Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Adoption”

If You Would Have Known


If there is one thing that my daughters know about me, they can always count on me.  My daughters know that I will always encourage them.  Both of my daughters know that I believe in them.  They also know that they can come to me when they need help or advice.

I want to be careful here so that I do not upset other parents.  It is a parent’s choice the decisions that they make with their child as far as extracurricular activities and how many they participate in.  My approach was two-pronged.  First, I wanted them to find something that they liked to do.  Second, they commit to it.

If there is one lesson in life that I remember growing up, it was learning the importance of an education, and not just relying on the dreams of being a pro-football player or movie star, or someone else earning popularity or riches.  The odds would be against me, nothing would just fall into my lap.  And if I worked and studied hard, I would find out that my life would be pretty good even if I did not make that superstardom.

My oldest daughter had an interesting, yet I am sure not a unique approach, not wanting to practice, just do it.  From the first dance class, she showed quite a bit of talent.  And when it came to singing in the church choir, she shined.  But as I said, when it came to practice, it is not that she did not feel that she want to practice, she was bored with the level of performance that was expected, as when the participation actually meant something.  It was not unheard of during karate classes, for the instructor to ask me, “where did she learn to do that?”  To which I replied, “I thought you taught her to do that,” referring to a higher level of move than what she should have been able to do.

My younger daughter took practicing differently.  She is a bit of a social butterfly, so she enjoyed the extra time around all of the other children.  And like her older sister, she did well.  She would learn many techniques, and be promoted in belt rankings several times.  But for whatever reason, she had just one issue.  Competition.

The odd thing was, during practices and even belt promotions, all of the same participants were there.  The same parents attended each event and practice, and my daughter knew them all.  But for whatever reason, she would totally break down, when it would come to a competition, where she needed to perform individually.  I never expected to see that from someone who had only shown confidence, and fun.  But it was something that I learned about my daughter.  And it would be a lesson that would make a difference to her later on in life.

Neither of my children are attention hounds, but during school, there will be times that you are called upon in class.  Whether it will be to reach a page from a book, or answer a math problem, a student will have to speak up in front of others.  And on a minor level of participation like this, is one thing.  I would find out during her foreign language course that she takes, that her experiences in karate helped her to overcome.

In order to be graded in a foreign language, you not only have to be able to read it and write it, but you must also speak it.  And unlike reading and writing, speaking must be done individually.  And that would mean that my daughter would be in a similar “arena” as she was during competitions in karate.  Only now, able to overcome the pressure that would torment her.

I am proud of all of the efforts that my daughters put in to what they do.  And now that they are older, they now talk of their future, and their course selections will mirror their needs to achieve those goals.  Neither back down from any challenge, and if they feel they are not challenged enough, the challenge themselves.  And at the end of the day, they know that I am proud of them, believe in them, and love them.

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Talking To Children About Cancer


My children were long from even being thought of when I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  But once I had to begin dealing with the late developing side effects from the treatments that I received for my cancer, actually forced to deal with these side effects, even though my daughters were quite young, I had a decision to make.

It was over 10 years ago, my daughters, then aged 3 and 5, had no choice.  They were now aware that their Dad, had at one time, faced cancer.  Though their immediate attention was the fact that I just had open heart surgery to repair long term damage from excessive radiation to my heart as part of my cancer treatments.

Later on in elementary school, my daughters would take up causes for “Hodgkin’s Lymphoma” because their dad had it.  It was cute.  Though they really did not have a concept of just how serious my situation was, they knew Hodgkin’s was a cancer, and I had beaten it.  And up until that time, that is all that I had told them.

As a counselor, I have often been asked, “when is the right time to tell a child?”  The truth is, there never is a right time.  No matter what the issues, a child should always be left to be a child.  There will be plenty of time for a child to act and talk like a grown-up.  Unfortunately, not when it comes to cancer, or any other serious diagnosis.  Which is why, it is so important that you remember, they are children, even if faced with the fact that their parent (or other loved one is facing such a horrible disease).  Keep the information on a level that they can understand, and without the somber tone of drama often associated with talking about cancer.

