Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

The 30 Year Itch


I am coming up on a day that I never thought I would see.  In fact, many who have been in a similar situation would never think of seeing this day.

As my counter shows on the lead page, I am approaching my 30th year, in remission of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  But in order to get to that wonderful milestone, that means that there is another milestone that I get to first.

Over the course of the next sixteen months, as I often do, I will be remembering all too vividly, and not by choice, every day that I went through, because it still haunts me.  This milestone journey will be different than in the past.

My daughters were not around during my battle against Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  They will proudly state that I am a long term cancer survivor, though they have no idea what I went through.  As they are older now, I have decided that it is this milestone path, they will now be told how I, and how they came to be my daughters.

For some of you reading future posts, it may be a sad reminder for you, and I apologize.  For some of you, too new to understand the progress made in diagnosis and treatment in thirty years, it may help you to keep things in perspective if you find yourself struggling emotionally.

But it started thirty years ago with an itch.  You cannot see it in this photo, taken just now, but there was a huge lymph node just under my chain.  An unbearable and instant itch drew my attention to a large lump in my neck.  At a young age of twenty-two, I was not thinking anything more than, I need to contact my family doctor.

I am a virtual stranger to my doctor as I really on had visits once a year for a seasonal allergy shot.  But this lump was something that was clearly not normal.  So I made a call to my doctor, who happened to only be the second primary care doctor in my life (my first practiced well into his 80’s).

My doctor felt it was some sort of infection, perhaps just a little more than a cold.  He gave me some anti-inflammatory medicine and told me to just take it easy for a couple of weeks.  A simple enough order from the doctor.

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If You Would Have Known


If there is one thing that my daughters know about me, they can always count on me.  My daughters know that I will always encourage them.  Both of my daughters know that I believe in them.  They also know that they can come to me when they need help or advice.

I want to be careful here so that I do not upset other parents.  It is a parent’s choice the decisions that they make with their child as far as extracurricular activities and how many they participate in.  My approach was two-pronged.  First, I wanted them to find something that they liked to do.  Second, they commit to it.

If there is one lesson in life that I remember growing up, it was learning the importance of an education, and not just relying on the dreams of being a pro-football player or movie star, or someone else earning popularity or riches.  The odds would be against me, nothing would just fall into my lap.  And if I worked and studied hard, I would find out that my life would be pretty good even if I did not make that superstardom.

My oldest daughter had an interesting, yet I am sure not a unique approach, not wanting to practice, just do it.  From the first dance class, she showed quite a bit of talent.  And when it came to singing in the church choir, she shined.  But as I said, when it came to practice, it is not that she did not feel that she want to practice, she was bored with the level of performance that was expected, as when the participation actually meant something.  It was not unheard of during karate classes, for the instructor to ask me, “where did she learn to do that?”  To which I replied, “I thought you taught her to do that,” referring to a higher level of move than what she should have been able to do.

My younger daughter took practicing differently.  She is a bit of a social butterfly, so she enjoyed the extra time around all of the other children.  And like her older sister, she did well.  She would learn many techniques, and be promoted in belt rankings several times.  But for whatever reason, she had just one issue.  Competition.

The odd thing was, during practices and even belt promotions, all of the same participants were there.  The same parents attended each event and practice, and my daughter knew them all.  But for whatever reason, she would totally break down, when it would come to a competition, where she needed to perform individually.  I never expected to see that from someone who had only shown confidence, and fun.  But it was something that I learned about my daughter.  And it would be a lesson that would make a difference to her later on in life.

Neither of my children are attention hounds, but during school, there will be times that you are called upon in class.  Whether it will be to reach a page from a book, or answer a math problem, a student will have to speak up in front of others.  And on a minor level of participation like this, is one thing.  I would find out during her foreign language course that she takes, that her experiences in karate helped her to overcome.

In order to be graded in a foreign language, you not only have to be able to read it and write it, but you must also speak it.  And unlike reading and writing, speaking must be done individually.  And that would mean that my daughter would be in a similar “arena” as she was during competitions in karate.  Only now, able to overcome the pressure that would torment her.

I am proud of all of the efforts that my daughters put in to what they do.  And now that they are older, they now talk of their future, and their course selections will mirror their needs to achieve those goals.  Neither back down from any challenge, and if they feel they are not challenged enough, the challenge themselves.  And at the end of the day, they know that I am proud of them, believe in them, and love them.

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.

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