Veterans Day Heartbreak and Plea to Younger Veterans

(Author’s note:  It is likely that there will be some or many who will disagree.  I ask only for us all to respect one another as we get into discussions.)

For anyone who has read my posts for the last several years, or who have known me for a few years or a lifetime, you know what I stand for, especially when it comes to service to others, patriotism, and my reasons for why I joined the military.  But today, I feel an overwhelming sense of sadness because of what has transpired in these last few days since the Presidential election this year.

I know that half of you who voted are happy about the outcome.  The other half are not. It was certainly a shock to everyone that Donald Trump–never a politician–would win over Hillary Clinton, whose life-long dream was to take the political path to the White House.

In all elections, there is a winner and loser, where the candidates are concerned.  There are always going to be those who are happy about the outcome and those who are unhappy or, better said perhaps,  ecstatic and devastated.

I, too, am disheartened by what I’ve seen in these last few days. But, before you start making assumptions about how I cast my ballot, I suggest you continue reading.

First of all, I will start by saying that I voted my conscience, which is what I have always done, and encourage others to do. I, in good conscience, could not vote for either of the two major party candidates. (The reasons behind my decisions are not important to share in this post. If you would like to get into a respectful discussion about them, I would be glad to do it over a cup of coffee.)

So, the reason that I am so disheartened is not so much about the outcome of the election itself, but how people are responding and reacting.

What I am observing in many situations is this:  People who are very vocal about wanting the freedom to say what they want and do what they want and be who they want to be seem to be some of the major offenders of doing it at the expense of the freedoms of others.  They are rioting, burning, smashing, assaulting, and killing others just because they are angry, enraged, and (perhaps a bit) spoiled, with no regard for the sanctity of the process. Instead, they opt for the hateful destruction of anything or anyone who is in the path of the rage. Sometimes, this is effecting some of the very people who agree with them.

One of the most difficult things I have seen is: Known  veterans are out there in the streets protesting, and allowing the extreme ugliness.

They are not the remaining World War II veterans or the Korean War vets. I am not seeing too many Vietnam veterans.  Of these groups, we are certainly raising our voices in  disagreement with what has gone on in politics these last couple of years. We are not the ones seeking out media cameras to get our 15-minutes of fame by smashing storefronts or setting fire to monuments or destroying cars because they (the cars) are there to be destroyed.

I am saddened that some people, who have no understanding of the price of freedom, are doing, some of them who have been in uniform.

Several years ago, I started to see a major change in this country, as it related to service to others.  When I would thank a young veteran for serving, there were some people who would answer, “I didn’t do anything for you. The last thing in the world I joined for was for this country or the people in it.  I just did it for free college.”

I try to impress on many of these young veterans that, even though they do not  think they have served  or maybe that was not their intent, what they actually did was serve this country and its people. It may have “fallen on a lot of deaf ears,” but I believe there are some who realized it. There are even some who always knew it, even though it is not popular to admit it.

There are many of those who are in our younger age groups with the same attitudes of doing solely for self, without regard to the common good for others.  Some are a bit less of more ill-mannered. This is not to say that all Millennials fit into this profile, any more than all we Baby Boomers are  alike either.  I know many  good and rotten folks in both age groups, and many in-between.

I just can’t seem to get over this overwhelming black cloud that is not coming from one party or another, but is coming from people who are now becoming the largest in numbers.

And I cry for this country.  I cry for those who are hurting and fearful. And I cry for myself, as a veteran, who would be willing to lay down my life to protect their freedoms, yet most would not do the same for one another and, least of all, me.

We do not have a perfect country or system. There are many things that I wish that I could change over the last few days, weeks, years, and my lifetime.

But I also know that I live in a country where we are still free to vote, disagree, protest, and share so much more that others can not do, by the nature of their birth.  All that is asked of us is that we respect order and, if we are to dissent, we do it peaceably.

It is my hope that those young people who have served, and understand what it takes to work together with people who think differently than they do, step up as leaders to help heal this nation and its people.  It starts with each of of us, as we seek to understand one another by getting into dialogue, rather than breaking laws of order.

To all my fellow veterans–the younger ones–step up.  Take the lead. Do what is right.  Not just what is for right now. You will make the difference.  And I thank you for your continue service to this country by doing so.

