Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Name, Rank and Medical Report

It's been a busy day, lots to talk about. It began at the oncology office, where we discussed the dilemma of my health. Yesterday's bloodwork showed that my hemoglobin and platelet counts are still very low; so much so that the radiologist feels that it's too dangerous to keep me on chemo and radiation together. The X-ray from last week showed that the cancer has spread into the two long bones in my right leg, interfering with the bone marrow and causing me considerable pain.

The trouble is that we have to get my blood counts up, or I will get sicker. The radiation will lower the blood counts even further, and the chemotherapy carries its own side effects that may put me in bed too. But untreated, the cancer can (and has) spread. So we agreed that it would be better to go down fighting than to hope that the blood counts will come up on their own. So I started this afternoon on a stronger dose of another chemotherapy drug, the one I was first given after my diagnosis; it brought me a lot of nausea and other nasty side effects, but Dr. A feels that it is our best hope.

The thing is, I feel fairly well. The worst of it for the past five days has been that the bone pain has been growing somewhat, forcing me to take supplemental pain medication during the day; but with careful dosage, and taking food along with the pills, I have avoided the worst of the stomach damage.

I had a long chemotherapy session, then got typed and matched for another transfusion tomorrow; I am to get two more units of whole blood and two of platelets. All week I am also getting various injections to try and help my remaining bone marrow work overtime to manufacture some blood. Think - er - bloody thoughts everyone!

Then I just made it home in time to meet one of my squadron pilots, who drove me out to headquarters for our Civil Air Patrol meeting. My deputy commander had asked me to come out if I could manage, as they had a "special" presentation to make, and that the Wing Commander might be there. I assumed that it was my long, long deferred promotion to Captain; since rank is of little consequence in the CAP, I never really bothered to put through the paperwork, even though I could have done so years ago. I had a good five-year run as First Lieutenant, and always kidded that I never wanted to be a Major - too likely to end up on a committee, instead of in a cockpit!

Dress Blues
Uploaded by AviatorDave.
It turns out that the surprise was indeed that - the Wing Commander couldn't make it, but the Group Commander called me forward and read off a list of my accolades over the last eight years; what's left of my blood managed to turn my ears a bit red for the occasion, and I blushed. He also recognized 207 as the premiere squadron in Group 4, the biggest and most well-trained unit in eastern Pennsylvania. Then he announced to the formation present that I was being given a merit promotion to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. That's passing over Captain AND Major! As I said, rank in the CAP is largely ceremonial; since we are all unpaid volunteers, it's not like my salary is going up! But I was bowled over, and flattered, and I hardly knew what to say. I managed to stammer out a few words and thanked my squadron for their tremendous support and hard work.

It has been my pride and honor to serve my squadron since 1997, for the last nine months as Squadron Commander. I've spent hundreds of hours in training, flying, and working with a great group of officers and teenage cadets; plus I've gotten USAF travel opportunities, furthered my own flying career and been honored with a national award for education. I hope that I will soon recover my health, and become active again with the organization - and make some real trouble with these silver clusters! Thanks again to those who have made my volunteering so rewarding.