Once a Marine always a Marine…. That’s what they say, right? It’s something as fundamental as life itself. I am one of those retired Marines that fly the American flag and the Marine Corps flag in my front yard. I have a Marine Corps license plate on both vehicles. I put the eagle, globe and anchor stickers on my Jeep. I bleed Marine Corps green. I have an AR-15 that has the old iron sights on that I practice with. My wife made a video of my last week while I was shooting, and the muscle memory and safety was exactly what the Marine Corps taught me. I haven’t forgotten a thing. It’s not surprising considering my father is a Marine, I am a Marine and my son is a Marine. I’m not going to change after 50 years.
One of the best feelings in the world for a Marine is to talk with a Marine that you’ve served with. It can be 20 years since you’ve talked and it’s like no time has passed. Marines can talk to each other in ways no one understands. It’s raw, brutal and honest. Sometimes it’s to let me know that I need to quit being hardheaded. Sometimes it’s to be reminded to suck it up. Sometimes it’s just to get my mind off things and relive my glory days. It’s a bond that’s closer than family. I had a phone call the other day with one of those Marines.
I was fortunate to have 3 commanding officers in a row that were the crème of the crop of Marine Corps leaders. The first of the three just assumed duties as the Commandant of the Marine Corps. The other two have retired and are doing very well in the civilian world. I was speaking with one when he made a statement that floored me. He told me he was amazed at the courage and strength I was showing in facing this incurable cancer. Here was a man that graduated from the Naval Academy, earned a bronze star in Iraq and went on to command an infantry battalion telling me that I was brave. Having someone that I consider one of the best leaders this country has tell me these things humbled me immensely.
I don’t have a choice here. The way I see it is I can either fight with a good attitude, or I can fight with a defeated attitude…. I’m fighting either way. Just like the training, discipline and traditions are instilled in me, the will to run towards the fight is engrained in the fiber of my life. I never expected to be fighting another war, but I am. The question is how do you fight Multiple Myeloma when it’s incurable?
The way I did it was to find out as much as I could about this disease. I tried to understand the basics and build a working knowledge of the progression of the disease. I went through several doctors before I found a specialist that I felt comfortable with and went from there. I’ve been an active participant in every decision made concerning my medical treatment, I’ve connected with other patient and caregivers to learn and support and most importantly…. I’ve never given up.
I refuse to allow Multiple Myeloma to take the things from me that define who I am. I’m a Marine. Running to the sound of the gun is what Marines do. This battle is no different in my mind. I won’t quit. I won’t become bitter. I won’t allow myself to wallow in misery during the low points of this disease because I know that life is peaks and valleys. I once saw a quote saying you beat cancer by how you live and I’m determined to do just that. I might be at war with this disease, but I’m going to have a little fun along the way and hopefully…. learn a thing or two to help others along the way.