Kids will get it.  They understand a lot more than we give them credit for.  And let’s face it, times are a lot different from decades ago, when a cancer diagnosis was a definite death sentence.  With social media, survivors are available to give hope, where once there was none.

As I mentioned, my daughters are all too aware how I got to this point of survivorship in my life.  They are not aware of all the details of my health issues that I face.  Over the summer, we began the discussion that I did not know how to begin, that I had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Again, keeping it at a level of understanding for young teens, they learned that it lasted a period of time of over a year and a half.  They learned that I went through chemotherapy and radiation.  And now they have learned that it was those treatments that caused the many health issues I face today.

So, in summary so far, they have learned that I have been around a long time having faced a deadly disease.  Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is considered a “rare” cancer, and thus, often hard to diagnose.  How rare?  According to the American Cancer Society, just over 5,000 new cases get diagnosed every year.  Compared to over 320,000 breast cancer diagnosis every year in women (according to breastcancer.org).  And there are over 140,000 cases of colon and rectal cancer diagnosed every year according to the ACS.

Oddly, the survival rate for Hodgkin’s is one of the higher rates, at around 86%.  One would think that a cure rate would be higher for a more prevalent cancer, but in the case of Hodgkin’s, it is not.  The unfortunate thing about the survival rate for Hodgkin’s, is that it has stayed around this number since 1988, when I was diagnosed.  There are still 14% that do not survive.  How is it possible, to be so close to a 100% curable cancer, things have not improved?  Sure, newer treatments have been discovered, and some may be safer to use, but yet, the survival rate has remained the same.

In a year and a half, I will hit my 30 year mark of survivorship.  My daughters are very aware of how far I have come now.  As one of my daughters has put it, “you are a fighter.  You always have been to me.  You don’t give up.  You will always be one of the strongest people I will ever know.”

What Is The Rush?


By my nature, I have never been a procrastinator.  If there is one issue I do have, it is taking on too many things on at one time, but never putting anything off.

But I have found, that since my daughters returned back home after their summer visit with me, I am in no rush to get my apartment cleaned up.  Do not misunderstand me, it is not that my apartment is a wreck, but rather, there are so many memories of the fun time that we had over the summer.

There are the ceramic crafts that we worked on with each other.  A box of coloring pencils used by my younger daughter.  And then there is one of the few times I have ever seen the back of a cereal box completed.  And there are plenty of other signs of the time they spent here, extra charging chords for devices, some snacks only they eat, some sketches left behind by my oldest daughter, and of course the bathroom needs to be returned back to normal.

It is not that my apartment is huge, it is not.  And really, I could get everything done (including vacuuming and dusting) in less than two hours.  Yet, here I am, nearly two weeks later and so many remnants remain of their visit.  I have only been doing bits and pieces at a time.  I really did not give it much thought at first, but then I realized, I was doing this subliminally intentionally.

The time I get to spend with my daughters is spread out throughout the year, especially so that it does not interrupt their schooling.  But as they have gotten older, our visits involve so much more than just a simple switch of custody.  They are developing their young adult personalities, sharing their interests, and showing their desire for independence, all the while being the fun little girls they have always been with me.

My mind only naturally goes back to a time when they were much younger, as if by reminiscing, I am able to slow time down.  My daughters are growing up too quick.  For the first time, they are hinting at what their interests might be after school, one interested in commercial arts, and the other in either culinary or bio-engineering (definitely a wide spectrum of a decision to make).

So, perhaps, since looking at old photos cannot stop them or slow them down from getting older, or maybe make the absence in my heart not hurt so much until their next visit, if I drag out the “straightening up” process long enough, my next visit with them will be here before I know it, which cannot happen soon enough.

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