Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

National Cancer Survivor’s Day 2022

Unlike me in 1988, there is a pretty good chance that today, you know at least one person, touched by cancer, if not yourself.

Make this year number 32 for me, recognizing National Cancer Survivors Day (34 years if you count from the day I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma). In many circles, a cancer survivor is anyone, in any stage of a diagnosis of cancer, even diagnosis. My father, upon learning of his lung cancer diagnosis, told his doctors, “I want to be a survivor, like my son.” And for a brief time, my father was a survivor. He lost his battle with cancer eight years ago. The fact is, I have had five other relatives who faced one type of cancer or another.

It is not always up to the survivor how long their fight will go on. To those in my family, I am the only known living survivor. Among my fellow survivors, who I also count as “family”, the numbers are much greater, and give me something to aspire to. I am talking about people who have survived four and five decades.

I have no idea what the key to my longevity has been. Physiologically, my body is a mess, destroyed from years of late developing side effects from my treatments for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. My diet, is horrendous partly in fact that I am a very picky eater but has not played any role really. Physically I do what I can, that my body will allow as far as exercise.

If there is one that I do know as a survivor, tomorrow is never guaranteed. Between the trauma of the cancer itself, along with the treatments, the body can only take so much. The question is how much. And there is just no way of knowing. So you live each day, like you may not have tomorrow. And if you are like me, there are a lot more tomorrows that I want to have, not just for me, but for those around me and in my life.

I try to make the best decisions that I can to keep the effects on my health to a minimum. Reduce stress. Learn limits. Accept what I cannot control. And then I do all that I can, to focus on the things that I want to be around for, that require me having more time, such as the futures of my daughters. If I were able to give credit in my decision making, it would definitely go to my daughters.

Hell, even trying to avoid getting sick, because my body would have a harder time fighting any virus, has been a challenge. But that determination, that focus, is what keeps me going. Is it a guarantee? Of course not. But it is something I can say at least I tried.

I could not be happier for my fellow survivors for being able to celebrate this day once again. And as we do, we remember our fellow survivors who have fallen over the years, their bodies no longer able to take anymore.

Cancer does not define me. But it has definitely played a major role in making me who I am today. I do not know how many more of these days I have left. I know how many more years I need, and want. As I have no control, I can only take each one, one year at a time.

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