Bills, Jessica – Surviving Mesothelioma

Bills, Jessica

The Silent Hero

Catchy lyrics and upbeat music is one way to catch child’s attention or at least my attention. I remember being 6 years old and singing along to my favorite children’s Disney show, Out of the Box. I can still hear the tune in my head. To me at 6 years old, the song was just fun to sing along to and I didn’t pay any attention to the lyrics. Today, being 18, I look at things a little differently. Thinking out of the box can mean many different things to many different people. For me, it means to broaden my horizons and don’t be afraid to go out and do something different for a change. For one man, thinking out of the box was his only lifeline when all the hope he had left was that which was within himself.

James Rhio O’Connor was diagnosed with a deadly cancer called mesothelioma and only given one year to live. Mesothelioma is a rare cancer primarily caused by exposure to asbestos, which is used for fireproofing, electrical insulation, building materials, brake linings, and chemical filters. .

Mesothelioma is cancer of the mesothelium, or the thin layer of tissue that lines the area around the heart, the chest cavity, and the abdominal cavity. It protects the body’s vital organs by coating them with a special fluid that enables their movement. For example, it helps the lungs move with ease during breathing.

Without knowing the pain and suffering one must go through to have my body fail me, I would only be presumptuous by saying that I know how I would handle the situation; if I were given the same grim prognosis as Rhio was given. I know that I’m a “fighter”, and that I take the best care of my body I. I exercise, eat right, and I don’t do anything that could harm me in the long run. I know that doing these things is my best shot at a healthy, long life. But then, there are some people who do all of these things, yet are still faced with overwhelming odds when told they have a terminal illness. It is the ones who must love life the most, that long outlive their doctor’s prognosis. They live a full, rich life and teach all of us just how precious life really is. They are the ones that inspire you to be the best you can be and not to take this one life for granted. James Rhio O’ Connor is this hero.

Following his prognosis of mesothelioma and given only a year to live, Rhio took a different approach to how he could prolong his life. Since chemotherapy and surgery didn’t have a very positive outlook, and after much research, he formulated a plan to extend his life. This plan included supplements, healthy diet, spiritual healing, and discipline. He survived for 7 ½ years and wrote a book called: “They Said Months, I Chose Years: A Mesothelioma Survivor’s Story.” His legacy proves to us all that there is indeed something greater than ourselves; that the human spirit is the sum of all good things in humanity. Rhio passed away on July 11, 2009. He was 69 years old, yet he lives on in the hearts of those that know his story.

When I think of a person that is a hero, I think of someone who has made a positive difference in someone else’s life. Going through something as devastating as cancer, knowing your days have been “numbered” by health care professionals would most certainly cause one to reflect on the value of one’s life. Rhio must have realized that the giving of himself was key to his own survival. In sharing his struggle, he became in icon for hope and miracles. “We are continually faced with great opportunities which are brilliantly disguised as unsolvable problems,” spoke Margaret Mead referring to the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. To Rhio, his great opportunity to make a difference came later in his life, and he continues to remind us that it is never too late.

Putting myself in that hospital bed, hearing that horrible news, I would probably be devastated enough to give up at first. Then I would look for sources of hope. Rhio has given me something to fight for; something to believe in; something modern medicine alone can not provide. But most importantly, Rhio has taught me to cherish the life I have, to strive to be a better person, and to better understand that we ourselves are miracles – that during our fleeting lifetime, all the trials and tribulations are mere distractions to the truth that our finest hour is already upon us. Thank you, Rhio. Love, Jessie

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