Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor


One of the posts I never wanted to write about.  I actually don’t want any opportunities to write memorials of fellow cancer survivors.  When one passes, it is a stark reminder, that in spite of beating our cancer, issues that may have developed from our treatments, we are still vulnerable.  Our fight is not over.

I barely had my first computer when I first came across Tammy.  In fact, I recall using “dial up” with a 56k modem and an “aol” address.  We were both on a list serve (an old style email list) for people who had battled Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  We were both around the same age.  Treated around the same time, approximate two years before me, though different cancer networks in different states.  In spite of the similarities, she was treated with a much stronger attack of treatment than me.

I was barely five years passed remission.  Tammy spent a lot of time, encouraging me to keep vigilant on follow-ups, all the while, occasionally filling me on some serious issues that she dealt with, related to her treatments.  I could not understand, why she was dealing with these severe issues, and I seemingly had none.

Her list of health issues caused by her treatments is way longer than I could write or even comprehend.  I would eventually develop some of the many issues that she experienced.  And if you have followed my blog, my list is only 10% of the size of Tammy’s issues.  And the number of critical events that she experienced defied comprehension that we would have a friendship decades long.  But she just kept going.  The energizer bunny had nothing on her.

Regardless of how many issues she faces, or how often, life for her continued on.  So proud of her children, I saw them all grow, and much to her surprise, witnessed her becoming a grandmother, several times.  Always an inspiration to me with what she had been through, the one comment that she said to me that always has stuck in my head, as an order to never stop fighting, “I never thought I would see being a grandmother.  And look at how I have been blessed.”  I will never forget those words.

My oldest daughter’s name is Madison.  Upon finding out that she was having a granddaughter, was also going to be named Maddison (just a coincidence), seeing all the photos of “my” Madison in cute baby clothes gave her a rush of excitement to once again shop for baby girl clothing, something she had not experienced since the birth of her daughter.

Tammy, like many of my fellow survivors, was 100% selfless.  No matter how awful she felt, even in her weakest moments, when she had the strength to respond, she took those moments.

We lived in different states, but still made arrangements for families to get together, including gatherings of other Hodgkin’s survivors.  I just posted this photo the other day:

We were not just fellow survivors.  Our lives were not just about cancer and survivorship.  She was one of the first to show me there was still so much to be thankful for, so much to strive for, and so much to live for.  But I will be forever grateful for learning to face the health issues with a resolve not to accept anything less than the best care, and to not settle for medical personnel having no idea what to do with us.

I won’t lie.  I never allowed myself to feel sorry for myself, or to feel I want to give up, because of Tammy.  Everything she had gone through, I had no right to ever say, “I’ve had enough.”  And now, the one I looked to, to keep me going forward, is gone.  Don’t get me wrong, I have so many reasons to keep going on myself.  But I always believed, as long as Tammy was still here, I was still going to be here.  If anyone was proving immortality, against all odds, it was Tammy.

Tammy, I am selfish.  I wish you had more time down here.  But I know it was hard.  And now you get to spend some time with your other grandson, to spend a belated birthday.  I will never forget you and what you did for me, to get me through some of the toughest moments I faced in my life.  You are going to be so missed, not just by me, but those wonderful children I got to witness grow, and all the beautiful grandchildren you were blessed to spend time with.  There is also a large community of survivors who also knew you and what you had gone through.  It does not hurt any less, the only consolation being, you are no longer in that pain.

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4 thoughts on “Tammy

  1. Forrest on said:

    Thank you so much for your post Paul. My mom was the strongest person I knew.

    • Forrest, and to your brothers and sister, your mother meant so much to so many. She was truly an inspiration, and her selflessness to help others, even when she was not feeling well was something no one will ever forget. There are so many survivors who live the life your mother displayed as an example, to appreciate every day, to fight, and to love those close to you.

  2. Jen Henrich on said:

    Sorry to hear about the loss of your friend.

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