Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Adoption”

30 Years Of “Birthdays” I Never Thought I Would See

Today is one of the last milestones I will recognize in my year of “30th Anniversary” posts, surviving Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  And that is to recognize that today is my 30th birthday after being told I was in remission of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  Over half of my life has been spent in the world of cancer.  I have not been able to put aside the thoughts, the experiences, the memories, and just move on with my life.  Because, when I did, I was always served a reminder, usually in the most extreme example.

I remember the first comment I made, having just been diagnosed a month before my birthday as well, “I don’t want to die.  I will fight this and beat this.”  No matter how much negativity I heard, or witnessed people’s reactions to me, hearing I had cancer, I wanted to beat this.  I knew the odds of beating cancer were assumed to be difficult, though Hodgkin’s had, and still does, have a high cure rate, still too many do not survive.

My first birthday following the news of my remission, was ten times more emotional for me than when I was diagnosed.  My fifth birthday, not so emotional, but more of an acceptance, and recognition, “I actually did it.”  Ten years would go by, fifteen, twenty.  And if I am being honest, events related to my cancer past, coming to the forefront, I never thought I would see number twenty-five.  And no one is more surprised to be here, THIRTY BIRTHDAYS LATER than me.  Through the ups and downs, no one can appreciate what today truly means to me, including me.

I got married, twice.  I also got divorced twice.  I had two houses.  I lost two houses.

I was blessed to run a large youth group in my church, that trained me to prepare for teenagers of my own some day.  Many of these “kids” are still friends of mine today, with kids of their own.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever run for a political office, yet I campaigned twice for school board.  While I did not not win, actually lost the first campaign by 135 votes, not bad for an “unknown.”  It would also be the last time I would be involved in politics.

To “give back,” I was certified by the American Cancer Society as a peer-to-peer counselor, offering personal experience in survivorship and guidance with the many issues cancer patients and survivors face.

I held a career for seventeen years until I was physically no longer able to do my job.  It was work I never saw myself doing in a million years, yet, without the college degree, working in medical research, dealing with several projects in cancer, and even handling several of the drugs that I was exposed to during my treatments.  Talk about coming around full circle.

I have literally met hundreds of other Hodgkin’s survivors, and know of thousands more.  And the fantastic thing is that many of them are “older” than me in survivorship years (although some are younger chronologically).

I have written many things that have gotten published, but I actually got to see one of my writings be performed in a staged reading.  Not too shabby for a guy whose college professor told me, “you don’t have the intelligence to write a comic strip.”

I was recognized as Honorary Survivor Chair for our local Relay For Life in recognition of my 25th year in remission.  Yet another “mind blown” moment that I never would have thought I would see.

A movie waiting to be made… I had nearly fifteen years with the best fur friend anyone could ever be friends with.

But nothing, nothing, could mean more to me, thirty birthdays later, than to be blessed with my daughters.

My treatments left me unable to have children biologically, but that would not stop me from becoming a father.  Even if it meant travelling across the world, twice.  I definitely never saw that coming.

In 2008, I had to have emergency open heart surgery, as I was dying from a “widow maker” heart blockage caused by my treatments thirty years ago.  And though that episode definitely rocked me, as far as grabbing my attention reminding me about my mortality, it also stirred up a stronger fight, to say, “not yet.”

I am so appreciative to be able to write this post today.  And I have always wanted to see my next birthday, and so on.  And now, as my daughters are older, I am seeing the women that they are becoming, as the choices they make today, are determining who they are going to be, and I want to be there for that.  And to be able to do that, means I will have to celebrate many more birthdays.  And I know it can be done.  Of the many other survivors I know, so many are years ahead of me in survivorship, some, even decades longer than me.  All of us agree, it has not been easy.

But I am so thankful for the life I have.  I am blessed with my daughters, family, and friends too many to count, all who have gotten me here today.

There is a joke I play with my daughters, I do not tell them my actual age.  They can do the math if they want to.  They have the information.  But one number that will definitely mean so much more to them, is thirty.  Thirty years of birthdays.

Not Kids Anymore

Happy Halloween everyone.  It seems like all my friends are recognizing today not as the sweet and tasty, fun holiday that we once grew up with, but instead, remembering how this day changed for us many years ago.  And just like my friends, my daughters are now “too old” to dress up and go knocking door to door, offering tricks if treats are not bestowed.

But it is not just Halloween that has changed for us.  My daughters are in the later stage of their childhood, which means it is now time to talk about other things besides Dora The Explorer or going to the beach.  My daughters know the trove of memories I have to always cherish their childhood.

No, today, our conversations are geared more toward the adulthood, rapidly approaching.  From their interests, continuing education, where to live, the questions are coming out, “Dad, how did you decide…?”

The cool thing is that both kind of have an idea of what they want to do.  Like all children, their minds have changed frequently.  But now they select courses in school, which pertain to their interests.  They realize that a part of deciding what they want to do, is where, and will it be something they can do for the rest of their lives.

Two years ago, my oldest actually hit me with this question out of the blue, “Dad, is $55,000 a good salary?”  And just recently, my youngest asked a similar question, “Dad, how do you decide where to live and how much money is enough to make?”

