Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Animals”

Double Nickels – What A Ride!

Thirty-two years ago, I was told I had Hodgkin’s Disease (now called Hodgkin’s Lymphoma so it is not as scary sounding), cancer.  I was twenty-two, just turning twenty-three.  When it came to any conversation about surviving cancer, it happened with a time frame, five years.  Statistics on cancer survivorship were based on a magical five year mark.  What happened after that five year mark, we never asked.  And if you were a cancer survivor, we just assumed the risk.  That is, until the internet came along.

Over the decades, I have met so many survivors of not just Hodgkin’s, but other cancers as well.  I have seen the barbaric testing methods now gather dust, and newer and safer treatments being used to treat the cancer I once had.  All the while this is happening, another year of survivorship sneaks up on me.  And another, and another.

Longevity does not run very high on my father’s side of the family, so adding cancer survivorship, thought for sure that would drive my odds down.  Yet, I hit that milestone 50th birthday, and this past March, I recognized my 30th year in remission of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

But my most important blessings, and there are two of them, are the daughters I never thought I would ever have in my life, from beginning to today, to tomorrow.  The last decade and a half has been difficult for me with my health, with all kinds of challenges related to side effects from my treatments.  But my daughters keep me focused.  My shell makes it difficult for anyone to understand what my body is going through, not realize the limits and the conditions that I deal with because you cannot see below the shell, that only doctors, images, and I know are there.  That is why I do not try to concentrate too much on numbers.  But milestones are kind of hard to ignore.

The inside joke with my daughters, is that I do not admit my age, rather “color it”, referring to a mathematical equation that will total my actual age.  But this year, there is a funny reference to this age, “double nickels” referring to two 5’s.  This birthday is unavoidable to not recognize the actual age.

I have had a few rough weeks, with the passings of several of very close, fellow survivors, either my age, even younger.  No one appreciates or recognizes their mortality, more than I do.  But, I am doing all I can, my doctors are doing all they can, my loved ones are doing all they can, to make sure that I continue on, get to see many more birthdays, and more importantly, these milestones…

pay attention trolls, this message is for you…

I will see my daughters graduate from high school.  I will see my daughters receive some form of continuing education and have a bright future of their own.  If my daughters choose to get married, I will be there to walk them down the aisle.  And if I am blessed even further, with grandchildren, like many of my other survivors, I will be there to hold them.  And a bonus, though I do not have it set on the calendar on “Paul’s Heart,” I do plan on making 50 years cancer free.

I may not be able to drive 55, but I can admit that I am glad I made it to 55.

The Power Of The Pet

I have always believed in the power of pets and healing, at least comforting, which is just as important.

This is one of only two photos I am aware of, from my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma days over 30 years ago.  Just prior to beginning my chemotherapy, I adopted a calico kitten and named her “Pebbles.”

There was just something so soothing about the purr, close to your ears, the feline vibrations soft enough to massage the physical stress away.  And though she spent lots of time doing “kitty things,” it was her behavior once I started chemotherapy that I will never forget.

On a regular basis, as I entered the door of my apartment, she always rushed to greet me.  But after my chemotherapy appointment, I “rudely” rushed by her, ignoring her, to get to the bathroom to deal with the nausea that as expected, was about to hit me.

She followed me to the bathroom, like many pets do.  Only, you could see, she was confused that I did not seem to be using the toilet like I normally would.  I was unable to pet her or give her attention.  And there she sat, just staring at me.  When I was done heaving, exhausted, it took every ounce of strength I still had left to get to my bedroom, and crawl into bed, shaking from the physical tension and muscle tightness all over.  Everywhere hurt.

As I lay in bed, Pebbles came up onto the bed, laying on my wife’s pillow (to be clear, 1st wife) until she came home from work, keeping watch over me.  This became the ritual for the next eleven treatments, every time.

Pebbles was not the first pet to have an impact in my treatment and recovery.  I had a golden retriever named Pollo.  Unbelievably loyal, Pollo went everywhere I went.  Except one time.  And that was in 2008 when I had to have open heart surgery to save my life from damage caused by treatments years earlier for my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

We were known to roughhouse with each other, battling over who would be “alpha.”  This made me nervous as I made the trip home from the hospital, after six days recovering, my breast bone, still precariously sore and obviously not healed.  I had no idea how to prepare for Pollo, because when I came home from work, he often jumped on me to greet me at the door.  This could not happen when I walked in the door.  But how would I control his excitement.  We had never been apart.

I could feel my heart race as I opened the door, and here he came, he was definitely happy to see me.  And then his pace slowed, soon approaching my side, and standing there, allowing me to have the opportunity to pet him calmly.  As I was assuring him that I was home, and I would be okay, it would be as if he was trying to let me know, he was there to take care of me.  No matter where I was sitting, he would lay at my feet.  If I was laying down, he was laying by my side.  I could always count on him being there for me.

It did not have to be my own dog either.  During one of my many trips to the hospital, I was often visited by fur friends who stopped in just to say “hi.”  You can immediately feel the weight lift off you when you are approached by one of these four-legged caregivers.

Yes, medicine plays a big part in your care.  So does faith, if that is what you believe.  Support from family members, and of course, your actual caregivers from nurses to doctors are important.  But just as important, in care and recovery, are our fur friends.

Another Year Of “Paul’s Heart” On The Way

I just received notification that my domain name has come up for its annual renewal.  Though technically, “Paul’s Heart” shows as only having started January 6th, 2013, it actually began the year before, as a technical glitch, forced me to begin all over, transferring all of my stories over.  Fortunately at that point, it was only a few dozen.

Although my first post, was just a “Welcome To Paul’s Heart” message, and what my blog was going to be about, life as a cancer survivor and as a dad to two wonderful daughters, the first official post was called, “What Happens When You Outlive Statistics.”  That was written eight years ago.  My health had already turned from my late side effects from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma back twelve years earlier.  And now, I am a survivor of cancer of more than thirty years.

The thing that keeps me going, is I have goals.  Goals with my daughters, and things I still want to complete.  The Covid19 pandemic has given me the best start of writing my first book, written solely by me.  In fact, not even completed, I have ideas for three more after that one.

Then there are the things I have written here.  I have published 922 posts so far, and I have 254 prompts started.  So I am not running out of material any time soon.

But what has meant the most to me, are the comments that I have received over the years, either encouragement or appreciation because of knowledge gained from my experiences.  Honestly, I have a lot longer to go.

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