Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Adoption”

Donna’s Wish

I am so pleased, as I and others deal with the sorrow, as per the wishes of my friend Donna (who recently passed away from complications of her late effects from treatments for Hodgkins Lymphoma), and her family, husband Leo, and daughter Jasmine, that in leui of flowers, that a donation be made to a charity that would continue Donna’s efforts in support of those battling life after Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
That charity is Hodgkin’s International. There is a “donate” button along with Donna’s story.

To donate in Donna’s memory, and to see what HI is about, please go to Hodgkin’s International at

Thank you in advance.


Donna – As Genuine As Could Be

I do not even know where to begin.

This is a photo of a mother, wife, a fellow adoptive parent, and a fellow cancer survivor.  Her name was Donna.

Donna and I first met, well over a decade ago, on an internet listserve for long term cancer survivors, which we both were.  She had been treated at a very young age for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma with an extreme amount of radiation therapy, though considered standard for the time.  Those treatments caused progressive side effects over the decades, in the beginning unknown, but later on life, not only aware, but severe in nature.  When we were first introduced to each other, my issues with late effects were at the unknown stage, so it was not late side effects that led to open conversations.

Donna and her husband had adopted a daughter from China, named Jasmine.  Donna had seen that in the signature of my posts, I had adopted daughters from China as well.  From there, since we could not share photos on the listserve, and it really was not proper etiquette to contact someone from the list on a personal level, Facebook came along.  And from there, that is where our friendship grew.

We shared a lot of photos of each others’ daughters.  We shared a lot of stories.  One thing that stood out in my mind, was when “Jazzy” as her father calls her, at a toddler age, was showing off for a video camera entertaining with a Brittish accent having a conversation with her mother.  It was hysterical, and very authentic.  And this friendship grew, as we watched each others’s girls grow.

In 2008, our friendship took a very hard turn.  My late side effects were suddenly brought to light in a huge way, emergency heart surgery.  I had been aware of Donna’s issues, though she rarely publicly spoke of them.  And if she did mention them, there were bad enough at that time for her to do it.  She was one of the first survivor friends to reach out to me, offering encouragement not only on my recovery, but with the new direction my survival was going to take.

Now, we were not just exchanging stories on our daughters, but now, seeking each other’s support for suggestions on how to deal with certain health issues, offer encouragement during a side effect event.  And for both of us, over the next several years, we both would be dealing with several events.

During this time, we both had family to take care of as well.  And we did most of it without skipping a beat, protecting our young children from knowing the harsh realities we were dealing with.  And for that, we would find our way back on Facebook, sharing more photos, more  fun times, more memories.

This father/daughter duo served as inspiration to me.  Donna would constantly share the musical escapades of her husband Leo, and daughter.  Performing here, performing there.  Such a great bond.

That is not to say or friendship did not have bumps.  As the title of this post suggest, “As Genuine As Could Be,” Donna was very genuine.  It was only one subject matter that could fire up our conflict, but one thing was certain, we both could stand our ground.  We would trade “comments” back and forth trying to convince each other that our opinion was not only accurate, but correct, in our opinion.  And let me tell you, that determination and strong will, definitely played a role in her cancer survival.  After we exhausted our argument, we would return back to what mattered to both of us, our daughters, and our survivorship.

I cannot imagine what Leo had gone through as a spouse dealing with someone facing these constant health crisis that would keep popping up.  I was a caregiver for my father, but as a spouse, I am certain it was different.  But I know that Donna loved Leo very much.  They were in photos constantly as a family.  But he also had to be there, to make sure that if Donna was unable, to relay information to medical personnel about Donna’s health history.  For better or worse, in sickness and health… their marriage endured.  And that is not something easily done without dealing with the extreme health issues of a long term cancer survivor.

