Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

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An Uncomfortable Lesson To Teach/Learn

This Summer, I made a decision to let my daughters see the movie “8th Grade”.  While some expressed concern about the film’s R rating, others stated that the film was too important not to let kids, especially in 8th grade, see the film.  The filmmakers also expressed the importance of the parents seeing the film.  Once we had seen the film, we all had questions for each other.  And in today’s current environment, this conversation needed to be held, and the sooner the better.

The film basically deals with an 8th grade teenager who is social media smart, but socially present awkward.  She clearly struggles between being wanting to be cool and accepted, and just confused.

If you Google “uncomfortable car scene 8th grade,” the clip I am going to describe will come up and you can see for yourself.  But the clip does not show what kids need to see, just how innocent something can seem, and turn into a worst nightmare.

As I said, the girl is in 8th grade.  And one of the things that occurs during the school year, as the 8th graders get ready to enter High School, a program involving seniors, has the 12th graders have the 8th graders shadow them around school for the day to show a typical day and what it is like.  The 8th grade girl is matched up with a female senior, follows her around the school all day, including lunch.  After school, the younger girl clearly was excited about the day and called the older girl to say thank you for being so nice, for being so cool.

The senior responded, saying that she was going to be hanging out at the mall with friends later that evening, and invited the 8th grade girl to come along.  She was more than happy to accept the invitation.  And so her dad drove her to the mall.

Once inside the mall, she located her 12th grade friend, along with other teens at the food court, and joined in on their gathering.

Unfortunately, the other friends spot someone “staring,” and it ends up being the younger girl’s father.  Totally unaware her father was following her, she races up to him, chews him out for embarrassing her, and then informs her father that he needs to leave, and she will get a ride home with one of the kids she is hanging out with.

The driver, one of the boys, is dropping every one off at their houses until only he, the 8th grade girl, and the 12th grade girl friend are left.  They are near the older girl’s home, and the older girl replies, that they should take the younger girl home first.  The boy objects saying it was stupid for him to drive the other girl all that way, and double back just to drop off the older girl since they were right there.

At that point, out of the corner of my eye, I could see my younger daughter, also an 8th grader, begin to squirm as if she sensed something was going to happen.

The boy drops the older girl off, and then proceeds to take the 8th grade girl home.  He is in the driver seat obviously, but she remained in the back seat.  After a few words, he says, “you know?  This is really hard talking with you back there.”  Admittedly, I was clueless, as he pulled the car to the side of the road, thinking he was just going to allow the girl to get into the front seat.  Instead, he turned the car off, and walked around to the other side of the car and got into the back seat with the girl.  Now I may be forty years from being a teenager, but I know what this dirt bag was up to.

After a minute of small talk, he asks her if she wants to play “Truth Or Dare.”  This game has not changed over the years, and as an adult, I am not naive to think my kids have not dabbled in the game already.  The girl says okay.  The first round is a “truth” for both and while she asks an innocent “truth,” he puts her on the spot with something inappropriate.  But as round two begins, and she asks him, he responds that he wants a “dare.”  At this point, my blood is boiling because I know where this is going, and as I looked at both my daughters, I could see the concern on both of their faces.

And she dares the jerk to take off his shirt.  He knows that she is playing along now.  And when he asks her, “truth of dare?”, she responds with “truth,” to which he immediately calls her out because he did the dare.  She changes her mind and replies “dare.”  And of course he dares her to take off her shirt.  At this point, Iknow how this scene is going to play out, and clearly after the movie, there will be a conversation with my daughters.

She replies that she is not comfortable with taking off her shirt.  His response, “you think I’m comfortable sitting her with my shirt off?”  And when she does not respond right away, he approaches her again about removing her shirt, and she snaps back, “I SAID NO!!”

Rejected, the dickhead puts his shirt back on, and gets back in the driver seat, and drives her home.  During the ride, she actually apologizes to him.  WHAT THE HELL!!!  Apologize for what?!?  There were a couple of scenes in the movie that would be talking points, but with both of my daughters approaching dating age, this scene would be the one we needed to discuss as a priority.

There were all kind of factors that should not have taken place, but I want to stress, there is no blaming the girl.  She had innocent intentions and even explained to her father who she would be hanging out with.  Now honestly, I would not let my kids hang out with high school kids, mainly because they have enough friends their age.  But we all agreed, that the mall was a public place, and seemed safe.  And really, up until there were only 3 left in the vehicle, the ride home seemed uneventful.  But when the slimeball argued with the 12th grade girl about being dropped off before the younger, everyone knew he had a plan.  And now my daughters could see, for themselves, how something so simple and innocent, could turn into something so wrong.

I am glad that we saw the movie and could discuss it for several reasons, first, just as an icebreaker for a dad to have with his daughters.

But the other main reason, given today’s environment, which I have also discussed with them, the recent Supreme Court Nomination process, how a decision they make now, could impact them later in their lives.  And they both agreed that the boy was a jerk, and very wrong.

So with us so divided today, concerned with believing the victim, versus not letting boys be “victimized” by false allegations, I did my part.  I have had the conversation on being aware of situations to avoid, and how to respond if circumstances change and how to deal with something they are not comfortable with.  But make no mistake, there is only one warning, and then they are told to defend themselves any way possible.  And then talk to their mother and I.  All the boys have to do, is be a gentleman and be respectful with my daughters, and there will be no issue… now… or later.


