur in my life. The average person when faced with diversity, often ends up engulfed in emotions which may or may not complicate what lies ahead. But when I left the doctor’s office, I had a plan: talk to my fiance, contact my grandmother, get to an oncologist. Getting through this was not a choice. I knew what I had to do. And I believed I could.
As I drove to my fiance’s house, I drove by my employer. I saw lights on yet in the office area, and knew that the owner was still in the building. Impulsively, I pulled into the parking lot and walked to the rear of the building which I knew would still be unlocked. I walked through the darkened hallway to the office area.
Jeff was still in his office as he was known to work late. He took over the business for his family and was completely dedicated to their efforts. He had his own family, but his priority was the company. When his day was done, he would go home to his wife and children where I am certain he was a loving family man. At work, he was a bit more mysterious. I did not really know him to have a frequent sense of humor, mostly all business. He trusted his employees to do their jobs, and do them well. He would see to it that we were taken care of.
I stood at the doorway to his office, soaking wet from the brief walk in the rain from my car to the building. He was not startled by my presence. He looked up from the pile of paperwork he was looking through…
Jeff: Is everything alright?
Normally there would be other questions why an employee would be present well after hours, but instead, my appearance besides the physical presentation, had him concerned. And for the first time, I saw that side of Jeff.
I broke down several times as I explained to my boss everything that I had gone through, and now faced. I explained everything that was ahead of me. I told him I did not want to die.
While Jeff was not a stranger to me, still, he was not supposed to be the one that I shared this with first.
I continued on and then Jeff interrupted me as I took a drink of some water.
Jeff: I want you to know, anything that we can do for you, we will take care of you. I don’t want you to worry about your job, money, anything. Just concentrate on what you need to do to get better.
And then something else clicked in my head, another new defense mechanism, which now I fully understand me. Not sure why, and I am sure that is for a totally different blog, but for the purposes of “Paul’s Heart”, I now had something else driving me. I needed to get better because I felt needed, valuable, a purpose.
Me: Jeff, I want you to know, I am going to do as much as I can to miss as little work as possible. I am not sure how long this is going to take, but I am not going to be a freeloader. I want you to know you can still count on me just as you always have. My cancer is not going to change that.
The best way to describe that, would be to say I felt immediate wind against my sails, giving me a stronger sense of what I needed, and planned to do.
We talked for a few minutes more, and then we both walked out together. He would go home to his family. I would drive to my fiance’s house. Almost as if I had just gone through a rehearsal of what I was going to say, I had gotten through all my emotions with Jeff. I would be better under control with my fiance when I talked to her. I would be much more believable that I was going to be okay, face to face.