Sunday, November 24, 2013

Remembering JFK on the 50th Anniversary of His Assassination

"When written in Chinese, the word 'crisis' is comprised two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity." - JFK

grandma on her 91st birthday reading the Jackie-O book I gave her
Friday was the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination.  

Kennedy's life of service started in the Navy, where he won a Medal of Honor for his heroic conduct as commander of a ship that was sunk by the Japanese in 1943. Although injured, Kennedy actually swam to 2 different islands while towing a badly burned crew-member by clenching the man's life jacket strap in his teeth. JFK's leadership secured the direct rescue of the surviving crew members. Kennedy was 26 yrs old at the time; he would be killed 20 short years later.

My grandfather served in the air force in WWII. My father graduated from West Point and was stationed in Berlin. I was born on a military base, and when I was 18, I secretly eloped with a US Marine (and divorced Kardashian style -16 mths later). You can say I grew up in a military trifecta. They say "alls fair in love and war" - but whomever said that, never experienced the losing side of either.

Those who sacrifice their lives to serve our country embody the best parts of humanity's capacity for courage. 

Bloody battles, however, aren't exclusively reserved for military maneuvers on foreign soil; there are plenty of personal wars that require just as much fortitude, strength and guts. Whether you're fighting an insurgent, an addiction, an illness, or an abusive relationship ... sometimes all we can do is live moment to moment - pushing through the fear. But as JFK said, "we should not pray for easier lives, we should pray to be braver men."

Nov 10th, was National NET Cancer Awareness Day. When I was first diagnosed with Carcinoid cancer, my father gave me some advice from his army commander: "don't worry about winning the war, you just have to be in a better position today than you were yesterday." 

I wasn't fazed by my right-hemicolectomy surgery until my 5th day in Sloan Kettering postoperative... Suddenly I became very, very tired... tired of throwing up, tired of pain, tired of needles, tired of the parade of nurses and doctors with encouraging words, tired of getting re-catheterized, tired of collapsed veins and failed IV ports. My mother saw my waning resolve and said, "this is where you earn the title cancer SURVIVOR... If it wasn't hard, they'd call it something else."

It hasn't been easy, but I finally started feeling well again these last 6 months.  Last week, however, my "leave" was up - and old symptoms returned: stomach aches, flushing, crushing pain, fevers. In military terms, it's called a STOP LOSS, which is when a military member is not allowed to separate or retire once their term of service is over. It's one of those "catches" they don't tell you about when you enlist. Bottom line, your life is turned over once you join the military, just like your life is no longer your own when dealing with rare illness. Who knows if these symptoms are signaling a second tour of duty in the battle against Carcinoid, or if there is a new enemy ... either way, time to cowboy-up and go back on the defensive.