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Living with Intention or Wandering?

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There seems to have been a grand movement toward the “living with intention” ideology. Of course, every generation believes that they are the first ones to think of it. Some use traditional philosophies or religious teachings to take the step toward living intentionally. Others reject the traditional, as it feels stifling and rigid with “should” or “don’t” around ever corner, guilt and shame being the motivator.

Some struggle for a lifetime, unable to see the joys of life through the challenges faced, often going to their graves feeling that their lives had no meaning or purpose, as defined by others’ definitions. Others accept their plights, taking on martyrdom as their sole purpose so others will not have to suffer the same unpleasantness and can live happily.

Then there seems to be those who have it all, exempt from the tragedies that have befallen others. They are born with societal standards of beauty, health, and success. If (when) they do find themselves in tough times, it is often hidden and rarely shared for fear of judgement by others or tarnishing the image they have worked so hard to maintain in their attempts to protect the status that they enjoy.

Each and everyone of us struggles. We humans are the ones who decide (and define) who are more deserving of those struggles.

Because we are bombarded by the definitions that others have piled upon us, it is often difficult to know what living intentionally means to us, as individuals. We are too busy trying to follow others’ acceptable versions of those intentions.

Some will choose a different path altogether, one that is seen as a wanderer or “dancing to the beat of a different drummer.” They are often rejected by family, friends, and society for being an  embarrassment. Years or decades later, they are still talked about behind their backs, and discussed as pitiful creatures who have not found their way.

The trouble with this is that the basis of these discussions is on very old perception, based on limited knowledge. It is often accompanied by an active refusal to seek new knowledge and understanding.

For the person who finds him- or herself as the wanderer, living without the intention that others think is acceptable, it is rather easy to fall into a habit of feeling unworthy or lost. It can be a challenge to find the meaning and purpose.  Perhaps, it is not in finding it; rather, in recognizing it when it shows up.

In the last few days, I have experienced some of those recognizable moments, which are evidence that I am, indeed, living with intention.  I will share more of this in my next post.

Until then, please remember J.R.R. Tolkein’s words describing Aragon…

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
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Reference:

 Tolkien, J. R. R. (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), “Strider”, ISBN 0-395-08254-4

Photo credits:  Public domain photos via Pixabay

Copyright:  Author, Coral Levang, 2016. All rights reserved. May be used with permission and proper citation.

 

 

 

A Sunday morning in Hawaii

HI SunriseIt was a Sunday morning, December 7th, 1941, much like today, and around 8 a.m. when Japanese planes attacked the American Naval Base at Pearl Harbor in the Hawaii Territory. President Franklin Roosevelt went on to say that it was “a date which will live in infamy.”

That surprise attack killed more than 2,300 Americans, and it destroyed the battleship, U.S.S. Arizona, and capsized the U.S.S. Oklahoma. Other ships were sunk or damaged, and more than 300 U.S. aircraft were destroyed or damaged. The property and personal loss was immeasurable. And no one was prepared for it.

The following day Congress declared war on Japan and its allies, and in a few short days, war was declared on Germany and Italy. America entered into four years of what would become the “deadliest military conflict in history,” claiming more than 60 million lives around the world, including 420 thousand Americans, according to Wikipedia.com.

I have often thought about that day, which was 14 years before I was born. I heard the stories of war from my uncle who had served. I knew of the heartache of the battle-worn civilians who worried, and waited, and worked to support the war efforts. These stories and people are the reasons I chose to serve by joining the military at a time during the Vietnam conflict when it was no longer popular to do so.

HI Arizona MemorialI lived in the Pearl Harbor area for two years, 38 years after the air attack. I havestood on the Arizona Memorial, remembering those who gave their lives on that day in history, as 1,102 of them continue to “lie in state” in their sunken battleship coffin, the ocean floor their grave.

As a military musician, I have played many times on military bases for the Colors ceremony at 8:00 a.m. I can only imagine what the day would have been like for all, including those military musicians who also felt the fear and terror, as they played the National Anthem on their military station in the Hawaiian Islands before running for cover for their lives.

