Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the month “June, 2021”

Adding An Insult To An Injury

I have to go back to 2007, for the last time that I visited a doctor for anything not related to my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and treatment past. Since April of 2008, it seems that all of my appointments following my emergency heart surgery, have had some sort of tie to what I had been exposed to.

My health history prior to me having cancer back in 1988 and the time between the end of my treatments in 1990 and April of 2008 could not be any more simple. I had only three primary care doctors. One died still practicing in his eighties. Another retired. And then the current doctor I still have, now well over thirty years. The most challenging thing I usually gave them, was a seasonal allergy that resulted in a steroid injection to get through the Spring. Other than that, if they saw me in the office, it is if everyone was put on red alert, something had to be seriously wrong. Like the time I got into some poison sumac (I will spare you the pictures), way worse than dealing with poison ivy let me tell you. My medical record could not really be more than maybe a half an inch thick.

Even my battle with cancer did not change the size of my file too much with my personal physician. Cancer records would be kept with my oncologist. But once it was determined that I was dealing with issues related to my treatments, and that multiple disciplines of medicine would be followed, I needed to have a central advocate for my care, the main communicator between them all, and that was my primary care doctor.

It was not long before I would have more frequent communications and visits with her, coordinating everything from all the specialists that I would eventually see. Soon, my file grew to two inches thick, and then a second folder would be started. Today, with everything being digitalized, I am happy to see that a tree will no longer be sacrificed for my record keeping.

As I said, it has been a long time since I had a “normal” doctor visit, not related to my Hodgkin’s past. The last injury that I had to deal with was back in 2003, a tear of my left triangular fibro cartilage in my wrist.

Concern over carpel tunnel was eliminated because that would have occurred on the other side of the wrist. I was performing a function at work, that caused a “jerking” of the wrist, hence tearing that cartilage. The workers compensation process was a major thorn in the side as I was originally denied the claim, went through the legal process of appeal, and it was determined that this type of injury only occurs at someone’s employment.

With one caveat. Apparently, as you approach your middle ages, forty-ish, this cartilage begins to deteriorate until you have none according to my understanding. I was in my early thirties at the time, so this was not the issue. The injury was determined to be work related.

Seventeen years later, I found myself in need to seek medical help for the first time, something not related to my Hodgkin’s.

I had a huge pain in my foot. I tolerate pain fairly well, so it is often quite a time before I do anything about it. But with levels reaching between 7 and 9, and a well pronounced limp, and given my history of high dose prednisone during my chemo treatments, leading to one of my many late side effects, osteopenia, I have a higher risk of bone breakage. For the life of me, I could not recall when or where the pain first started, but I was concerned that I could have had some sort of stress fracture in my foot.

Now used to all of my medical appointments beginning with me explaining my cancer history and where I am healthwise today, I was cut short by the PA and I quickly realized, this was not an appointment having to do with my cancer past, well, as far as they were concerned. But because I did emphasize my osteopenia, to which I was immediately questioned how I knew, they opened the door, and I explained briefly, a word not often used with me, a DEXA scan confirmed it due to my chemo past. And with that, an x-ray was ordered. Fortunately, no break was found.

But as the PA ran her finger underneath my foot, from the ball of my heel, towards my large toe, my pain level shot through the roof.

I am not sure how, as I am not overly active, more than a daily walk, but I ended up with what is called Plantar Fasciitis. The tendons under my foot were angry, very angry. So, I was given a list of things to do to help the healing and recovery for a common ailment for many, concerned friends and family inquired to my diagnosis.

It is one thing to have to deal with this injury, but as one of my “concerned” friends promptly pointed out, while this kind of thing is common, it is also associated with getting older. Thirty-one years out from my cancer, I have gotten to that stage in my life, I did not think I would see, getting older. But having done so, not only do I have my cancer issues to deal with, but now I get to add “getting older,” adding insult to injury.

