The Inspirational Story Of James “Rhio” O’Connor

The Inspirational Story of James “Rhio” O’Connor

Death is something all humans face; however, the way in which death comes about is subjective to all humans. One example leading to death is something every person should know about; cancer. James “Rhio” O’Connor was a 61 year old man that was diagnosed with a fatal form of cancer known as mesothelioma in October of 2001. Mr. O’Connor’s doctors informed him that because of this variation of cancer and the location of the tumor inside of him, surgery was not practical, resulting in a remaining lifespan of approximately one year. Rhio O’Connor refused to buy the one-year-to-live deal and set off to defy the odds. O’Connor immersed himself in countless hours in the library researching mesothelioma, consulting doctors and other professionals, as well as other victims that were being held prisoner by this awful, fatal form of cancer. O’Connor researched numerous therapies and eventually developed his own style for the fight against his cancer, which consisted of a belief in something greater than he, his spirit, and the advantage of making tough choices aided him in the fight to prove that he was worth more than one year. I find this as the perfect story for inspiration and I will gladly inform you how this is inspirational, as well as what I would do if I were to be placed in a similar situation, but let us first learn more about this nasty cancer known as mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma is formed by a tumor that grows on the sac lining the internal body cavities. Mesothelioma is considered rare because it only affects roughly 3,000 Americans each year. There is not a single cure for mesothelioma, but there are steps in place to reduce the impact this cancer can have on someone. These steps are subjective to one’s self based on where the cancer originated and how early the cancer was discovered.

The story of James “Rhio” O’Connor is by far one of the most inspirational stories that I have came across. This story inspires me because Mr. O’Connor defied the odds and showed the world that he was not willing to wave a white flag and give his mesothelioma a victory just yet. Every time I am engulfed in a situation where I feel that the odds are against me, such as taking an exam that I did not study for, I revisit Rhio O’Connor’s situation. I tell myself if he can defy the odds, so can I, by going in with a positive, proactive attitude. Because of the magnitude of this story, it will inspire me the rest of my life to never give up just because the odds are against me.

If I were thrown into Mr. O’Connor’s situation, I would do everything in my power to show that I am not going down without a fight. If the news came that I was a victim of mesothelioma, I would stay optimistic to look at the positives that can come out of such a negative situation. I would set goals for myself so I could stay focused on achieving them instead of dwelling on the cancer. I would consult professionals, such as doctors to help give me a better understanding of mesothelioma, such as how it forms, and what are some of the therapies that might give me more time to enjoy life here on Earth. I would spend hours upon hours researching this form of cancer on my own to gain knowledge and other people’s insight on how to live with it. I would find other survivor’s of mesothelioma so I could have others that understand what I would be going through first hand and be able to be there for each other to keep one another optimistic and focused on the good, not the bad. I would look at different forms of treatment, such as chemotherapy and surgery, and how beneficial it would be to me if I were to undergo such treatments. It is safe to say that I would try everything that I could possibly do so this cancer would not get the best of me.

Decisions are an enormous part to stay optimistic. Making the right decision is extremely hard, especially when death is a possible outcome. One thing is for sure, I would not make such a determining decision on my own. I would consult friends, family, professionals, and others that are affected by mesothelioma to hear and analyze their responses. Having to make such decisions on your own can make one feel like they are alone and that no one is there to help them. Keeping in mind that there are many others around you that are willing to help and guide you is a way to stay positive and focused on ways of living with this cancer instead of dying from it.

Because I do not have mesothelioma I do not know first hand on how hard it is to live with it, but I do know how important it is to stay optimistic, and that is exactly what Mr. James “Rhio” O’Connor did. He refused to purchase the one-year-to-live deal and in turn, bought himself approximately six more years to live. Unfortunately, the inevitable face of death caught up to him and claimed him on July 11, 2009, at the age of 69.

If you would like to learn more about mesothelioma, other survivors, or more about Mr. O’Conner himself, please visit

By: Baker, Kyle

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