I think about those we send off to war, even today. Some might say that they serve (or have served), because we were attacked. Knowing what is right or wrong for us to do as a nation or as an individual is something that cannot predict until we are placed in a situation that requires us to make that decision.

We must always remember that there is a price to pay for war, just as there a price to walk away from those who attack us.

Today, on the eve of the 74th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, let us never forget those men and women, military and civilian, who lost their lives that day and in the years to follow. They are the ones who paid the ultimate price.

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Veterans are a rare breed

As of 2014, 7.3 percent of all living Americans have served in the military at some point in their lives.The overall percentage varies by gender — 1.4 percent of all living female Americans have ever served in the armed services, compared to 13.4 percent of all male Americans. (Source: Veterans Administration)

Veterans are a rare breed. Each joins for a different reason. Many today do not fully understand just what it means to many of the old-timers like myself.

I joined the military because of the influence the World War II and Korean War veterans had on me. Many of the men did not agree with me, as they felt that I, as a woman, did not belong in the service.

I grew up hearing stories from people who remembered when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Others told their stories of escaping Nazi Germany. Many of them did not serve in the military, but felt indebted to those who did.

Coral USAFI joined the service at a time when things were changing. We were still in Vietnam. It was not sexy for anyone to join any longer. The romanticism of the “good guys going after the bad” was quickly losing its  appeal.

Yet, it was ingrained in me to be of service to others, especially “owing service to my country.”

Today, I still believe in service to my country, fellow man, and others who are in need. I am not quite the idealist as I was at 18-years-old. I also see things differently than those who are coming in to the military today.

Playing the cello pans with the Navy Steel Band in Summer 1983. (Photo taken by Navy journalist, name unknown)Yet, I am grateful to each and everyone who has made the commitment to join andbe ready to go into battle, if need be.  And I wish to honor all veterans today on this Veterans Day–those who have served before me, with me, and also after me.

Thank you for being willing to be one of the very few who has taken the oath of service.

It matters. You matter. At least to one old vet who remembers why we serve.

Memorial Day Significance Has Been Forgotten

The National D-Day Memorial, Bedford, VA
The National D-Day Memorial, Bedford, VA

“Happy Memorial Day!”  

I cringe when I hear people gleefully share these three words as they wave their goodbyes and begin their long weekend.

To tell the truth, I find it offensive. It annoys me that that the American people have little clue what Memorial Day commemorates.

We have developed an overindulgent need in our society to display niceties. Then, there are many who are simply, by nature, complaisant.

There also seems to be an ever-increasing trend toward shaming or “guilting” others into bending-over-backward to ensure political correctness toward those who have served in the military. Perhaps, this is the reason most have confused Memorial Day with Veterans’ Day of November 11th.

Arlington National Cemetery Gravestones
Arlington National Cemetery Gravestones

The importance and significance of Memorial Day is to remember the men and women who died while serving–killed in war. Veterans’ Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans.

I did not serve in a war. Yet, this much I do know…

Memorial Day is a sacred day

Anyone who has served in a war zone does not need this reminder, for every day is a memorial day for them.

As a veteran, it is my duty to remind you that the sacrifice others have made is meaningless if you do not take the time to remember them.

We must, as a nation, recall and be keenly aware of those who have died to protect our freedoms of citizenship.

This day seems to have morphed over the years to become, to most Americans, another day off—a three- or four-day weekend to over-indulge, over-extend, and pull the covers over their eyes rather than soberly look at the sacrifices that have made for them so they have the freedom to do all of these things.  It has been turned it into a party that has absolutely nothing to do with honoring our country’s fallen men and women in uniform.

For the most part, this nation (and its people) have forgotten what patriotism truly means. We now take the freedoms we all enjoy and have forgotten that there were others who agreed to walk through death’s door to pay for that freedom.

Widow at the grave of her hero.
Widow at the grave of her hero.

Yet, when we honor our war dead, it is a way to preserve their service, sacrifice and memory. We have a moral obligation to continue to remember them all, so that this nation continues to do so for the generations that will follow when we are long gone.

Those who have lain down their lives came from all parts of this country—big cities, rural areas, coastal towns, Midwest, deep south, etc.—and they came from all backgrounds—blue collar, white collar, educated, uneducated, men, women, all races, and all creeds.