I often find myself, ridiculed by some of my friends who feel that surrounding myself with others who have gone through what Donna and I have gone through, to be part of internet support groups that deal with late effects, can have an impact on my psyche as far as having a positive attitude, can only lead to living under a dark cloud.  As is proven by my friendship with Donna, nothing could be further from the truth.  Donna is one of perhaps a handful of fellow survivors still alive from when I first came across the internet.  Given my health, I know that does not bode well.  Regardless of her side effect issues, she was too young to leave this earth.  She is yet another parent I know, survived by such a young child.  Again, I cannot begin to imagine the grief that Leo is going through, all the while, having to make sure that his daughter’s emotional needs are taken care of.

I have written that I do not grieve well, or even properly.  But if there is one thing that will always stand out in my mind about Donna, she gave of herself, before for herself.  If I was dealing with an issue, she offered me guidance, all the while keeping her current issue silent.  Yes, there were topics that she definitely felt strong about, but it did not stand in the way of friendship.  More importantly, she was a great mother, and a great wife.  And she was a great friend.

The Difference Between Being Positive And Being Oblivious

We are now almost two weeks into the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.  Anyone who has gone through any kind of crisis, will tell you, recovery does not happen overnight.  And it is becoming clear, just how valuable experience is.

Throughout my life, I have often been told I have a “bad” or “poor” attitude.  In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.  I believe I am one of the most positive people you will ever know.  Sure, I have dealt with a lot of bad experiences over my life:  cancer, car accidents, severe illnesses, divorce, hurricanes, etc.  And it is because I have gone through so many bad experiences, I get told I am a “negative” person.  I write stories to help others who have struggled with similar situations, and I am told that I “need to get over it.”

Many years ago, a book called “The Secret” came out, as well as a movie.  I have read and watched both.  To sum up, if you think bad things, your thoughts travel out into the universe, and come back to you in actions.  Think good things, good things come back.  Some people rely on a similar method called prayer.  Pray for the things you want, and they will happen.  If they do not happen, then your faith obviously was not strong enough.

Seemingly just as effective an approach, albeit in the opposite direction is a book by Mark Manson, which I have recently started reading.  Instead of taking a positive approach through life, just stop giving a fuck about it.  Trade Pollyanna for apathy.

I definitely do not wish any ill will on anyone.  But I definitely feel bad for those who end up unable to deal with difficult situations when they occur, when they realize all the “positive” thinking and believing, still disappoint them.  Shit happens.  But if you do not pay attention to how others deal with adversity, when something bad does happen, and you get beyond the line “at least I have my health” and realize you need a bit more than just surviving, the effects can be frustrating and debilitating, almost paralyzing.

I have gotten through all the events in my life, with very positive thinking.  And it actually started with this book.  From the moment I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, all I could do was “imagine” my life being better.  Being able to see it in my mind.  And each day, I saw myself getting closer and closer to that goal, remission.  And I have used that approach during every crisis in my life that I have had to deal with.  And the common thing among each of those events in my life, it took time.  You do not just recover overnight from tragedies and crisis.  And you most certainly do not invite bad things to happen.

But there is a difference between being a positive person, and someone who just keeps their head buried in the sand, or wearing blinders.  A person who deals with things head on, simply dusts themselves off.  But the person who has to pluck their heads out of the sand, must first pull out each grain of sand from their ears.  There is a difference between hanging around people who are negative, worried only about the bad things, having nothing to offer in hope  to a solution to those problems, and only want you to stay with them in that dismal hole, and those that offer hope and guidance in spite of the bad things that have happened in heir lives.

Yes, it is only two weeks since Irma hit.  And the two groups of “positive” people are still dealing with the aftermath.  Those that realize it takes time to recover, and those who need recovery to happen quicker.  We may lose patience, and that is okay.  We just cannot let that lapse in patience paralyze us or allow it to hurt us any further.  But this is what a positive  person does, they know it will get better, and they will do what they have to get there.  And we believe that we can get there.  And will there be other crisis?  Of course there will be.  But will you continue to bury your head until you have to deal with that next event of negative adversity?  Or will you learn from the event, and use that experience to overcome once again when called into action?

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