Ian Large, Not Just His Name

I met Ian a long time ago.  So long ago, way before Facebook.  So we were not picture crazy back then, so I have to use one of his current pictures.  We met on an older communication system, a listserve, arranged for patients dealing with or in remission of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  He lived across the pond in England, but that was how great the internet was, allowing those of us, struggling with our cancer, to find support and encouragement, no matter where we lived.

Early in the 2000’s, I decided to hold a gathering, a reunion of people who had battled Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  I would hold it at my home, though everyone would stay nearby in a hotel.  We had about a dozen or so guests who brought their loved ones and had a great time.  I arranged for some guest speakers to talk about post care and such.  And then we had some fun, food, and more fun.

Ian’s last name suited him, “Large”, because that is how he lived his life.  He was the hit of the gathering.  His humor and enjoyment were infectious.  Everybody seemed to enjoy their time so much more.  Even my dog go into the act.

Ian was also physically bigger than me, standing only at 5’7″.  The joke that stayed literally forever, even up to this day, having too much fun, using the ladder to climb out of the pool, Ian had stepped on one of the rungs, and it broke in half.  Though I would never see Ian again in person, we kept in touch, and almost symbolically, the ladder never got repaired even to this day as if to have repaired it would have been like a closure of some sort.

Besides the fact that I no longer live in the house now, the ladder will be repaired.  The ladder is producing a closure.  At the same time, Ian passed away in the last couple of days.  Out of respect for his wife and family, I will not discuss the circumstances, but, like me, Ian had his own long term issues from treatments for his Hodgkin’s.  When we knew each other back then, neither of us were affected yet.

Over the years, we kept in touch, and through Facebook, we were able stay in touch.  Affected by my late effects more than 10 years ago, the way I lived my life had to change.  I was no longer able to do certain activities.  The hard part was balancing what I could do.  The hard part was getting everyone around me to understand, my life was never going to be the same.

I admired Ian, because like I said, he loved to do things “large”.  I envied all the things that he was still able to do, before he had to deal with his issues, and perhaps even after learning of them.  He is not the only long term survivor able to overcome the limitations we have.  But sometimes our decisions to ignore, or “move on” and pretend they never exist, can also lead to our downfalls.  Again, Ian was known to do what he wanted, and he had a great time doing it.

Ian was married to a wonderful woman.  And if anyone knows how large fun was with Ian, it is her.

My deepest sympathies to all of his friends and family.

28 Years… Approaching A Milestone In Survival

I woke up this morning, logged on to my computer, and the “counter” on “Paul’s Heart” was the first thing that I saw.  And as my counter is programmed, counting down days and months, it does not get any simpler than on this date, years to go.  I am just two years away from the milestone of 30 years, cancer free.  The math, 30 – 2 = 28.  Today, I received my final chemotherapy for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, 28 years ago.

Early on in my survival, I often looked at my survival very casually, like no big deal.  It was just something I knew would happen.  But as I got in to the second decade of my survival, things became difficult.  And during my third decade, well, just go through my archives, and you can see the many struggles I have faced over the years.

And I do appreciate the positive thoughts and congratulations, I really do.  However, it is the same for me every year.  As I realized I made it another year, I know so many who are struggling right now with their Hodgkin’s or the late side effects from their treatments.  Worse, I remember all of those who have passed away, their bodies no longer able to tolerate the accumulative issues.

I am quickly becoming one of the “old timers” in  the circle of survivors, those who have been out of treatment for decades.  I am also becoming one of the longer survivors as sadly, many have passed away.  Last year was an especially tough year for me emotionally.

There have been many changes in my life over the decades.  My doctors had begged me for years, to finally give my body a chance.  While they said they could not cure me of the developing health issues from radiation and chemotherapies, they did assure me they could slow the process down.  The goal was put into its most meaningful to me, “to see my daughters graduate, get married, and to be a grandfather.”

From the years 2008 through 2012, I did the exact opposite of slowing down.  With my personality, I wanted to prove following my open heart surgery (from radiation damage), I was going to be the exception.  Instead, I tried pushing myself harder and harder and all that resulted was multiple trips to the emergency room.  I was going in the opposite direction of what my doctors wanted.

I made the changes I needed to finally.  And now I believe I have the chance to see all those things in my life happen.  My youngest daughter is at the age now, where she realizes just what I have gone through in my life, even though my experience was decades before she was born.  Both of my daughters understand the many health issues that I deal with, and lay ahead.  As my youngest puts it, “Daddy, you are one of the strongest people I know.”

One thing that has not changed, I remain the advocate I swore myself to be 28 years ago.  I remain active in the cancer community via group and individual support.  I continue to meet patients and other survivors, offering encouragement and support.  While treatments and survival have improved, it is still no easy task to deal with, and we all have our own unique ways of dealing with them.

So, as I usually do today, I recognize 28 years of survival.  I do not celebrate it.  I have met hundreds of other patients ad survivors in person, and have “met” thousands over various internet support groups.  I remember those who have passed away.  I think about all of those who are either going through treatment or dealing with late developing side effects.  But this year, also in the front of my mind, are two friends in particular, one just newly diagnosed, and another having recently dealt with a major side effect less than two months before she gets married.  The following is just a small collage of all the people who came into my life (with the exception of my dad) who have faced their own battle with cancer, since March 3, 1990, and knew or know, that I will always be there for them.

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