Austin, Jami | Surviving Mesothelioma

Austin, Jami

Not Ready Yet

Every day I hear a new person complain about their petty issues, about an electric bill that is too high or a driver that blared the horn at a red light or a teacher that is too hard on them in school, and every time I swear these people would tell you the world is ending. I can tell you this with completely honesty, because I am one of them. When I received my first D on a math test, I thought the world was going to stop spinning that instant. But it didn’t, and life kept going, and I continued on to have a B in the class. Yet every time we continue to complain about the smallest things, forgetting about real issues, issues that people like James O’Connor have to face every day of their lives.

James “Rhio” O’Connor was faced with a prognosis of having only a year to live after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer. Mesothelioma is a cancer that affects the cells that form the tissue surrounding most of the main internal organs in the body. Mesothelioma attacks these cells, and once they are damaged, the tissue will deteriorate and the internal organs are at risk of being infected and deteriorated. But being a man of intelligence, a will to live, and even knowing that this cancer is one of the most fatal, he refused to settle with his prognosis. Researching and talking to doctors and clinicians for months, James O’Connor developed his own treatment plan, and not only made it to the predicted one year, but surpassed it to six years.

One year. Looking back, so much has happened within a year. I graduated high school, traveled all summer, started college, met new friends, moved to a new house. But how much more would have happened had I found out that this would be my last year? My last year to live, to be with my family, to do all that I had planned with my life? Would I be afraid, scared to live at all? Or would I follow in the steps of James “Rhio” O’Connor, and not only face a diagnosis, but defy it?

It is scary to think about facing such a real issue, staring it straight in the face, knowing now matter how much complaining you do, the issue will be there staring right back. After hearing this amazing story, I wonder if anyone could have the same sheer determination and “never give up” attitude that allowed James O’Connor to look cancer straight in the eye and tell it that he is not ready to go. If I was faced with this fate, a terminal diagnosis with very little treatment to even prolong life, let alone save it, I know my first reaction would be to cry and hide from the world. But the strength that “Rhio” O’Connor exemplified throughout his fight makes me think again.

If faced with the same diagnosis, I honestly do not think I could hit the ground running like he did. I would explore every option possible, travel to see all the best doctors, and consult all of my family and friends, but when it comes down to it, I do not have the strength of James O’Connor. Of course he inspires me to research every option, explore every possibility treatment had to offer, but in reality, James “Rhio” O’Connor inspires me in a very different, very real way.

This story has caused me to realize that it is the simple problems, the annoying store clerk who manages to make a mistake ringing up every item you try to purchase or the dog misbehaving in front of your new neighbors, which create the lives we live and prepare us for the real problems that will define who we are as people. Not everyone will be faced with such a dreadful prognosis as James O’Connor, and even less people will respond as bravely as James O’Connor, but everyone does face simple problems, day in and day out. I know that every day I will encounter a new problem, a new obstacle that I will either overcome or step around, but that is just it, I know that it will only be an obstacle that I will get past, somehow or another. It won’t be life ending or the hardest decision I will ever have to make. James O’Connor leaves behind his legacy, and calls each of us who knows his story to make these decisions and know that they are just part of our lives, not the end of them.

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