The bond that tied them all together was the loyalty to this country.  They loved their country and its citizens enough to serve, even when not always in agreement with the whys, and wherefores.  They became a band of brothers and sisters–a mish-mash of diversity in culture, education, experience, and gender—to show the world that they were united in their loyalty to the values for which this country was built.

We must remember those we have lost…those we have loved…those who have sacrificed their lives for those who would live long after they were gone.

Let them be gone, but not forgotten. 

Please teach others the importance of remembering these fallen heroes. Take the time with your family and friends to honor and pay a special tribute to these military members who cared enough about your freedom to lay down their lives for you.

flowers-14207_640It may be as simple as taking that minute of silence at 3:00 p.m. on Monday, wherever you are, to think about your freedom.  Or you could place small flags at the gravesites of fallen soldiers.   Attend a parade.  Support those organizations that put together programs to honor our veterans.  There are so many ways you can do this individually or as a group.

It is not an old-fashioned tradition that we can forget.

This is as pertinent today as ever, because we have Americans who have served in wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  We have lost more than 5300 men and women in combat alone since 2001, and we owe as much to them today as we did in wars past.

Memorial Day was not designed as a commemoration to mark the beginning of summer and our parties and barbecues.  It was designed to become a tradition to allow for the memories of heroic men and women to not be forgotten.

Not only do we owe this to our war dead, we owe this to our children and grandchildren.  It is up to us to continue to pass on the legacy of patriotism in our young people.

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More from Coral:  Memorial Day and Why I am Annoyed

(Author’s note:  Originally written and submitted on 5/31/2010 at Associated Content/Yahoo Contributors Network. All rights retained by author when site closed. Revised for today’s submission.  All photos courtesy of Pixabay.com License: CC0 Public Domain / FAQ and free for use.)

Ten Days without Facebook

Yes, it has been 10 days.  Some might say that is a big challenge.

Quite honestly, though I have missed some of the people I enjoy on a regular basis, I do not miss much of being on Facebook.

What is also quite “funny” is that I have talked to a few people, and I mentioned to them that I was no longer on the site.

The response: “Oh, I hadn’t noticed.”

There were two people who emailed me within a day of leaving who asked me if I was okay. They noticed.

And I have two other people who have called and have gotten together for a bite to eat.  They had not noticed, but we are in regular contact.

What will be the future for me and Facebook?   I am not quite sure just yet.

But for now, let me just say that the break has been great.  And to be honest…

I haven’t really noticed.

 

Intuitive Painting Is Much More than Art

Getting through the pain and ugliness that comes with life so that we can get to a point where we might come to understand and feel peace is not an easy journey.  Far too often, we stay stuck in old patterns of behavior or struggle with new ways of thinking.

If we continue to challenge ourselves, we can find moments of peacefulness, but only if we allow ourselves an opportunity to trust. Simply trust.

Trust others. Trust ourselves.

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It requires such vulnerability and we often do not know how we can ever open ourselves up to others.  Sometimes, we do not see it coming and we are in the throws of it, before we know it.

We allow someone to see the crack in our armor.  Before we know it, they ask a question that touches the open wound and it begins to seep.

And then we bleed.

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Oh, so carefully, that someone begins to dress our wounds, offers us a tissue or a shoulder as we cry, and allows us to be human in a space where we are safe to do so.  Where we feel safe to be ourselves.

It is in these moments that we begin to experience love, connection, and peace. But we must be willing to let go of part of the pain and anguish that life has not just offered us, but dumped on us.

And  we start anew.

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We focus on something different.  Something that might bring us some joy. We see the possibilities of what can be by letting go, even for just a moment.

Then we share our laughter, the gifts of new-found friendship and a bit more peace that when we begin.  And we begin to realize what it is

…to have some fun.

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If you would like to “awaken your creativity, empower your life, (and) come play,” read below!

Credits:  All photographs and artwork shared above are owned by the author, created on 11/15/2014 at an Intuitive Painting workshop at Artful Dreamers Studio in Tacoma, Washington offered by Creative Coach Nadine Hamil.