Yep, I am done reading bed time stories, singing lullabies.  It is time to get serious because the things they learn now will impact them the rest of their lives.  More than half-way through my life, I have a pretty good grasp on what should be really important in life, and how to have the best opportunity to be happy.  A lot of mistakes were made along the way, but I feel I have the right words for my daughters.

“Whatever you do, do not plan your future on how much money you will make.  Money is not everything.  And it is true, money does not buy happiness.  Being irresponsible with money decisions can actually be devastating if you are not responsible with your decisions.  Learn that there is a difference between “need” and “want.”  Take care of the things you need first.  But before you can earn any income, you need to find the career that you will not only be happy with, but passionate about.  Because that is where you will truly enjoy your life, doing what you enjoy doing.  If you go to work everyday, doing something you had not intended on doing in your life, it is going to be a chore.  But find something to do, that you are not only good at, but enjoy, and every day you will be happy to go to work.  In fact, it seems almost hard to call it work when you enjoy it so much.”

My younger daughters showed me a tool that is available to kids today, through the federal government, that actually shows career prospects for the future, and geographically where specific jobs will be the most in demand.  Of course, back in the 1980’s, I never had this resource.  I explained to both of my daughters, use this tool to decide where you will eventually choose to live, based on what you will want to do with your life.  And then, depending on where you choose to live, the cost of living will determine their necessary salary.

But I stressed to both, it is important to not be “married” to their job.  Simply put, live within your means.  Do not put yourself in a position, where your employer knows you have no choices available.  It is this pressure, such as buying a house that you cannot afford, spending frivolously that can turn a job you enjoy doing, into a ball and chain, making you dread each walking day.

From there, the conversation continues about money and how to handle it.  It is important that they do not make the mistakes that I made.  As they are both quick to point out, “the whole reason of studying history is not to repeat it.  So they are learning that while credit is a necessary evil, I am trying to get it across to them, to only use credit what they have cash to pay off right away.  That credit is not to be used, with the exception of a car or house, to purchase things just because you want them and do not have the cash to pay for them.  This mentality leads to disaster, and often, repeated.

I can tell that they understand.  I wanted to have our financial issues straightened out before they grew older, but this was a constant struggle.  My hopes are that they learn from my examples and remember the things that I have told them, so that they can do better with their financial future.

Boy I sure do miss those chilly Trick-or-treat nights.  They sure were much more fun than all this serious talk.

Happy Halloween everyone.

Father/Daughter Moments

I am truly blessed.  And in spite of all the health issues I deal with, I have gotten to enjoy so many things with my daughters throughout their childhood.

From reading to both of them, learning to walk and ride bicycles, and helping with homework, I have so many memories us, and how they have grown.  Both enjoyed sitting on my lap, while I read to them.  Once they realized the world that awaited them, by standing on their feet, they quickly learned the importance of putting one foot in front of the other.  They learned balance from learning to ride a bicycle.  I am proud to say that both have now reached a part of their education, where it is not so easy anymore for me to help with their homework not only because of what they are learning, but how.  Both enjoy the challenge of their education and do not look for the easy A’s.

We are coming around the homestretch of their childhood now.  And there are two things that are coming to the front where my input as their father is going to play a vital role, boyfriends and continuing their education after college.

As much as I cringe when the thoughts of dating come up, I believe I have given them not only a good example of how they should be respected by someone interested in them, but I believe that they both have the firmness to stand up for how they want to be treated.  They have had a few other good role models in baby sitters when they were younger who demonstrated the importance of focusing on their education and their values.  I have heard the “boyfriend” word mentioned a couple times so far already, and I have taken it in stride.

But an even bigger decision is coming right at them, very quickly.  And that is what to do after high school.  Sure I am biased and will say that both have a bright future ahead of them.  It is one thing to say that I will support whatever they want to do after high school.  It is another to make sure that they have the opportunity and guidance to do that.

Making those decisions is not something that can be done last minute either.  But once an idea is thought of as far as future, then I have figure how to get there.  Both have pretty good ideas of what they want to do, and each will have their distinct way of getting there.  One’s talent may take her as far as she wants to go depending on the balance between natural ability and what is expected.  She is an artist after all, and does not like being told what to do with her talent.

But my other daughter is expected to take a different route.  And I remember as a teen myself, when it came to figuring what I wanted to do when I grew up, we either had the idea, or maybe our guidance counselor at school might get involved.

The other day, she showed me just how much thought is going to go into, to prepare her for what she wants to do, even as far as specializing.  And to help her with that, something we did not have way back, besides the internet, is a web site for the Bureau of Labor Statistics (  This by far is one of the best tools to help a parent and child figure out what is going to be required to achieve their future occupational goals.

The web page not only lists the type of job, but the average salary, the entry level of education, and as you go further into it, descriptions of the work environment, how to get hired, state and area requirements (some vary from state to state), education required, as well as other resources of who to contact for more information.  Also just as important, the job outlook for the particular field.

My daughters do not use me much for homework anymore, except when it comes to the occasional need for proof reading things.  And as I have stressed to them, paperwork completed from now on, needs to be the best they can submit.  They see the difference that their decisions and actions will make.

I wish I could keep them young, but that would only satisfy my selfish happiness.  I enjoy being their father.  I am proud to be their father.  And I cannot wait to see what lies ahead for them as I am counting on being there when it happens.

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