Trying To Outrun The Inevitable

I was asked not too long ago, “when did you know that you wanted to be a Dad?” And when I answered “right after graduation,” it was not because I was looking to go out an populate the world right away. Rather, I had been so hurt by my father at that point, I wanted to prove to myself, that I would not make the choices that he did. I would be there for my children. I would be the father that I wanted, needed to have.

Hodgkin’s Lymphoma took that opportunity away from me. However, through adoptions, I was given that chance back again. And regardless that my marriage ended in divorce, that did not mean that my role as a father would cease either. In fact, I faced a similar crossroad that my father faced, when it came to his children. But I chose the other path.

As I often state, I will not go into details of my divorce, but the one thing that has been constant in the eight years since? I made the choice to stay involved with my daughters. Certainly it has not been perfect, or ideal, but I have done all that I can to make it work. Hell, even a pandemic could not stop me.

So, having followed through on my self-promise, as a father, and managing the multitude of health issues from the late developing side effects from the treatments of my Hodgkin’s, I have arrived at an even bigger stage of life, my daughters having grown up, and becoming women of their own selves.

All parents go through it, their “babies” growing up. So this is not something unique upon me.

My emergency open heart surgery, was the first time that I had been separated from my daughters, ever! It was the longest week of my life, with the night before the surgery, the most difficult, because prior, I was just supposed to have a simple catheterization to correct the problem, so my goodbye to my daughters was nothing more than a “I’ll see you tomorrow morning.” But that next afternoon, turned into a “life and death,” a very risky surgery, something that I might not survive. All I wanted was to hold my daughters one more time.

Obviously I survived, but divorce would soon lead to time apart via custody agreements. But with the help of technology, Facetime, texting, and other media, I was at least able to make daily contact with them. But for my daughters, with the exception of an overnight visit with a friend, they have never been apart from each other.

A friend of mine warned me a long time ago, of the time coming, as his daughters got older, they would ask for moments when he was scheduled to spend time with them, that one or even both, might have either plans, of course to a teenager, they would be important to them. That would result in his visit with perhaps only one of his daughters, or both, or even perhaps none. I could tell it was hard on him. I would dread that time coming, and resist it as best as I could.

I do not know what I did that was different from my friend, but I managed to spend every available moment with both my daughters. But with one daughter now eighteen, she is now able to express her own decisions, and yes, now I am at yet another crossroad, and this one is not up to me to decide. All I can do is hope that I had enough of an influence, that decisions that affect both of us, will keep our relationship in mind.

While the term “empty nest” does not really apply here, because that would imply no children at home any more. I have many friends who have already experienced their children having moved on and are now on their way through grandparenthood. But I do have a few friends that are or have just gone through this similar stage, one child of multiples having gained independence, the feelings of “loss” are still just as painful. I am not looking for sympathy, but I do know that there is empathy for me.

I have had one of the best Father’s Day visits with my daughters. But for one, the time was cut short, as she chose to travel home before her younger sister, staying with me a few extra days. As we dropped off my older daughter to return home, it did not take long to realize someone else was being affected by this, my daughters. As I mentioned, they have been together basically their entire lives. This day would be inevitable when they would go off to college, but it is happening now.

You could see what this meant to them, all day prior to the departure. While they have always gotten along with each other, there was definitely some last minute bonding happening. Back at the house, now with just one of my daughters, this was a new experience for both of us. It is only a short few days more before my younger daughter heads home, and back to her sister, so this short “test run,” will help us to adjust for the future. The summer visit will be a true test, as it is several weeks, my older daughter has arranged other things during her summer, and is likely at best, maybe to only visit a few days. It will definitely be the longest time the sisters have been apart from each other. I see this as an opportunity to help them to establish a line and need for communication for when the actual college departures come in to play. I will do all that I can to make sure that they talk to each other frequently.

It is going to be an adjustment for all of us for sure. My daughters know that I love them both equally. The only advantage one can even claim, is simply by age. When it came to gifts, decisions on activities, help with homework, and more, both daughters know they can count on me. I had time with only one daughter by herself, way back, waiting to adopt my second daughter. And now, with visits, it will be my younger daughter who will get focused attention.

