Eight years ago, I was diagnosed with Lymphoma, a common form of lymph node cancer. Through chemotherapy I battled and battled. The battle always reminds me of the American Revolution… you know… king plagues dependency, dependency fights back, country wins over king, that kind of story… you all know how it went by now. On July 2, a doctor told me that I was cancer free. It was a surprising coincidence that it was a Friday morning, two days before the nation blew out their birthday candles. Two days before the 4th of July in 1999, I felt as though my own declaration of independence was written, courtesy of a doctor’s notepad, steadily written in Latin with one hand as the doctors scribbled the latest round of cancer treatment and pain medication in Latin on their prescription papers with the other hand.
The fourth of July is supposed to be America’s Independence Day. This year marks the 231st version of this special day in American History. Many people go on vacation, to picnics, to grill out at home, and many go to fireworks displays. I have chosen, as I usually always do, to spend a nice quiet day in my downtown Cincinnati apartment with my girlfriend of 15 months, Elizabeth. After that, I will probably head to Fountain Square for what I am told is going to be an awesome fireworks display. In the past I have gone to barbecues, festivals in my old home in St. Bernard, Ohio, and to various friends houses to have lunch or something.
Ironically, last year I did not partake in anything of that nature. On July 3, 2006, I was standing with Elizabeth, in Virginia Beach, directly in front of the most amazing view of the Atlantic Ocean in the entire East Coact. All of a sudden, we had to grab ahold of eachothers hands for dear life as a 4′ wave came and knocked us into the water (to this day I swear I still have seashells inside of my person). As I was sitting and sipping a drink later on on one of those grossly priced lounge chairs, the victim of near heat stroke (highs in the 100s that day), we began to plan the Monday that laid before us. We had spend a few days previous in North Carolina following around a football team that I worked with, and we were on our way home, but we figured why spoil a good week, especially since neither of us had to work until the 5th. We decided to go to up I-95 and hit Washington. Washington was where I went for vacation twice when I was in High School, and then again just days after my high school graduation. Elizabeth had been to many places with me in the latter half of 2006. Sadly, Washington was yet to be one of them, and I wanted to take her for a tour of the town.
Then it hit me. All of the previous times I walked from the Capitol Building to the base of the Washington Monument. Each trip had its own separate obstacles. My 1999 trip nearly ended prematurely, as I was flu ridden due to a chemo weakened immune system. In 2001, I accidentally went in reverse, a new soccer team (remember the Women’s United Soccer Association) was blocking my path, and I slipped and cut my leg at the top of the steps to the Capitol. The next year my dad was trying to see the Smithsonian museums instead of the monuments. I got my way, but he got his too… that was quite fair. And, normally, my trek would end at the base of the monument, but it ended at the Lincoln Memorial this time…. my Air Force Eurotraveler dad had caught his second wind. Much worse, 9/11 had just happened, and so the Capitol was inaccessable.
Another twist, after we finished the course, we ran into very angry protesters in front of my intended point of origin, the White House. The loudmouths, a league of muslims, angry at Bush for what they thought were anti-arab laws (we were fighting terror, not Islam, people!) were protesting state visit from one of our closest allies, then-Isreali Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. One final obstacle: they had arrested a man who was about a day away from dropping a chemical bomb on Washington (aka Jose Padilla’s dirty bomb). Facing even more obstacles, the 4th of July and the raised terror threat level that the news people keep reminding us about, I decided to introduce Elizabeth to this walk.
The walk began with a train ride to the transport hub of DC, Union Station, where I have caught many a train going out and around Washington. We had to leave the building immediately as there was nothing open. Then, we couldnt find the Capitol. When we finally did… hello there, obstacle #1… the roped off fencing and light blaring police cars filled with gun-drawn security and police.I thought we had to resort to trespassing and possible suspicion of terrorism to get around the building, but we did. Then came obstacle #2: I had forgotten that I saw an ad for a 4th of July concert by the National Symphony. The entire complex was further barricaded… so long jaunt from the stairs. We went around all of the security gates without any trouble. Surely, we didnt mean any harm… we just wanted to walk. Roadblock #3 came up when we came across the National Mall… home of the town’s party central, where everything was being set up for a grand party the next day.
When we had nothing but a 500′ tall white tower in our collective windshields, it took us a half an hour to walk the mile it took to get there. A smaller roadblock occured when we stopped to find water so Elizabeth can take her medicine, but it took mere minutes and we went through the gravel, the grass, and the concrete barriers protecting the Monument. We crossed through them, and a joy and rush came over me. Four trips to this city, four successful passes up and down the National Mall. I felt pretty proud of myself. I felt as though I was Neil Armstrong on the surface of the moon. I felt as though I was marching to voice my independence from my hardships, loudly and proudly, like it was when the King George finally accepted our status as a free and independent nation.
The only regret I had being I stopped. I was going to take her to the Lincoln Memorial as well, but it was pitch black and we retreated back to base. But, the job was done. I did not let cancer stop me, and this was just a mere example. This year, after my 8th year, I sit back and had a long think and I can only imagine. If I had not pulled off the defeat, i wouldnt be here right now. If the Americans had not fought their behinds off all those centuries ago, I would be going to Cincinnati Reds CRICKET games… and I cant stand cricket, so im glad we have this day… a day when not only can we celebrate freedom and democracy, we can celebrate our own lives, and have dreams of what is to come.