Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Inspired By…”

A True Miracle And A Happy Ending

Forget the Carpenters and the Boomtown Rats.  I am going to make your Monday with today’s post.

I did not realize when I decided to do this story, what today was on the calendar.  As it turns out, it was five years ago that I introduced Stephanie, a very young Hodgkin’s Lymphoma survivor and her incredible story, to Paul’s Heart.  I intend to keep this post the uplifting message I want it to be.  So if you want to see just where Stephanie started in her Hodgkin’s journey, click on the following link:

Stephanie’s Words (pictures included)

This is the first chapter written by and about my fellow survivor from my home state back in Pennsylvania.  I had known about Stephanie through her mother, and had asked her to put into her own words, what she went through, and share her story on “Paul’s Heart.”  That was five years ago today, that story was told.

A month later, I shared an update about Stephanie, as she had reached her 3rd year in remission.  As anyone who has faced cancer can tell you, the calendar can be cruel as we watch day after day go by, with us checking off, another day down, further away from cancer.  Hoping for the time, that our fight against cancer is no longer a thought in the front of our memories.

Stephanie’s Words – Update (pictures included)

The next chapter would was when Stephanie hit the magic mark, 5 years!  We shared the amount of family support that Stephanie had not only during her battle against Hodgkin’s, but in survivorship also.

A Celebration For Stephanie (pictures included)

As with many Hodgkin’s patients, especially the younger ones, we are dealing with or at the least in the planning stages of what was our normal progressive plan in life, one of the happiest times in our lives, while dealing with one of the darkest times.  Admittedly, getting married, as big a dream as it may be, takes second place to just wanting to get through this battle against cancer.  And a year and a half ago, Stephanie was not just well past her five year mark, but she got married.  And this was not just a wedding.  Stephanie married the same gentleman who had stayed by her side, her entire journey.

Go back and read these stories after reading this post.  Truly appreciate the miracle I am going to share with you.  And Stephanie can tell you, I have been very excited to share this news.

Probably the biggest concern for a young Hodgkin’s patient/survivor, is having a family.  And with that, I present the happy ending to Stephanie’s Words… a baby boy!!!!!

Cancer is one of the cruelest and most uncertain challenges we can face in life.  But we can never give up hope.  There are happy endings to many stories, and this is just one that I have been blessed to know about personally.  I know Stephanie’s mother and one of her sisters, and Stephanie’s son is not only a miraculous fairy tale, but will be smothered in family love from both the mother and father’s families.

And I know that there are several other “young” Hodgkin’s readers seeing this post.  Miracles can happen.  Stephanie is just one of many.  But now you can see one with your own eyes.

Congratulations to Stephanie and her family.


To Get The Shot Or Not

It is that time of year again, flu season.  And for many of us, we have a choice to make.  Do we get a shot to prevent getting the flu?  Or do we take a chance on not getting the flu or the shot?

The decision is an individual one, and for any number of reasons.  And it is not to be taken lightly.  First, I want to emphasize, I am not “anti-vax”.  I believe in getting the vaccine’s we had as children and perhaps optionally some of the vaccines considered today.  The problem for me is always going to be, have the long term side effects been studied on the vaccine?

If you follow my blog, you know this is a major issue for me.  Long term side effects.  Statistics reflect only a five year survival rate for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  Clearly, I am well beyond that mark heading toward my 30th year in remission.  Long term studies were not done on exposure to extreme levels of ionized radiation or toxicity from chemotherapy because we were not supposed to live this long.  Well guess what?  We did, and many of us developed side effects later in our survivorship, that were not expected.

You need to understand something.  Vaccines are not profitable for Big Pharm.  Unlike prescriptions that can last decades, vaccines are once and done for the most part.  The pharm company gets a one-time shot (no pun intended) to its revenue.  Vaccines can be rushed to market to meet an immediate need, and you know what that means… no long term studies.  This is one reason I am adamantly opposed to the Gardasil vaccine.  Sure, I can appreciate the fact that it may prevent one type of many types of ovarian cancer, especially since I have two daughters.  But what is known about the long term effects of having received the vaccine?  A legitimate question.  I am proof of living with the unknown, and the unstudied.

But every year, flu season comes around.  A new type of flu is the current concern, requiring a different flu shot than the previous year.  And the concerning thing, the flu vaccine of the year, does not prevent all types of flu.

Also every year, my doctors, not only my primary care, emergency care, but even the doctor I trust with handling my late effects, argue with me, to get the current flu shot.  And I understand the concern.

Like Jim Henson, and many other well known celebrities who have died from complications related to a compromised immune system, I have a compromised immune system.  Mine of course is from having had my spleen removed thirty years ago as part of my diagnostic process, and of course my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  There is a definite reason that if there is a vaccine to prevent the flu, pneumonia, menningitis, etc., and we have a compromised immune system, we should get the vaccine.

The vaccine world got even more complicated when scientists discovered using “live virus” vaccines.  The two most popular uses of “live” vaccines are the flu, and shingles.  Using “live” vaccines on someone with a compromised immune system can be fatal, at the very least, complicated even to exposure to someone who had received the vaccine.

When my spleen was removed thirty years ago, I received a flu shot, and a pneumonia shot.  Since then, and only during a two year period, I received multiple boosters of pneumococcal and menningicoccal vaccines as it was determined my body could not fight those illnesses at all.  The crazy thing is, I still got pneumonia… twice in one year.  Though to be fair, it was bacterial both times, not viral.

But I received only on flu shot since thirty years ago.  In fact, I received two.

In a one week span, I had received a pneumococcal booster, the regular current flu shot, and a swine flu shot during the year we had the huge epidemic.  And that would be the last time that I received a flu shot, ever.  I ended up with extreme side effects, which literally scared those around me.  I made the decision I would never do it again.  The arguments with me to get the shots continue.  And now, they are making it even more convenient for you to get the flu shot.

Okay, maybe I am being a bit sarcastic.  And shoot me for questioning the environment and quality control of storing and receiving a flu shot in a grocery store.  But are we that far off then from convenience stores and drive thru’s?  After all, your arm is already sticking out the window.

I know the risks that I am taking.  One of my doctors put it as bluntly to me as he could, listing the many celebrities with compromised health issues and have died.  I am a soon-to-be thirty year survivor of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, with a compromised immune system.  I have rolled sevens twenty-nine straight times.  I have had twenty-nine straight winning hands of black jack.  I have won twenty-nine straight times against the one armed bandit.  What are the odds that my luck can continue?  A compelling argument by my doctors, and combined with those that we have lost, the decision should be a no-brainer.

But at least for another year…

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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