I can still vividly remember that day.
Following 13 weeks of Marine boot camp, one of most difficult experiences of my life, I stood at attention on the parade deck in front of my Drill Instructors ... waiting to hear "ON THIS DAY, WE’RE PROUD TO CALL YOU U.S. MARINES!"
It is kind of funny, it has been over 20 years after being called a U.S. Marine for the first time at Parris Island, South Carolina. Today, I refer to myself as a former Marine. However, when I say that I am a former Marine, I usually get the typical response, "You are never a former Marine, but always a Marine!"
I can understand why: my six years of service to the Corps, along with being a Persian Gulf War veteran, is a part of who I am. Those years as a U.S. Marine changed me significantly and formed me into who I am today. In fact, the Marine Corps and its values and culture together are woven within my innermost being.
Based on the same premise, my experience with cancer shares a homologous epithet as being a U.S. Marine. The fight against cancer, along with the continuing preventative treatment, has made me realize that my life is no longer the 'normal life' that I had before. Today, the way I perceive others and my environment are completely different. And in some sardonic way or providential mode, cancer has become my personal paradox -- a killing disease that has afforded me a new life.