Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Miracle and your rights as a cancer patient

Today is such a special day for our family. When I found out I had Burkitt's Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma at the age of 18, my world came crashing down. The doctors at the National Institutes of Health told me that normally they would have patients bank sperm before they start such an intensive chemo regimen. They indicated that Burkitt's was such a fast growing and rare cancer that I really didn't have time for it. I was 18 and clearly not looking to make babies, so I didn't think twice. I trusted my doctors and their decision.

As I got older, I always wondered if that chemo had precluded me from the ability to make a baby. It was something that was always in the back of my mind. I never really dwelled on it as it was much easier to assume I was ok. Of course when I got married it came to the forefront. We kind of agreed that if we had problems when we were trying than I would get tested. I never got tested and we honestly never "truly" tried. We were very lucky. It takes some families years to conceive and we did not try and were able to; truly amazing. Looking back at my time at NIH; I should have demanded the right to bank sperm. I mean, let's be real, how long could it have really taken? (grin)

In all seriousness though, this is a very important issue that I think is somewhat glanced over when someone is diagnosed with cancer. I hope the attitude and outlook has changed since I was diagnosed. I think every male patient should have the chance to bank sperm. I certainly didn't know it when I was a dumb 18 year old college kid, but there is truly no better feeling in the world than to experience the birth of your child. So, to all the guys out there diagnosed, please, please, please, demand to bank sperm, you will not regret it.

As I reflect on Riley's first birthday, I cannot imagine a life without her. I think every parent can relate, but I also think that cancer survivors have a heightened sense of the true beauty surrounding the birth of a child. We have knocked on death's door and can appreciate the little things in life.

For me personally, I am so drawn in to everything about Riley. From the touch of her hand, the smell of her hair as I feed her and put her down for the night to the way she holds on to me when I pick her up and hold her in my arms. I appreciate everything that she represents and have never felt a love this strong. Of course I love my wife and family, but this is totally different. I know that we are responsible for bringing her into this world and I truly cherish every moment that I have with her. I leave work giddy just to rush home and see that pretty smile and hear her laugh or say hello...or her new favorite word, dog. I find it hard to truly articulate the feelings that I have in my heart when I see her. I just want to pick her up and give her a big hug.

Cancer is the worst thing that ever happened to me, but cancer is also the best thing that ever happened to me. I have been so lucky to experience so many things in life that I truly take nothing for granted. Riley can make the worst day in the world turn into the best day with her million watt smile. Meg has said that she is Daddy's little girl, maybe she is, but she is definitely her mother's daughter as well. It is so amazing the way she loves us. I have always said this and I know it sounds cliched, but I truly believe it...we have to live in the moment. Enjoy the crying baby, the rain falling outside, the neighbor's music too loud, the traffic jams, and the late bus or train. Life is really too short to not enjoy every moment, good and bad. Is it easy? Hell no, we all get caught up in every day life, but it is moments like these that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I am lucky to have amazing friends, a loving family and of course Riley, our little miracle baby. Happy Birthday Riley, I love you with all my heart and soul.

Livestrong, Be Well, and Keep Climbing!

Joe Schneider

Regardless of your taste in music, I am sure the fathers will agree this is an amazing song. I have sung this to Riley multiple times and teared up.

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  1. Joe--

    When I sent Ashley off to school today I felt so blessed and ALIVE because I am HERE to actually see her start the 4th grade! I feel so fortunate to have her and it's just a blessing I was able to conceive before I found out I had cancer! I completely understand your viewpoint as a parent with Riley!

    I love the power and the meaning behind this blog! I do HOPE that people are given their options more often now! Our rights are overlooked so often and we are so stunned when we are diagnosed that there is a lot we just flat out miss. I believe we are getting to where we should be because of the many people like YOU that step up and voice your story!

    Thank you for being an inspiration buddy! You are good friend, good husband and more importantly you are a GREAT DADDY!

    Keep Climbing & LIVESTRONG back at YOU.

  2. Hi [NAME]

    I really enjoyed reading your post. I am so happy that you and your wife were able to have children without really "trying". Congratulations, your daughter is beautiful.

    Thank you for being an active voice in the cancer community. I am the Director of Blogger Relations at Wellsphere and I believe that you would be a valued resource in our HealthBlogger Network, which currently has over 2,600 of the best health writers on the web.

    After reviewing your blog, I see that you meet our standards joining, so I'd like to invite you to participate as a Top Health Blogger. As a Top Health Blogger, you would republish your writing on the Wellsphere platform (now with over 6 million visits a month), and yet you retain ownership and all rights to the control of your content.

    If this opportunity interests you, please visit or email me at hua [at] wellsphere [dot] com.

    Have a wonderful day,

    Director of Blogger Networks