The Ultimate Battle

By Ransden, James H. | Army, July 1997 | Go to article overview

The Ultimate Battle


Ransden, James H., Army


In April 1990, my life changed dramatically. After years of suffering from increasing lower back pain and spasms, I underwent a CAT scan and MRI. The test results revealed the spread of malignant tumors in my bone marrow. I had multiple myeloma, a cancer in the leukemia family, with an average life expectancy of three more years. As with others diagnosed with cancer, I was devastated. I experienced the denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance that often accompany serious illness or grief.

Through this transition, I noticed that the experiences and challenges of military service, combined with medical treatment and other techniques, created powerful forces of healing.

Military service develops many attributes-self-discipline, planning, motivation and emphasis on mission accomplishment-that can be brought to bear on the treatment and healing process. Moreover, a positive attitude and a firm determination not to allow setbacks help in selecting favorable courses of action. A vital tool I continue to use is the decision-making process taught at the Army's Command and General Staff College of analyzing advantages and disadvantages of each possible option. The option with the most important advantages and the least significant disadvantages is usually selected. I use this technique to decide on such issues as chemotherapy options, second opinions, relapse questions and maintenance treatments. Input from others certainly played a part in the decisionmaking process, but I was, and am, ultimately responsible for my own decisions.

Since I have now more than doubled the three years I was projected to live, let me share some other insights about the battle I have fought and continue to fight. I could not have overcome adversity without comprehensive medical, mental, physical and spiritual recovery/healing programs.

Medical. State-of-the-art medical treatment, from competent doctors who truly believe in my ability to fight for my life, is essential. I frequently told doctors that I believe in the possibilities of living, not the probabilities of dying. If a doctor told me I would be dead within so many months or years, I found another doctor. I also discovered that the larger medical centers usually employed more expert staff members who had access to better facilities and equipment for tests and treatment.

I underwent chemotherapy for 18 months followed by interferon injections for maintenance. The initial results were promising but, by late 1992, the cancer began to grow again. After much soul searching and use of the decision-making process, I opted for a 1993 autologous bone marrow transplant at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. Now, I am back on interferon and staying in partial remission.

Mental. The tough "can do" mental attitude I first developed as a U.S. Military Academy cadet, then honed in airborne school, the 82nd Airborne Division and the 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam, helped me fight initial depression and fear and motivated me to work on my recovery program every day.

I tried to live just for today-the past is gone and the future is unknown. In addition, family support and encouragement has contributed immensely to my positive attitude. My wife and our four adult children have provided hope, courage and love during many crucial times. Owning a pet to care for and love has also been a big boost.

Many books on healing emphasize the essential nature of techniques such as visualization or mental imagery. Love, Medicine and Miracles by Bernie Siegel discusses these techniques in great detail. …

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