Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that occurs in the mesothelium. The mesothelium is a sac that is found around one’s organs and is the site of the mutation of the cells that lead to cancer. In the case of pleural mesothelioma the tissue around the lung is what is affected. This form of cancer is very dangerous due to the location of the mutating cells being so close to organs and the important function that the mesothelium has for our moving organs. (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2008)
In October of 2001, James Rhio O’Conner was diagnosed with this deadly disease. He was given a prognosis of a year to live, but he fought the cancer to survive several more years beyond his prognosis until his death in 2009. He was reluctant to give into his cancer and worked hard to find all types of cures. He tried special diets, supplements, exercise, and mind-body medicine, but what I believe to be the most important was his determination and will power. (Cancer Monthly, 2005)
I admire Rhio, because what he did by fighting showed that he was a strong individual and wanted to live his life to the fullest. I have never been put in his shoes completely, but I had a scare with a possible cancerous cyst. During the spring of my freshman year in high school I developed a cyst on my thyroid that overnight grew so much that it was clearly visible to everyone around me. I went to a three doctors here and had a biopsy taken from the cyst. The conclusion from the tests and the doctors here was inconclusive and because they had not seen many cases of thyroid cysts in youth, we decided to go to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester to get more information.
During the weeks between my inconclusive tests and my trip to Mayo I did the opposite of Rhio. I was very depressed and had almost given up on having a future. I disconnected from my friends, stopped doing some of my day to day activities, and wrote letters to everyone I loved. Looking back, I realize it was the worst way to handle the situation and admire Rhio for the way he dealt with his prognosis, which was much worse than mine. We decided to do surgery to remove the cyst in the summer. The cyst ended up not being cancerous, but it needed to be removed anyway because the cells had the possibility to turn to cancer.
Every time I look in the mirror I see the scar on my neck, even though it is not very noticeable to others. The scar reminds me of the scare I had before and how much more I enjoy life now. Because of this incident I grew mentally and can now believe in myself without a doubt, physically I feel better about myself, and my faith is stronger than ever. I am now the type of person that lives life to the fullest and no longer the quiet girl that sits in the corner at events. Through this experience I was also able strengthened my relationship with my family and my faith. Because of this personal growth I have become a more successful, positive person that helps others, gets involved, and takes chances. Through my experience I have also realized what I want to do in life and have become very focused on setting goals to reach my full potential in the medical field. I plan to study medicine and work in pediatrics at first, and then continue on to my next interest of doing research on treatments and cures for cancer in pediatric oncology.
If I had to go though the act of having cancer, rather than just a scare, I would now fight. I would do chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, change my diet, do special workouts, practice mind-body activities such as the ones Rhio used, and find all the resources I could to prolong my life and beat the cancer. I would consult with my family, friends, colleagues, other people that have gone through the type of cancer I would hypothetically have, and doctors to look for any personal advice or treatments that were available. If after thorough research and having practiced what I found I was still not better, I would look to experimental treatments and procedures. Because of my interest in the medical field I hope to study such experimental treatments after my education. Most of these are risky treatments, but I now realize that life’s not worth living if you are just going to let it pass you by, sometimes you just have to jump in and go for it.
Rhio studied his cancer and different types of treatments and then he wrote a book about his findings. If I were to go through getting a diagnosis such as Rhio’s, I would want to be strong and fight it as long as it was physically and mentally possible. The way he dealt with it was the way I would want anyone I know to fight it and I would want to be there encouraging them along the way. Although the way I dealt with my experience ended up making me the goal driven, confident, and happy woman I am today, I still believe that fighting till the end is the best way to deal with a diagnosis such as Rhio’s. His fight was inspiring to me! It showed me that no matter what happens in life I should not give up on myself. I should go out into the world searching for the answer to make things better just like Rhio did.
Cancer Monthly. (2005). James Rhio O’Connor. Retrieved February 11, 2010, from
Surviving Mesothelioma: A Patients
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2008, August 9). Mesothelioma. Retrieved February 13, 2010, from