All You Have To Do Is Reach For It

Surviving Mesothelioma

Persistent, courageous, relentless, optimistic, perseverant, determined. Is it possible for one person to have all these characteristics? I know a man in particular who with all these qualities battled one of the most deadly cancers in our society, Mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that is caused due to exposure to asbestos. The asbestos particles, usually invisible to the naked eye, enter our body and embed themselves along the mesothelium layer surrounding our internal organs. These embedded particles damage and cause mutation in the mesothelial cells. The reason it is such a difficult cancer to treat is because of the close proximity of the mesothelium layer to the major organs. And also, the symptoms for the cancer appear at a later stage making it very hard to treat. For more information on asbestos caused Mesothelioma, please visit

It is beyond my imagination to think how I would react if I were diagnosed with a deadly cancer. Especially, one that will kill me in less than a year. Less than a year to tie all loose ends. Less than a year to finish all unfinished business. Less than a year to say goodbye to loved ones. I would probably panic and lose heart especially after looking at the survival rate for this cancer. Once diagnosed, the survival rate in the past five years has been ten to eleven months. However, Rhio ‘O’ Connor did not turn tail when the doctors informed him about the statistics and told him to “not fight it”. Instead of giving up, he decided to fight the cancer by seeking abundant knowledge about his condition and broadening his mind to other methods that could help him lead a much better life even with “Mr. Meso”. He and his physicians built a personal regimen that helped him change his fate. His story inspires not only me but millions of people suffering from fatal cancers.

Since Mesothelioma has no cure, Rhio had to follow the usual procedures, surgery and chemotherapy. However, surgery was denied to him as his tumor was along his spinal cord. This did not deter Rhio; he ventured into the uncertain land of alternate therapy. Regardless of the dangers of shortening his life further due to these uncommon practices, he plunged head-long into studying diets and concepts on nutrition. He, with the help of many physicians, created a personal regimen of over one hundred supplements. He also practiced mind-body medicine, an approach that focuses on the interactions between the mind and body. It involves a variety of practices: meditation, guided imagery, biofeedback, words, drawings and group support to help him overcome the numerous hardships ahead of him.

Perhaps, if I were diagnosed with cancer, I would draw courage from the fact that Rhio ‘O’ Connor and many others have battled this deadly cancer through sheer persistence and determination. These heroes, through their stories have reinforced the saying,

“If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle”.

It is best to you know your enemy thoroughly in order to defeat them. Therefore, knowing my cancer will be my first priority. Knowledge can be found everywhere nowadays. However, to obtain a range of information that is accurate can only be found in a few places. One of them would be the libraries. Rhio had visited numerous libraries to gather information on his cancer and to build his regime. Like him, I would do intense research on the diets and other treatments that can help me build my own personal regime.

Doing personal research by going to research institutions and libraries to gather information is all well and good. However, it is always necessary to consult with physicians who are well versed in these subjects to help build my regime. It is always better to get a second and a third opinion as these eliminate most human errors and ensure that the information is accurate. These fundamental steps are important especially when it comes to finding a viable treatment to an incurable cancer.

When you are facing a situation where you have to embattle one of the rarest and the deadliest cancers in the country, it is only natural to feel desperate and helpless. I have witnessed this first-hand when my grandfather was diagnosed with bone cancer (last stage) at the age of seventy. At first, he was determined to continue his normal life, even going to the extent of not acknowledging the presence of the disease at all. However, with little support from his family, he eventually gave up hope and passed away within a few months. It made me realize the importance of having someone who can understand and empathize.

Therefore, one of my priorities would be to find others who are dealing with Mesothelioma and have successfully prolonged their lives. One such person would be Paul Kraus who was diagnosed with Mesothelioma in 1997. Sharing opinions and information would be very helpful both psychologically as well as physically.

The average estimated deaths due to cancer are about 560,000 and over a million being diagnosed with cancer in a year in the Unites States of America. Even though there have been many breakthroughs in the medical world over the last several years, cancer remains the largest killer in not just the US but also around the world. James Rhio ‘O’ Connor’s life story acts as a constant reminder to those who have been diagnosed by cancer everyday that hope is right in front of you. All you have to do is reach for it.

By: Aishwarya, Vivekanandan

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