Ball, Jane | Surviving Mesothelioma

Ball, Jane

Blame it on Rhio

“Mesothelioma. If you, or someone you know has, or has died from mesothelioma, call personal injury lawyer, Dewey Cheatum.” What an odd commercial, I thought; if you are sick, see an attorney.

Less than 24 hours later, my doctor would confirm my worst fears—I did indeed have the Big C. He was not his usual joie de vive self, and, someone who loves healing. He was reserved and detached; with his head looking down at my chart, he told me I had to go to see an oncologist who was waiting for me upstairs.

I answered “Who Dat?” attempting to lighten the mood, as we are both rabid Saints fans and were totally exuberant at winning the Superbowl. My life in the Big Easy has been hard the past few years rebuilding my home and my life after Katrina, and now, I’m knocked down again.

Cancer is quite common here. Our main source of drinking water is the mighty Mississippi River which carries all the wastes and runoffs from the cities, factories and farms of 28 different tributaries, or as we locals refer to her as the Big Drain. For months, I had gutted our home and numerous other homes full of moldy flood debris, including ripping out old ceilings made of asbestos with other church volunteers.

“Oh, God, help me,” I silently prayed in the elevator. When faced with a disaster or crises, prayer has always been my first response. Still numb from my doctor visits that day, as a Southern female I felt helpless, and I took to my bed as soon as I got home. The heat, humidity and bad news overwhelmed me, and I cried myself to sleep.

Then, as if in a cheesy werewolf movie, I awoke a different animal. Armed with my laptop, I began at Cancer Monthly’s website www.survivingmesothelioma.com which I had seen posted in the oncologist’s office to learn more about my cancer: what it was, and if it was likely genetically-prone or environmental. For days, I lived with my computer scanning the web seeking which treatment facilities were doing research and trials.

With two medical schools, Tulane and Louisiana State universities, plus a branch of M.D. Anderson in my home town, I felt blessed that I could get first hand information locally and participate in state-of-the-art procedures that my family could afford. I studied which treatments were actually documented as successful and how my profile fit into other survivors’. Initially, I was told I would have no more than a year—at age 20, I had to pack my entire life into the next 12 months, or, attempt to appeal my death sentence as an innocent young adult.

I elected to have conventional chemotherapy treatments and the cure was almost as bad as the illness. However, I went into remission without surgery. I supplemented my ordinary diet with much healthier food choices, and downed additional antioxidant vitamins. It was amazing to read the never ending myriad of international claims to cure cancer—from legitimate sounding clinics in faraway, isolated places, to coffee enemas and secret substances, there was no end to charlatans willing to prey on the desperate for their dollars.

My family supported me daily with their love, positive attitudes, and prayer. They were there every step of the way; when I felt down, they lifted me up. They gave me so much hope. I never lost my faith, and believed in myself. From chemo and radiation, to barley green and psychic surgery, I had researched everything. Who would have thought that an entire world of alleged cures was at my fingertips. Besides my daily prayers, there was my church group praying for me, and I fortified myself with biographies of men and women who had faced this same devastating disease. Being so inspired, I could imagine myself living to write my story as these ordinary people who overcame their tremendous medical challenges to live on had done. Like James “Rhio” O’Connor, I am just an ordinary individual. I firmly believe my faith and positive surroundings of loving family, friends and medical personnel have contributed the most to my healing. Mr. O’Connor takes the credit or the “blame” for changing thousands of lives for the better.

For a while I had to give up playing my beloved basketball and had to be content watching games on television, but getting plenty of relaxation and rest was essential to rebuilding my health.

I am now four years past my ETD (estimated time of departure) and chose medical over law school because I was so inspired to choose the right path for healing.

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