The year 2020 will surely go down in our personal history books as the year that wasn't. Wasn't what? Wasn't a good year for most of the world. Sure, the rich got richer and the poor got poorer for the most part. But, that seems to be the trend and has been for the last several years. But, don't worry. This is not going to be a political statement. It's simply a commentary on how I view it.
Today is, in fact, another anniversary for me. One year ago today I spent the entire day on an operating table at the Winchester (VA) Medical Center having half of my stomach and three-quarters of my esophagus removed. The surgery was the third and final course of treatment for the cancer fireball that struck me down on August 18, 2019.
I found out some time after the first two courses of treatment, chemotherapy and radiation, that my survival prospects were quite a bit less than optimal. As a matter of fact, just a couple weeks before I had the surgery I asked my surgeon point-blank, what my survival chances were if I opted out of having the surgery. He replied, just as point-blank. NONE!
So, here I am, one year later, a very different person physically, psychologically and emotionally. The dream team of cancer specialists who worked on me destroyed the cancer and removed all the damage it had done to my body. I am, as of the latest round of CT scans one month ago, cancer-free.
Those of you who have followed my progress since I was stricken, know I've been through quite a course of treatment. And, I'm still recovering from the ordeal. But, believe me, despite how bad the overall year of 2020 was for me, with respect to my medical crisis, I am one happy camper (no pun intended) to be writing this article today.
There were probably over a hundred people going through treatment while I was being treated. I saw some folks who were suffering through it. I don't know why, but to this date, I have experienced no pain of any kind. I absolutely experienced some fatigue, weakness and loss of the ability to eat and drink for a short time. However, I don't feel like I suffered. And, as I write this today, I'm still in a recovery process. I still have a ways to go before I find my “new normal.”
Yes! 2020 and the last half of 2019 have been difficult years for me. But, if this is all that made 2020 a year that I would like to see gone and forgotten, it really wouldn't be all that bad. In reality, after all, here I am, cancer-free and a functioning human being, albeit, weaker and dealing with a few issues, yet. But, I'm alive and have a life ahead of me. Thankful doesn't begin to express my feelings.
But, in addition, our entire world has been attacked by a new virus that has created a pandemic that we haven't seen the likes of since the Spanish Flu of a century ago. This virus has collapsed the world economy. It has created massive unemployment and loss of businesses in the U.S. It's upset our entire education system. People are having financial difficulties that are impacting their ability to feed, clothe and keep a roof over their families' heads.
Moving on from that we've had a record-breaking year of natural and weather-related disasters in the forms of wildfires, hurricanes, some tornadoes and even some flooding. This has taken a toll on the loss of thousands of homes, businesses, other property, infrastructure and even lives.
Then we have the issues of racism and social injustice that have raised their ugly heads again. Crime, especially homicides, has increased exponentially. Cities and infrastructure have been damaged and destroyed in the worst outbreak of violence that I believe this country has ever seen – and, at least from my perspective, the worst in my lifetime.
And, to top it off, we've had, what has been, at least during my lifetime, the most divisive presidential election cycle I can recall. Again, not to be political, I place the blame on both political parties. And, with the help of the mainstream media and social media, we are seeing friends, neighbors and families divided. And, as I've said over and over, there is virtually no way to know what truth is and who to trust. This is not a healthy place for any country to be.
Of course, there are lots of smaller issues that are impacting individual, family and regional lives. Any one of these issues, including my personal medical crisis that mainly impacts me, is more than enough for any single year. However, I'd liken 2020 to a “Perfect Storm.” They've all merged during the year 2020. Certainly, 9/11 in 2001 was a terrible year and created chaos. The economic collapse and Great Recession of 2007/2008 had a huge impact on everyone. Many are still recovering from that event. But, 2020 is the King of the Hill. As I called it, a Perfect Storm.
So, here we are at the beginning of 2021. People are usually excited about the beginning of each new year. I don't feel that excitement this year. I hear people saying they are hopeful. I hear people saying they don't expect things to get better for some time in the future. I have expressed my expectations as “cautiously optimistic.” I want to believe it's going to be a better year, yet even though I always try to be optimistic, I have my reservations.
This election cycle is not over, yet. I expect it to go on for some time even though a new president will be occupying the White House. I'm not feeling confident about what is coming under his administration. I believe we are going to see another increase in rioting, destruction and lawlessness, perhaps worse than we experienced last year. There are three vaccines for the virus, but, I'm still unsure about their long-term efficacy. Are they the answer or are they just a band-aid? I feel like we're not close to the end of this pandemic. We will see the infection rate increase and the death toll continue to rise. That's a very sad statement.
I believe we're going to see the crime and homicide rate increase, even more, this year. Sadly, I believe we'll see the homeless rate increase exponentially and it will include entire families. We don't know how the economy is going to be impacted this year, but I don't believe it's going to be very positive. And, with the climate changing (a natural phenomenon) we will likely see another bad, if not a worse year of wildfires and storm/hurricane activity.
But, through it all, here is what I believe. The human spirit will overcome all of these issues. I believe we'll see a “new normal” in our country and throughout many other countries in the world. I've always said change is inevitable and change is the only thing we can count on.
I cannot nor will not make any predictions about whether the changes that will lead to this “new normal” are going to result in a positive uplifting or a negative downturn in our society. Of course, I want to see a positive, uplifting change. But, again, I am only speculating based on my views and attitudes as to what I define as positive and uplifting. You and millions of others may have a very different definition.
I look at my own life. A little less than a year and a half ago I was facing the reality of leaving this Earth for eternity. And, yet, through a series of miracles, medical science, positive support of family and friends, untold prayers spoken around this globe for my survival and recovery, here I am. I mentioned earlier that I'm a different person, perhaps even a new person.
Obviously, I'm physically different and will never be the same human I was before the medical dream team worked their magic and miracles. But, I'm also different psychologically and emotionally. I have a renewed commitment to my own mantra of “living free and being happy.” But, I also feel it's my responsibility to share my life and experiences with those seeking some enlightenment, inspiration, encouragement and, yes, even wisdom.
I caught a clip on CBS Sunday Morning this morning with the comedian, actor, director, Chris Rock. He's now in his mid 50's. He spoke about how he started out in the projects in Brooklyn, NY and how he quit school in the 10th grade. He spoke of his path to success and his failures. He spoke of the people he learned from as mentors. And, then he said something that really struck a chord with me. He said that now that he's in his 50's he's lived life and learned so much through experience. Now, he can share that experience. It's sort of a right of passage.
Later in the day I watched an HBO documentary done by comedian, writer, actor Carl Reiner. It was called, “If You're Not in the Obits, Eat Breakfast.” I highly recommend it. Everyone featured in the program was in their 90's or over 100. Every one of them was actively pursuing their passions and contributing to society in positive ways.
That's it, friends. That's why I'm still alive. I have something to offer our society and world. That's why I'm currently working on developing not one or two or even three, but I'm working on four books. And, I have a number of books that will follow those. I also have told my doctors and everyone I meet that even though I'm currently approaching 76, I'm on a 44 ¼ year plan.
This year may very well turn out to be like 2020. I'm hoping it will be better, but it could be worse. However, we . . . you and me . . . can make this year into a better year for ourselves. In so doing, we'll likely have a positive impact on those we come in contact with, in person (though we'll all be very careful about that) or virtually as we continue to expand our video chats and virtual meetings, seminars and webinars. It's all about our attitude. Just keep thinking that our attitude will determine our altitude.
Live free and be happy. EH