Being able to depend on myself has seen me through a good many tight spots. I learned during my Vietnam days, when I went into combat with the soldiers and Marines I was supporting, that staying in good shape was essential to my success. So I went out of my way to keep my body operating at maximum efficiency. I became a runner and a weight lifter, watched my diet, and eventually quit smoking.
The latter didn’t come soon enough. In 2013, more than twenty-five years after I gave up tobacco, I developed lung cancer, though it wasn’t diagnosed until 2015. I underwent maximum chemotherapy and radiation and finally had the upper lobe of my right lung removed. My doctors marveled at how well I withstood the rigors of treatment and credited my recovery to the excellent shape I was in.
I acknowledged another element in my battle against cancer: my long-ago formed habit of depending on myself. I was determined that I wasn’t going to let a little thing like cancer keep me from writing the books I still had in me. I’m still in recovery with a cough that won’t quit and an irritating lack of energy. But I cheat and steal and trick my body into doing what I want it to do.
As age takes its toll, my resilience is working overtime. I can’t run any more thanks to failed knee replacement surgery, but I follow a regular regimen of weight lifting and keep my weight to the recommended level for my body type. My diet stresses healthy foods, especially vegetables and fruits, and I stay away from sweets and fried food. I allow myself half a gimlet and a small glass of wine each day. I assure that I get enough rest.
It’s working. At least so far. I’ve been able to maintain a demanding schedule of presentations, readings, and book signings to promote Last of the Annamese. As usual, I have to depend on myself for my appearances. No one’s going to help me.
As it was in the beginning, so it is now: it’s up to me.