Commentary

March 22, 2012

Never saw this coming: Lessons learned in trying times

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS) — I had the world by the tail: U. S. Air Force Academy graduate, Air Force pilot, six-time commander, 30-year Air Force career, and two stars; fit, healthy and strong. But subtle problems appeared out of nowhere: occasional vertigo, mild persistent headaches, cognitive challenges, having to stop during a hard run.

I went to see the flight surgeon and was immediately referred to a neurologist. An MRI revealed a golf-ball sized tumor on the left temporal lobe of my brain and the doctor bluntly told me, “Your life will never be the same.” I was literally stunned.

Swelling was critical and I was admitted for surgery five days later. The surgeon briefed me on all that could go wrong, but the young Air Force captain performed expertly. He gets my vote if I ever need another surgery.

The tumor was successfully removed down to the microscopic level. The question remained: “Why did I have a tumor?” The news from the lab was not good: malignant growth from stage IV of the worst form of brain cancer.

It was time to fight

After a few weeks of recovery from surgery, I felt like a million bucks. My fitness and strength were returning and I was back to full duty and physical activity. Also, I simultaneously started a six-week, aggressive anti-cancer radiation and chemotherapy treatment plan.

The doctors told me I would be fatigued, suffer nausea and lack energy from the treatment. To counter those potential symptoms, I got back in the weight room, back on my bike, back on the running trail, back on the golf course and back to full time duty as commander of the best organization in the Air Force — Air Force Personnel Center!

The negative side effects never showed up. My fitness, strength and health remained good, but it was also the hundreds of emails, cards, letters and prayers from my family, friends, coworkers and even strangers that helped me keep my spirit up.

Last week, I completed my last of 30 radiation and 42 chemotherapy treatments and I still feel great! The next critical step is another MRI in a few weeks to see if the cancer has returned. I pray for good results.

I never saw any of this coming

I have learned a few lessons along the way that may help others who find they are facing tremendous challenges:

  • Be fit, be strong, and be healthy every day. Fitness is not about just passing the Air Force fitness test or deploying, it is about saving your life. A well-rested, strong body and a healthy diet can help you fight off tough challenges when they come.
  • Life is short and precious. If there are things you want to accomplish in life, get busy now. “One day” and “someday” may never come. Push yourself to do more, now. Tomorrow is not promised, so do not waste a day.
  • Be positive. Brain tumors can be fatal, so there’s no room for defeatism; you have to fight a challenge like you intend to win. Leave negative thoughts behind and be ready to endure. Run your race like a winner. Attitude may be the number one component of success.
  • Be open and honest, up and down the chain. Our Air Force is a family. I have received the support of literally hundreds of kindred Airmen, with a big “A.” The Air Force has proven itself a family from our senior leadership to our youngest Airmen, including civilians and supporters. If folks know your challenges, they can help. My AFPC and A1 family have been magnificent. They have opened their arms and hearts, and carried me through the tough times.
  • Be a bouncer. Bad things sometimes happen. It is not a question of whether you will take a fall, so get over it. The question is, will you bounce back? It is really up to you. Be tough minded — you are a warrior! Think like a winner and bounce.
  • Love your family. My wife, Areetha, has been the “wind beneath my wings” and my rock. She has been beside me every step of this journey and she insists I keep a positive attitude. She ran the Marine Corps Marathon last fall at age 50! She is 100 percent positive and endures. I thank God for having her as my wingman. My mom, sisters and extended family have also been my cheering section. They are irreplaceable and I love them dearly.

This is a tough, unexpected fight and it is not over. Our most humble “thank you” from Areetha and me. We are overwhelmed with your support, words of encouragement and prayers.

I’ve cleared a few hurdles but the fight is still on. I intend to win.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Professionalism, mission focus, and a new way forward for base inspections

Professionalism, mission focus, and a new way forward known as the Air Force Inspection System – those three things sum up what members of the Desert Lightning Team should take away from last week’s Unit Effectiveness Inspection. The Air Combat Command Inspector General Team conducted the 355th Fighter Wing’s Capstone event, known as a UEI,...
 
 
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Reel)

The last bite

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – Shake, take, salute and pose for a photo–Tyndall’s 2014 March Enlisted Promotion Ceremony was carrying on as usual. I raised my camera, waited for the grip and grin moment and then...
 
 

When keeping it real goes wrong

It’s Tuesday, and after a long day at work I’m reminded that I have an intramural league basketball game tonight. After arriving home and quickly changing I make my way back to the base gym to avoid the scrutiny of my coach and team mates.  As I begin to search through the maze of a...
 

 
email-pic

The impact of a simple email

It’s been a long day. I’m tired, worn out. It seems like the emails just won’t stop. Review this, update that, and the ever dreaded tasking that was due yesterday. One after another they attack my sanity, chipping away a ...
 
 

Leadership stresses importance of keeping families informed

The Air Force’s on-going force shaping initiatives affect more than our Airmen–they also affect our families.  The concerns and questions Air Force families differ from those of a service member. Family members have few opportunities to engage with commanders and experts and large auditorium briefings and pages of personnel documents are not always the most...
 
 
computer-hands

Think before you act: It only takes a second for your actions to go viral

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas – Have you ever done something you wish you could take back? Said something mean … wrote something inappropriate … behaved in a way that was disrespectful? I’m sure y...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin