In between the first and second years at West Point, cadets head to Camp Buckner for field training — “the best summer of your life.” Recondo (RECONnaissance commanDO) was a multi-day limits-testing experience with bivouacking, patrolling, maneuvering in the dark, and survival lessons. Not to mention mountaineering, digging foxholes, defending positions, poncho rafts, chicken-killing, and hand-to-hand combat – not a typical college experience.
Navigating my current health challenge has reminded me of Recondo.
Some things are out of my control:
After roaming the woods for days, with limited sleep and lots of sweat, the slide-for-life was the best part of the patrol phase. Each cadet hauled a pulley up a tower and set it on the cable that extended across Lake Popolopen. Once you got going, there was no control over speed. The ride stops when you fall or drop off.
Among the things I can’t control about cancer are how I tolerate chemo; how the tumor responds to the treatment; or lab results.
Some things I can change:
Walking across a narrow I-beam thirty feet above the lake followed the slide-for-life. The trickiest part of this was a set of steps — a staircase without handrails. As I approached this obstacle, a bullhorn-amplified voice guided my movements: “Step up, step up, steady, step down, step down.” Navigate the steps, proceed to the end of the I-beam, shimmy on a rope, salute, and drop into the lake. “Recondo!”
I can take charge by reporting side effects and getting remedies to combat symptoms ranging from cold sensitivity to digestive upsets.
It helps to have a buddy:
In the days before the “fun” part at the lake, cadets experienced a poncho raft swim, learning how to “fix” a live chicken for cooking, a mostly-raw vegetable stew dinner (and the beginning of becoming vegetarian), and sleeping in tents in wet fatigues from the swim. The last day of the confidence course started with the most dreaded event — an endurance run — with a partner, gear, and gun. And both of you had to finish in a set amount of time. Failing to complete the course within the time limit meant having to repeat it at a later date. My Recondo buddy motivated me to keep going. Yes, we passed the first time. And after graduating, I married him.
I rely on the expertise of a health care team. Doctors and nurses have treated this kind of cancer before. I can conduct due diligence research but ultimately I need to trust that they know more than I do about the best way to handle this particular cancer.
The professionals may direct treatment, but it’s friends and family who keep me going — with meals, visits, rides, and reminding me of the reasons why I’m fighting.
Warrior spirit means resilience. I’ll stand back up when I get knocked down, One step at a time, we’ll get through.
© Joan S Grey, 10 DEC 2021 ∞
IndexCardCure™: GO ARMY. BEAT NAVY
Photo credits: The Mortar 1980