Hope or Fear: A Personal Perspective on Cancer
When most people hear the word cancer, thoughts of fear, hopelessness, or even death are common. This horrific disease is a universal reality that touches the lives of all humanity and transcends race, gender and religion. Individual lives have been shortened and families have suffered incalculable loss and suffering due to the consequences of cancer. For this reason it is so refreshing to reflect on the triumphs of those who emerge victorious against the fight against cancer. This is the major reason that I find extreme inspiration in the story of Rhio O’Connor. To learn about the insatiable persistence that Rhio employed in his personal education of mesothelioma is truly motivating, especially considering the pervasiveness and severity of the class of cancer he was battling. His optimism, faith in a higher power and education are an inspiring testament that this parasitic disease can be subdued and even beat with similar measures.
Much like Rhio O’Connor, I was faced with the fearsome reality of cancer. At the age of nine I was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor that exponentially changed my perspective on life forever. In a sixth grade autobiography paper I wrote the following:
“MY LIFE: This is about a boy that finds out he has cancer . . . At that moment I was thinking of all the bad things that could happen, I was scared . . . I thought I had epilepsy but when the doctor told me I had a brain tumor, I felt glad and really mad at the same time. He told me I had to go in for surgery the next morning. When I heard this I started to bawl. Now I was really, really scared.
I didn’t even know when the doctors came and took me in. The next thing I knew, I was waking up in the Intensive Care Unit . . . I felt sick because I hadn’t eaten for two days. They told me that the operation had gone well. I had a big bandage over my head. It itched like crazy . . . The doctors had to shave half of my head so that my hair wouldn’t get in the way. I thought it looked cool. It was like one of those punk haircuts.
After all of this I was fine. I still had to go through radiation and chemotherapy. Radiation made me sick the first time but the nurses helped me through it. Chemotherapy was the worst. I got so sick. Finally I got through it all and now I’m an 11-year-old boy. I’m glad I got through this. THE END.”
Even at such a young age, it was evident to me that cancer has such profound consequences in the lives of all it touches. This disease has altered my life in a variety of ways. As a result of radiation, I am permanently bald. I have noticeable scars as a sign of this unforgiving disease. My family, especially my parents, experienced the suffering of the possible loss of a child. I have had anxious thoughts of other possible side effects. I also am concerned about the possibility of the return of the disease.
As a child, there was little opportunity to develop my individual plan regarding my situation and the disease I was facing. I did not have the ability to research new procedures or alternative methods of treatment. I was simply at the mercy of my parent’s intuitions, the medical field practices of the day and my faith of a higher power.
If I had to face a similar situation again in adulthood, my procedure would be modified to include additional resources and personal education about the situation I was facing. I would utilize many of the same resources that Rhio used. I still maintain that it was the trained medical staff and the medical procedures of that day combined with an optimistic attitude that ultimately prolonged my life. However, if a similar situation repeated, I would choose a plan that included current medical knowledge coupled with research of alternative forms of treatment, especially if radiation, chemotherapy or surgery had little to offer. Similar to Rhio, I would include all resources that were available to assist in making the most informed decision possible. The library and the Internet would become my new university to empower me with the knowledge and resources needed to face the challenge again. Doctors, researchers, current patients and other cancer survivors would become my mentors. I would rely on their experience and knowledge along with my own experiences to increase my possibilities of winning the battle over cancer again.
The immeasurable cost of cancer is far reaching. The results of this disease affect the lives of all that are exposed to its unyielding grip. However, all is not lost in this ongoing battle against cancer. Innovative procedures and ongoing research give reason to hope in a brighter day. Regardless of the struggles of cancer in my life the most poignant consequence of my experience is not one of fear or anxiety but an overwhelming appreciation for life and an unquenchable desire to grasp each fleeting moment. Each time I see the remaining scar or ponder on my experience with cancer, I am quickly reminded of the opportunity afforded to me of extended life. It is the success stories of people like Rhio O’Conner and other cancer survivors that provide the determination that will be required to one day put and end to the unappeasable demands of cancer.
For more information about mesothelioma please visit www.survivingmesothelioma.com