Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Animals”

A Dad’s Thoughts

Ask anyone who knows me personally, and they will tell you that I think of my daughters all of the time.  Whether they were at daycare, in school, at a friend’s house, or in between visits, my mind is always going.

There are things that they have witnessed as children, they still have not taken the time to grasp, if they even will at all.  I have been completely open with my daughters that their questions should be answered.  And likely, there will be doozies that they were involved with, from issues related to the divorce, to their adoptions.

In the meantime, their lives have been spent with me making sure that they grew up with basic values, respect, trust, love.  It was important that they not only learned right from wrong, but why it was so.  I taught them that nothing that they succeed in, can come at anyone else’s expense.

The last several years, have been spent learning about prioritizing, time and money management, thinking about… THE FUTURE!!!!  Not to make the mistakes I made growing up.

The one thing that has been consistent?  I have let my daughters know, every chance that I get, that I am proud of who they are, and the things that they have done.  Of course, now older teenagers, when I do this, there is a response of an eye roll so bad into the backs of their heads, it produces a crashing sound of thunder.  Have I done it so much, that it has lost meaning over time?

This weekend is the first opportunity for the SATs in 2021.  As a rule, I loathe standardized tests as too much time in schools is spent teaching to take those tests.  But the SATs are different.

I do not remember that much about my first, and only SAT.  That was almost forty years ago, YIKES!  I had no prep.  I had no PSAT for practice.  I knew of no other opportunities to take the SAT again.  I had no guidance.  I was on my own.  This is referred to as “the school of hard knocks.”

My Dad was not there for me, most of my childhood and that was the way most of my life went, without all of these influences and needs being met.  There were no examples laying before me or any kind of playbook on decisions that had to be made with my daughters.  I raised my daughters the way that I wish I had been.

I cannot imagine the kind of student, or teenager I would have been, had my Father been as much of an influence as me with my daughters.  I was not an “eyeroller” because I just did whatever the Hell I wanted.  I was unsupervised.

All I knew was, my daughters were going to know that I love them and care about them, unconditionally.

Learning from my past, my older daughter heads into her first opportunity with the SAT, understanding that she is going to take the SAT at the minimum a second time.  She has had tutoring to help her along the way, with a huge study guide, and an on-line study program.  She has taken the PSAT (practice SAT) twice.  In other words, unlike I did forty years ago, just showing up on a Saturday morning to take the SAT, my daughter is as prepared for the SAT as she can be.  My younger daughter is just behind her at the PSAT level.

And yes, cue the sound of the “eyeroll thunder.”  I am proud of them.  And I will let them know it.  I am pretty sure that my older daughter would make a great poker player, as she never shows her hand when it comes to nerves.  If she is nervous about this weekend, she is not showing it.  She never has.  It is that one final thing that both have been taught, in the end, she did her best.  And whatever score she gets, that was her best.  If it needs to be better, she will work on it.  But for now, she gives her best, does her best.  It is her best.

Good luck to my older daughter this weekend.  I know you will do well.

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.

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