As I get older, I learn more about myself all the time. One of the greatest and most difficult challenges I’ve faced and overcome in my adult life has been getting through the Texas ARNG/RTI Warrant Officer Candidate School (WOCS) which consisted of a two and a half day drill once every month for five months and culmimating in a two-week stint at Fort McClellan in Alabama. I would argue that the reserve component WOCS is more difficult than the active duty school.
Instead of attending for five weeks straight, we drill once a month for five months. While that seems like it’d be easier, in fact, it’s the opposite. Once you’re done with drill, you spend the next 3-4 weeks mentally preparing, agonizing over every mistake you made and going through mental checklists to ensure you don’t repeat those mistakes. Then there’s the PT; you have to stay on top of your physical fitness for those five months, getting ready for the next physical hurdle. At age 53, this was pretty tough. While I exercise 5-6 days a week normally, I had to increase the intensity and push myself to meet specific goals. One of these goals was to be able to get through a 6.2 mile foot march carrying over 50 lbs of gear (heck, it was nearly 60 lbs when you consider the unslung rifle and my helmet) within a 17-minute per mile pace. This was no small task for someone who’s been around the sun 12 more times than the next youngest candidate in the class.
So, for me, it felt like I was at WOCS for six months. During that entire time, I lived, breathed, and even dreamt of WOCS. After I graduated and came home, I found myself somewhat lost emotionally. I didn’t have the next exam to study for, or the next physical test to work toward. I wasn’t having to push myself to the next goal. It felt great to not have the anxiety of the next weekend of WOCS, but it also felt strange. WOCS had been such a huge part of my life, and now it’s over.
The next chapter for me is quickly approaching, but this time, the preparation is 99% mental. There’s nothing much I can do to prepare other than to steel my mind to the discomfort and, literally, the pain I’ll be enduring. In a week and a half, I will undergo a surgical procedure to remove excess skin around my waist.
It’s a decision I wrote about in a previous post, and not one I came to easily or lightly. I considered it for a long time, and initially, I dismissed the idea. I didn’t feel vanity alone would justify the expense or the pain. But, as time went by, I found myself not only getting depressed at my body not rewarding me with the results I wanted to see after 6 years of hard work, but a new problem emerged: physical pain from the extra skin beating up against my kidneys when I run. This is something I never expected, but when it happened, I realized that this wasn’t something I could put off.
When I run, the extra skin at the sides of my body (but more toward my back) flap up and down and hit me. The result is that after a run exceeding 3 miles (which is pretty common for me), I feel like I’ve been kidney punched in both kidneys. It is quite painful, and it keeps me from being able to run as long or as hard as I’d like (and, frankly, as I need). This last reason was the last straw and led me to finally consider the procedure.
I had my pre-op appointment with my nurse this past week, and I will be honest by saying that there were a lot of things discussed that were unsavory. The pain, the recovery, but more specifically, the two tubes that will be placed into my body for draining fluid that my body will produce during the healing process. These tubes will need to be emptied daily, and I will need to log the amount of fluid my body produces. They say that it shouldn’t be too painful, but my skeptical brain says, “That’s exactly what they’d say to someone about to go through a procedure.”
However, everything I hear from people who have gone through this process is positive. Is it painful? Yes. Will there be discomfort for a period of time following the surgery? Of course. But in the end, is it worth it? Absoultely. I look forward to losing the 4″ from my waist in excess skin, in losing the 10-12 lbs of excess weight, and actually feeling good when I run. That I will look better in clothing, and especially in my military uniforms, is a definite bonus.
I will document my process as much as I’m able. I will provide photos before, during, and after, and hope to be a source of information for those considering the same procedure. I will be honest with my experience and will do my best to be forthright without hyperbole. As a man, I might overstate the pain, and for that, I apologize in advance. Any mother/wife will know what I’m talking about here.
So, it’s on to the next chapter for me; from getting through one of the most challenging chapters in my life to a physical transformation. It’s going to be interesting, for sure, and I definitely look forward to looking back two months from now. It’s just the next two months I need to get through. I guess I should tell myself that it’s not WOCS all over again.