Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Food”

Summer Vacation – A Learning Experience


As a kid, who did not love Summer vacation?  But as an adult, I love it so much more.  I have always been the type of person who enjoys watching others’ happiness, more than my own.  And now that I get to witness things as a father, through my daughters’ eyes, yes, I love every chance I get to spend with my daughters.

My daughters love the reality television show, Big Brother.  By default, that means when they visit me during the Summer, I am stuck watching the show with them.  It is unavoidable because I live in a one-room apartment.  A similar situation if you will to the living arrangements on Big Brother, more than a dozen people, trapped in a contained studio house, for over 90 days, with someone being kicked out of the house every week.  Every move is watched.  Every word is heard.  Trapped.

Ok, so our situation is not identical per se, but, the three of us are staying in the same room, for 49 days, but no one is being evicted.  Ok, we get to leave the apartment and do things.  Ok, there is no backstabbing and lying to get favors.  But there is one thing that our situations do have in common, learning about each other.

I have spent most of my cancer survivorship, proving to everyone, that I will be fine.  At the same time, I have spent all of my time, convincing everyone that the many issues I face as a result of my treatments thirty years ago, are very real.  They are not once and done episodes, but a progression of situations, monitored, waiting to have no choice but to be dealt with some day, hopefully before it is too late (read “CABG – Not Just A Green Leafy Vegetable and you will see what I mean).

My daughters were 3 and 5 when my body let me know, that while I may have beaten cancer, it came at a price.  And there would be several more episodes in the upcoming years.  But I have always been of the mindset, to let my kids be kids, let them deal with childish things.  And as I realized how much happier off they were just to know “Daddy was okay,” I used this mentality when it came to family, friends, and co-workers.  By doing so, I did myself a disservice, as well as perhaps other cancer survivors as well.  I figured, if I could keep all the issues hidden that I have to deal with, then I would not have to worry about anyone worrying about me.  The unrealistic part of that is, anytime a crisis would come up, there would be worry.  But then that would be followed up with “get over it already, you are better”, or worse, “just faking it.”

It is ten years now since my daughters saw me hooked up to all kinds of machines, recovering from open heart surgery, and having witnessed many of the other events.  Already during this visit, questions are beginning to come up.  Because of the warmer climate here, many of my scars are exposed, and these lead to questions.  Both daughters were never there when I went through my cancer, though are very proud of me for having made it all these years.  But as they grasp that the fact that many of the things that I deal with health-wise are because of my treatments, they now understand, my body will never get better, only worse.

They know that I have good days, and they have certainly seen my bad days.  They know the issues that I deal with are very real.  But that is not what are visits are about.  Yes, they are learning about me, and I am learning about them.  And I have so much more to teach them.  I take them to visit preserves, complete computer courses that may benefit them in their future, and another first, helped my oldest apply for her first job.  And we still do workbook exercises to prepare them for the new school year, though I have now pared the work down to a specific course that either may have struggled with in school (they each had one).

But there is still so much more for us to do together.  And I cherish every moment I have with them.  And I know that they are enjoying the time with me.  I know that they care about me.  They want to do what they can to keep me around a lot longer, whether it be a better diet, or exercise (we have a nightly walk routine after just 3 days).

They know that in just a few years, our roles may change with each other as I will have to give them responsibilities, as far as things they definitely need to know, and perhaps, prepare for.  They will become my legal guardians and our roles will switch.  If I am faced with the difficult situation of being incapacitated as I have with past events, they will be the ones that will need to carry out my wishes should decisions need to be made.

In the meantime, like I said, I want to let my kids, be kids.  But at least they know, just because I do not show it, does not mean that I am not dealing with some serious health issues.

And just as my children are learning, just because you see this, but do not see something obvious with the person getting out of the vehicle, does not mean that they do not have a health issue that they are dealing with.  But if you feel that you are justified in criticizing anyone anyway?  Feel right on free to trade places with us.

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Still Miss My Dad


Today marks 4 years ago, my Dad lost his fight with lung cancer.  The loss of my father is no easier today than it was then.  I can make a lot of sense why things occurred the way that they did from a medical standpoint.  But like many others who have been or are in this situation, the struggle is with the fairness.

There are not many photos of me in my childhood with my dad.  Unlike today where everyone is obsessed with photos to post on social media, everyone wanting to share their life stories, pictures just were not that big of a deal back in the 1960’s.  And then came the divorce.

I no longer really talk about the divorce, because of how it affected the first half of my life, what it took away from me, away from us.  It was always something that he regretted.  Instead, when it comes to remembering my father, it will always be the second half of our relationship, that I would truly learn about my Dad.  I would finally have that relationship that I was prevented from having as a child, albeit in a wonderful way of my own.

My dad “grabbed the ring” for the second chance that he had been given with me, to be the grandfather of my daughters.  And they both loved my Dad.  Holidays which had always been a reminder of tragedies in years past, were once again a joyful thing to experience.  My daughters of course looked forward to the tasty treats awaiting them at “Pappy’s house.”

When my Dad would retire from his job, he had decided to drive a school bus, which at one point, I swear I would never have thought he would even think of.  But for the couple of years that he did drive, he shared so many stories of the many young children that he drove to and from school.  When we would visit with him, he seemed to have such an excitement about him that had increased since our last visit, he wanted to hear from his granddaughters the laughter and the stories from them, like the ones he had heard on the bus.

But I do still miss the friend, the talks, and the support.  I definitely appreciate everything my Dad did for me.  Most importantly, he showed me the importance when dealing with a difficult situation like divorce, and the impact it has on children.  To his last breath, we did not talk about details about the divorce.  And that was his choice, which I respected.  He made decisions when I was a child, decisions that he had to live with, whether I agreed with them back then or not.  But the decisions were what he felt was best.  He kept from talking about the divorce because he knew that a parent had no right, nor any business involving a child in the process.  And of many of the things that I look up to about my father, this is just one that is something I keep in mind every day.

By the time my father had passed, I had learned about my father, from him and from others, everything that would make him one of the people I will always admire most.  He was humble.  He was definitely stubborn.  He always believed in trying.  And he definitely loved his family.  The paternal side of my family is not known for their longevity, but in spite of everything he had gone through health-wise, he did reach his goal of the age of 70.  Still, there was so much more for my Dad and I to have done, for him to have experienced with his grandchildren.

I miss you Dad.

I always share a story that I wrote and dedicated to my father, “My Dad Was Just Like Me,” which you can find under the tab marked “Pages”.

30,000 And Counting


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I woke up to a surprise this morning.  It should not have caught me off guard as I knew it was coming.  But there is something surreal about actually having achieved this number.

Paul’s Heart hit over 30,000 views last night following the last post, “When A Door Opens…”.

I sit here humbled.

I started Paul’s Heart with the goal of trying to reach cancer survivors to supply information and advocate for care.  Eventually I included issues concerning my life as a survivor and the many issues I face including health, financial, and relationship.  I discussed the many challenges of parenthood from a survivor’s perspective.  And now, I must also include facing divorce for the second time.

But here are the numbers since I started Paul’s Heart:

5 publications in Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center annual Anthology

1 live performance from the above mentioned anthology

several newsletter articles published for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

too many cancer survivor speeches to count

565 posts on Paul’s Heart with another 300 drafts started

40 pages (most popular posts saved as a page for convenience)

2 books in the beginning stages

But perhaps the biggest and most important numbers are as follows:

26 years cancer free of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

2 beautiful adopted little girls that at one time I thought parenthood was impossible

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To all of my readers and followers, I am far from finished.  Thank you for reading.  Thank you for your encouragement.  Thank you for your support.

Paul

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