I am sure all the while, we will be wishing my older daughter, my younger daughter’s sibling, would be with us.

Happy Father’s Day

If there is one thing in my life that I will say defines it, it is Fatherhood. All I have ever wanted to be, was a Dad. Along the way, I have been challenged in the most extreme ways from cancer to divorce, but nothing has stood in the way of the unconditional and never-ending love of my children. My daughters are the reasons behind every decision that I make, and the drive to keep moving forward.

Historically, prior to the arrival of my daughters, Father’s Day was just another day in June.

This is one of three photos that I possess with my father from childhood, none occurred on or around Father’s Day. In fact, I do not remember spending any time with my father for Father’s Day. To be clear, this was his decision, a result of the divorce from my mother. Another reason for my sadness of Father’s day, my grandmother passed away the week before Father’s Day in 1998. And then, my Father was memorialized on Father’s Day weekend in 2014 after passing from the effects of lung cancer. Admittedly, this was something that I requested.

Even with my daughters, Father’s Day seemed to take a back seat, as with other holidays, because I was expected to work. I had a 40-hour/week job, but if offered overtime, so I was expected to work it, even on Father’s Day, the one day that should have been about me with my daughters. I was supposed to just be grateful for the few hours I had to spend with them once I got home from work.

To be clear, there is no one more important to me, than my daughters. When faced with emergency open heart surgery back in 2008 due to late effects from the treatments that cured me of my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, it was the fear of never seeing them again, them having the possibility of experiencing what one of their close friends experienced, losing a parent, that really pulled me through.

Unlike my father, I was there for my daughters for Father’s Day, with the exception of three, two of those were beyond my control, and the other was purely for everyone’s health and well being. A process with my divorce led me to miss two Father’s Days. And in 2020, Covid19 and all the uncertainties left me no other choice, than to keep my daughters safe, and that meant not having them travel to see me. Those three years, came and went, each time, leaving me with a broken heart, no other options available.

But just after the last time that I missed spending time with my daughters for Father’s Day, I made sure that they knew every Father’s Day, they are my priority. They are the reason I wake up every day. They are the reason I look forward to every tomorrow.

This Father’s Day is more than just having lost last year’s time together. For years, I have had friends prepare me for the time when my daughters would get older, and the likelihood that visits with them would be less frequent because they had their own things to do a la Harry Chapin’s “Cats In The Cradle”. In all honesty, for my one friend, he got much less years than I have in regard to that situation. My daughters know how important Father’s Day is to me, as important if not more than, our visit at Christmas. Father’s Day is the day, I get to celebrate and cherish all of the memories from the thousands of photos I have taken of my daughters over the years, opportunities that have lessened from the demands of the teenagers.

My daughters have a biological father, somewhere. But I am the only Father they know. And whether they are six, eighteen, or forty two, they know I will always expect this day to be ours, together.

Yes, their mother and I are divorced, and unlike my Father, I made the conscious decision, to stay in their lives, to be active in their school and interests, to be one of their two main role models, to guide them with their decisions toward their future. Each and every day, I make an attempt to reach them, through various means from phone, to Facetime, to text, a reminder that every day to them, that I am thinking about them. That I miss them. That I love them.

There are so many fathers that I do hear from, that for any reason, are not getting that opportunity this year, perhaps for several years now. For some, it is their first year without either their children, or their father. My heart breaks for them, because I understand the many different issues surrounding the emptiness of this holiday as an adult child of divorce, a divorced parent, as well as someone who lost their father.

The time with each other is only temporary. It can be a few years, or decades. But it is only temporary. That is why it is important every year, on this day, you celebrate if you are able to still do so with each other. And if you are in the unfortunate situation, having been alienated from your father or from your children, you DO NOT EVER give up! Time will heal. I got that chance to do that with my father before it was too late.

I do not know what Father’s Day will look like in 2022. But after having lost Father’s Day last year due to Covid19, this year will be more special than ever to me and my daughters.

Needless to say, as few photos there are of my father and I, my daughters will never have that problem.

Happy Father’s Day.

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