Beavers, Chris – Surviving Mesothelioma

Beavers, Chris

Facing the Most Challenging Decision of My Life

The gift of life is a spectacular phenomenon that most all humans love and cherish. With the fast paced life and harsh society I live in, it is difficult to slow down and take time to relish this beautiful world and be thankful for the life in which I have been granted. As a young teenage man the thought of not living a full life has never really occurred to me until I read James O’Connor’s story. So how does one react when they are diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that will most likely end their life within a few months? One can only imagine the shock and heartbreak of such a diagnosis, much less think of how he or she would deal with the situation. James O’Conner was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in October of 2001. With mesothelioma being such a deadly form of cancer, doctors informed O’Conner that surgery was not an option, that radiation would only worsen his condition, and that normal treatments like chemo could possibly give him a few extra months to live at best. At this point O’Conner made one of the most brave and risky decisions that any human could ever make. He rejected any chemo treatment and set out on his own path to find a cure this disease he was facing. Sadly, James O’Connor passed away July 11, 2009, from mesothelioma. Though the ending of the story may be unfortunate, one must understand the truly amazing journey this man embarked upon to outlive his prognosis of merely months by seven and a half years. The incredibility of his survival made me seriously think about what I would do if I were diagnosed with mesothelioma.

First of all, I would be overwhelmed with such devastating news and would have to work through my emotional turmoil to the point where I could make rational decisions. Doing so would not come easy because of the constant reminder that death was a certainty. O’Connor’s story reminded me so much of my cousin Robert Martin who died of mesothelioma. As a young man, Robert had worked in construction which utilized a large amount of asbestos. At that time, the danger of working with asbestos was unknown. Similar to O’Connor, Robert chose not to take chemo because the first session made him extremely ill. Unlike O’Connor, however, Robert did not seek other remedies which would prolong his life. Instead, he threw himself into his last project: building a dream cabin for his wife that they both had planned on building for many years. Just as he finished the cabin, the illness became so severe that he returned home and never left until he died a most horrible death. While both men could be considered brave in their own way, I believe that I would take the route that O’Connor chose.

Secondly, I would consult a personal trainer rather than a clinician, as many people who have terminal cancer do. A personal trainer usually takes a different approach when working with someone who is terminally ill. Whereas a clinician takes a medical approach towards the solution of this problem, a trainer takes a different though very effective approach through healthy exercise to strengthen the body’s ability to withstand the disease. Like the clinician, a trainer also requires a client to adhere to a rigorous diet plan that supports the client’s health needs. The combination of the two—exercise and diet—serves to reinforce the medical regimen I would be under. In addition to diet and exercise, a personal trainer offers moral support and inspiring words. In my opinion, the route of using a personal trainer to aid in enduring the challenges of a terminal illness would be immeasurable.

Thirdly, composing my last will and testament would be the most difficult and emotional task I would have the do. Life is very precious to me, and I would want to spend as much time with my loved ones as possible. Doing so would also require my sitting down and talking with my parents about my funeral arrangements and the disposal of my few earthly possessions. I would also talk with my three brothers and two sisters and do my best to encourage them to do well in school and to always do things that would make our parents proud. Finally, I would write each member of my family a letter expressing my deep love for them. To my best friend Sean, I would talk to him sincerely about how much his friendship has meant to me throughout our lives. I would also write him a letter of encouragement, saying that I hoped one day he would succeed in what we had both planned for each other.

In retrospect, the story of James O’Connor has touched the lives of people all over the world, including me. It took an enormous amount of courage to make the decision that O’Conner made, and I trust that I could be as strong as he if faced with such devastating diagnosis.

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