• Friday, 12 August 2005

It is all I can do to keep from weeping.


I think I am angry, but it feels more like pain.  I am so disappointed about the direction my Peace Corps adventure has turned.  I have so much invested in this goal and now I find that my surgery makes me ineligible to serve for two more years.  At that point I would have to reapply rather than be re-instated. 


I thought that re-instatement was an option.  Back in June, when my pathology report arrived at the Peace Corps Medical Officer’s office, my nurse was delighted to tell me my condition was downgraded from cancer to surgery.  At less than .2 my cancer odds are equal to or less than those of anyone my age who receives regular mammograms.  It should be a matter of recuperating for 3-6 months and them applying for re-instatement.


Today I received a note saying no.  I cannot be re-instated.  I am not eligible.  The waiting period following surgery is 2 years.   


It appears I will not ever serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer.


I wanted to be a PCV from the first time I heard about the program when I was a little girl, back when President Kennedy introduced the program in the early 60’s.  I was in second grade.  I dreamed about serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer.   I would stretch out on my bed in the big yellow house I called home and flip through the dog-eared paperback book I had received in the mail from Peace Corps headquarters.  That dream planted the seeds for my desire to acquire a college degree.


The years passed and my dreams grew and changed, but I continued to cherish the dream of Peace Corps service.  I married my high school sweetheart, raised two fine children, ad a career as an NCO in the US Air Force and managed to complete AA, BS and an MA.  We traveled and tried new things, we volunteered and served others in many ways, but that Peace Corps seed longed to be planted in fertile soil to gown and bear fruit. 


When the time finally seemed right, I planted the seed and my husband and I nurtured the tiny seedling into a healthy plant. 


We discussed this dream on our nightly walks.  Initially, we did not let our enthusiasm show very much.  We were afraid to care, because we believed we could not pursue the dream.  Mark has hundreds of college credits, but he does not have the requisite degree.   We were delighted when we learned that individuals with AA degrees could be considered for service.  We decided to meet with a recruiter and find our whether Marks experience, drive and attitude could counter the need for a formal degree.  


Once it was established we really could apply, it was as if we were a newly engaged couple.  Our enthusiasm and delight spilled out.  Neither of us thought there would be other obstacles to our shared dream.  


That was back in the fall of 2003.  Now in August 2005 I am a Peace Corps has been. 


I thought when I had the mastectomy and reconstructive surgery I would be able to get back on course and resume my place on the team.         


It is their loss.


But it still hurts.


  • Tuesday 9 August 2005

What a chaotic week it has been.  My head has not hit the pillow before 2AM since last Wednesday night.  I need beauty rest.


  • Wednesday, 3 August 2005

Today I peed in a cup, gave some blood, got poked and prodded in private places, answered myriad questions about my family and personal history and now have most of my Close of Service (COS) physical complete. 


I still have to provide a few more specimens for the lab – the fecal and stool exams for parasites, etc.  My days are just filled with so much fun.  


  • Tuesday, 2 August 2005

Despite a few academic degrees, a military history, a track record of successes in challenging endeavors and a lifetime of experience, I do not feel like I am smart enough to actually make the arrangements for this trip!


This morning I printed the visa application paperwork and all the associated guidance provided on the Ukrainian Consulate website.  I have pages and pages of fine print outlining detail after detail about the intricacies of obtaining a visa from Ukraine and I still have questions.   


It appears I will call the consulate later.       


With some of my visa research complete, I moved on to making a medical appointment to accomplish the close of service (COS) examination.  Nothing is ever easy.


The VA hospital can accommodate Peace Corps physicals, but the earliest available appointment is 40 days away.  This is not soon enough – I plan to be in Ukraine by mid-September.  I decide to go through the retired veterans side of the house and see if I can get a physical.  I am informed in no uncertain terms that the VA cannot accommodate me since the physical is for Peace Corps purposes. 


After much discussion, It is clear I will not get a physical from that side of the house no matter what.  I decide to simply use my medical insurance (Tri-care Prime) and am referred to a local medical facility: “Can you come in this afternoon, ma’am?”  Whoo hoo! 


I set up an appointment for tomorrow so the wheels are rolling and I think I am actually moving forward.  I will have the initial physical and some of the lab work done tomorrow. 


I try not to think about getting a continuing care physical (the follow-up on my mastectomy/reconstruction surgery).  I do not have all the paperwork I need for this – the final pathology report may be in my Peace Corps headquarters file, but it may not be there sooooo I may have an uphill climb to get up the path ahead of me.  But for now, I will focus on the COS requirements.


The other part of the COS process is the dental examination.  Now I have to find a dentist and get an appointment. 


It occurs to me that I was doing essentially the same thing last year at this time: I was struggling to complete the medical and dental examinations to be part of the Peace Corps. 


Maybe I am not moving forward after all.


OK, let me take my mind off all this – I have to get an airline ticket and it is best to have 30 days lead time to get a best or at least better fare…that may not happen.


All this work to get back to Ukraine and resume my life with Mark, then, if I want to request re-instatement, I will have more checklists to struggle with.





  • Monday, 1 August 2005

It is good to see August roll in.  In September I will be on my way back to my husband in Crimea.  In five weeks, it will be our wedding anniversary and I will be another year older.  My birthday falls on the 3rd of September and we will celebrate our anniversary on the 5th which coincides with Labor Day.  Of course it appears we will celebrate separately this year.


This will not be the first time we have been apart on our special day.  In fact, we spent our very first wedding anniversary in different time zones too.  Mark was far away on the last island in the Aleutians – Shemya, Alaska, a small “rock” not far from Siberia.  I was in the heartland of America (Iowa). This year he will be only a few kilometers from Russian again, this time in the other direction.  I will, once again, be in the Midwest (Minnesota).   History does seem to repeat itself.


Yesterday we emptied out some space in Carol’s guest room to give me more room to spread out.  After a few hours of toting stuff to the basement we collapsed on the couch and just “vegged” the day away.  We talked and watched inane home-decorating shows…so many great ideas and such ambitious people.  After Carol’s stressful work week, I am sure she was glad to relax.  I pulled out a knitting project and whiled away the day.


Today I called the VA about my physical (the Peace Corps Close of Service exam I need to have THIS WEEK).  The woman who handles this program will be in on Tuesday so tomorrow I must dial again. 


Next I wandered down to the dungeon (the basement where the computer is set up) and spent time looking into visa requirements for the trip to Ukraine.  Despite recent streamlining of procedures, the information is no fun if you are bureaucratically challenged.


When the frustration level mounted I moved to the guest room where I emptied my bags and put away things while I listened to NPR. 


Tonight we will watch Travis play lacrosse.  Though I raised two kids, I never really did get to be a sports Mom.  Moriah was in orchestra and JROTC and other activities but never played sports.  Caleb ran cross country and was on the crew team in Boston and I attended meets, so I hade a taste of the life.  Sports is huge here in Apple Valley and Carol is a single mom with two sons who loooooove sports: particularly hockey and lacrosse.  It is fun to see all the sports paraphernalia, listen to the jargon and I am in awe of the scheduling challenges involved in managing this suburban sports calendar!