Andre, Miguel

LIVING WITH MESOTHELIOMA AND BEATING THE ODDS

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that develops from the protective lining that covers many of the body’s internal organs. The cause is almost always exposure to asbestors. Mr. Rhio O’Connor contracted the malignant disease when he was younger, but was not diagnosed with it until he was sixty-one, in October of 2001. His cancer affected his pleural cavity or the lungs’ cavity. His doctors gave him six months to live, but as the title of his book said “They Said Months, I Chose Years: A Mesothelioma Survivor’s Story”, he outlived his prognosis by seven and a half years.

Upon his diagnosis and prognosis, he didn’t want to believe that traditional medicine would help him much, therefore, he turned to other form of treatments, especially since surgery was out of the question according to the position of his cancer in relation to his spinal cord. According to his biography, he spent a great deal of time talking to doctors, therapists and in libraries researching ways other than traditional medicine that could prolong his life. In the end he succeeded. It must be noted that his optimistic approach played a great role in his success as well. I know a lot of people who would have crawled in a corner and started to write a “Bucket List”, but Mr. Rhio didn’t.

It hasn’t been long since I read Mr. Rhio’s story, however, when I learned of his approach to his deadly disease, I became aware that although traditional medicine is unequivocally beneficial in our society, but the best way to treat ourselves from any illnesses or disease is through first of all, knowing how our body works and secondly avoid certain things, especially food and behavior that could be harmful to our health.

I was born in a family where both sides: mother and father suffered from heart disease. At thirty, I was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm; four years later it started to leak and I had to have emergency surgery to replace the root of the aorta and the aortic valve; two days following the surgery, I had a stroke and one day later I suffered a congestive heart failure. I was given days to live, but thanks to the man upstairs, I survived. I was never given a dire cancer prognosis, however, I was told clearly that I would not live past 38 years-old. My blood pressure couldn’t be controlled, my cholesterol was three times higher than what it was supposed to be; in so many words I was a mess. Therefore, I decided to do some research with regard to genetic illnesses, especially heart diseases. I found out that because both parents suffered from certain illnesses, their children are only pre-disposed to having the same defects, it’s not written in stone that they will. So, I decided to make some changes. I went to the libraries everyday and read many books on genetic predisposition; I bought the latest Merck manual and read it. I found out that if I were to change my lifestyle, I could live longer: I started to eat healthier; I exercise daily; I quit smoking, which by the way was the hardest change to make. I learned that alcohol is blood thinner, so I drink a couple of glasses of wine everyday with my dinner. As a result after my surgery, I was taking an average of thirty pills a day, but because of the changes in my lifestyle, my doctors cut down the pills to four a day. That saved me a bundle of change, and added a few years to my life, not to mention a little life to my years.

I believe that our survival instincts would prompt us to do anything to keep us alive for as long as we can. What I am trying to say is that if anyone of us were given a few months to live because of an illness that was incurable, we would most certainly go beyond traditional approaches to look for ways that would prolong our lives. Mr. Rhio had that choice and he did what he had to do. He didn’t cure his cancer but the end result was that he succeeded in prolonging his life to nearly seven years beyond his prognosis; now that’s courage and determination.

References:

Cancer Monthly

National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health – Occupational Cancer

Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases – Malignant Mesothelioma

Pennsylvania Department of Health – Mesothelioma

National Heart Lung and Blood Institute – Asbestos-Related Lung Diseases

Moffitt Cancer Center – General Information about Malignant Mesothelioma

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