To learn more about Nadine, Artful Dreamers Studio and the Intuitive Painting workshops and other creative classes offered,  or to signup for a workshop, check out the following links:

My Artistic Journey Continues

In Why I Have Hated Creating Art and What I am Doing About It, I shared about my trepidation toward things creative, especially as it is associated with painting and drawing.

FinalTransformational Painting: I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar showed the process for the first painting I have ever painted that I can remember.

I have also dabbled in other art and creative forms–glass, jewelry, crochet, and more. Each time I try something new, I walk in with such fear.  But it is a way for me to explore and learn what I find to be most enjoyable for me.

A week and a half ago, I took a workshop in Mixed Media with Nadine Hamil of Artful Dreamers Studio.  I have not yet finished the project.  The fact is that I barely started, but my goal is to work with Nadine and finish the piece before the end of the year month.

I have signed up to take an all-day retreat this Sunday, called “Intuitive Painting” with Nadine, who claims:

There is not a right or wrong way, no judgment and no criticism. When you let your intuition takes over, true creativity is allowed to bloom.

ANYONE and everyone can paint. If you can hold a paint brush you can paint! When you have no idea what you are doing… it is wonderful… That means you have let go of the mind… you are in the present moment touching the space in you that allows creativity to move through you.

She also asks her workshop participants to “LET chaos in and see what appears in your painting, (opening up to) a spiritual experience.”

As I look forward to this workshop in three days, I do so with some fear.  Nadine asks me to let this chaos in.

Chaos has always seemed to be a part of my life. I seem to have been born into it, am accustomed to it, and I have most often felt a need to control the chaos that comes from within.  It was a way for me to survive life and all that gets thrown back.

Perhaps, this intuitive painting workshop will be a way for me to release the chaos onto canvas.

Whatever the process becomes for me, Nadine has been placed in my path for me to learn DSCN0306something about myself that I have not yet discovered.  She is a kind, loving, gentle leader who accepts me exactly as I am. I embrace this challenge, though it is certainly difficult for me, because I trust her.

Perhaps you are interested in exploring more of your creative energy.  If you are and you are in Western Washington, I hope you will join us on Sunday.  For more information or to register for the retreat or any other of her classes, contact Nadine Hamil at: nadine@artfuldreamers.com  or sign up at the website http://artfuldreamers.com/category/workshops/

And the journey continues…

 

 

One Veteran’s View of How Veterans’ Day Has Changed

As another Veterans’ Day comes to an end, I am grateful for the freedom I have because of the willingness of others to serve.  Whether or not it was done for the same reasons I chose to serve is irrelevant to me, but today I realized that society is changing, and the sadness I feel about it in regard to service is something I need to wrap my head around and try to reconcile in my head.

I did not go out of the house today, as I was feeling poorly.  I had every intention of going to the Veterans’ Day ceremony put on locally at our Fairgrounds Pavilion.

I did, however, get onto Facebook and was bombarded by Veterans’ Day messages every where.  Though it is always nice to know people appreciate military service, I wonder if the meaning behind the words loses something in social media overkill.

I popped into a closed group I am in for veterans and found myself pulled into a discussion thread where the story was of one vet’s coworkers deciding to honor veterans at work. They included a woman as a veteran who had joined, but due to (unknown) circumstances never was allowed to get out of the reception area. The one posing the question was highly offended at this inclusion.

The feeding frenzy began, as I watched the veterans talk of their entitlements, and being offended that someone else would get noticed for something they did not deserve.  There are nearly 300 comments on the feed.

They all missed the point.

I tried to put up a comment that would steer the focus elsewhere.  I also wrote another post tagging the original post writer, trying to get others to think about the situation a bit differently.  It received only a handful of comments and it seems that the post has been removed.  The points I made in that post were:

  • It is really not about the one coworker who couldn’t make it through and, if we make it about said coworker, then we give her the focus, as well as the energy and emotion to not accept the love, support and honor being given because of our being offended.
  • The REAL story here is that the other coworkers wanted to do something for those who served. I think that speaks volumes about the people who love and support. So, if one falls through the cracks and is lauded by those who don’t know better, so be it.
  • What matters most is that WE can look in the mirror and know the difference we made without comparing ourselves to those who do not matter in the grand scheme of life. Just like when we were in, we knew who were good leaders and who were not…the title or the rank did not make one a leader.
  • Choose not to give energy to someone who needs to include herself …eventually, as we all tell our stories, she will remain quiet because her story is different, and she would be “found out.”
  • Ponder this question: Did I serve for the recognition and the freebies it will get me because I am entitled to them? or Did I serve because I have the heart of a servant? Whether or not someone recognizes that (your) service, does not take away what has been (you have) done.
  • Become role models, as true leaders, to have others look up to you, even including others (who don’t always “deserve” it). By doing so, we may have an opportunity to understand others, and how we respond to them may be the first time in their lives they have been treated in a way that was different than being ostracized for what they were not. We may have an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life because we choose not to dig in our heels to be “right.”
  • Whether or not the coworkers included her as they did does not negate the others’ service. They wanted to do something nice for those whom they believe served. May we all be able to receive graciously, rather than be offended by everyone who jumps on the “thank a veteran” bandwagon.

Later in another group, there was another post from a veteran who had mapped out where to receive all the “freebies,” then bragged about how he took a couple of bites and got to-go boxes so that they could “feed the family for free” that night.  This particular person also remarked that they did not feel it necessary to leave tips, because of what “was owed” to him for having joined the military.

When did we lose sight of what is truly important in life? Or am I just so old that I have lived beyond my time?

There has been a shift in this world that does not focus on others, but focuses on self.  Although I understand a need to care for self, at what point do we need to realize that, if we want this society/world to continue on, we must understand that doing for others (selflessness) is also important? Finding that balance in today’s world is becoming much more difficult.

Thanks to all of you who have served this country in a military uniform. It has made a difference. But, if you do not know the history and  what Veterans’ Day truly commemorates, please read about it at the VA website.

We must take care that we do not become the greedy, all-about-me people who allowed their own visions of grandiosity to do the unspeakable.

After all, is that not why so many of the veterans fought and died in the first half of our last century?  For freedom from what others were trying to do for their own gain and for their own egos?

September “Zebra” Report

On Tuesday, September 2nd, I had my scheduled MRI, blood work, and follow-up appointment with my specialist, as well as my monthly sandostatin shot, before I left on Thursday.

When I shared And the Verdict Is…, I reported that the preliminary results appeared stable.  We were awaiting the radiologist’s final report and the blood work that they have to send out.   (Read here for the account.)

I have to admit that each time I have gone in since my initial diagnosis of carcinoid cancer, I seem to go through a period of trying  to prepare myself.

I wait for the “ball to drop.” 

I do my utmost to never show negativity or give it that energy, yet I never want to lose my sense of reality so that I am taken by surprise at any news.  It leaves me feeling just a bit unsettled until I can breathe again, though I handle it without most people ever knowing of my concern.  Sometimes, that effort is worthy of an Oscar nomination.

I was not too worried when I left for my visit to Tulsa to spend time with my sister, but I wanted to make sure that I received the final report, just to be aware of those realities.

I received the email reply from my specialist yesterday.  I was in the car with my sister when it came in. I broke down in tears in front of her, as if a dam had finally burst. She saw the evidence of what brews inside of me, despite my outward display.

Hi Coral, The final report on the MRI is stable or decreasing size of liver lesions. Chromogranin A is 762 slightly up from 703, Serotonin is 1650 slightly down from 1700.  So bottom line. You are good to go!  Best regards, Jim Park

 I am good to go. 

First of all, may I say that I love that my specialist and I have the kind of working (patient/doctor) relationship where we can email, and I can call him by his first name.

My next appointment will be next September.  Next year. 2015.

I am good to go.  I can let go of this for another year.   Even though I know this is something that I will live with for the rest of my life, and get monthly injections of a medication that manages the symptoms associated with this crazy cancer, I do not have to anticipate another MRI or the blood work for twelve more months.

One year.  Things will seem a bit more normal, whatever that means.  Breathe easier.

Two years ago, I feared that I would not be able to use my passport.  Today, I am figuring out when I need to have it renewed.  It expires the month before my 60th birthday, and I am making plans.  I will make absolutely certain that…

I am good to go!

 

carcinoid