Blake, Rebekah

One Little Word Called “Hope”

February 14, 2009 
Valentine’s Day is supposed to be a day full of love and warm feelings not a day to receive bad news. The day started out as another beautiful sunny Central Florida day, a trip to the mall and out to eat at Chick-Fil-a with a friend. When the phone rang, I heard a  voice say, “Hello Rebekah, this is Dr. Anderson and I am afraid I have some bad news. The tests we ran last week have come back positive for a serious form of cancer. I will need you to come in Monday so we can discuss where we go from here.” After I stuttered a shocked, unintelligible reply and hung up, I just stood on the edge of the curb, my thoughts racing. What am I going to do now? My life is over! I might die. How can I tell my family and friends? 

February 16, 2009
What a way to spend a weekend, worrying and fearing the worst from a doctor’s appointment! In spite of the dread, Monday finally came and the doctor calmly explained the type of cancer I had, something I never heard of, much less could pronounce. He further elaborated on the various kinds of tests from blood work, to X-rays, to PET scans, to a Nuclear Scan that I have to take to determine the scope and extent of the cancer. I was just glad that my Mom could be there with me to take it all in. The volume of  information I received about my cancer was overwhelming; and I desperately needed somebody to help me to assimilate it all. 

March 4, 2009
Even now, two weeks later, I still can not believe how much my life has changed and how much testing I had to do. Dr. Anderson says that my cancer is advanced and he is sending me to another specialist to confirm the diagnosis, so they can run more tests if necessary and advise me on possible treatments. I have found myself running through a gamut of emotions all the way from deep despair to hope that I might be cured. 

March 10, 2009
I came across an inspiring story today of a man, named Rhio O’Connor  who was given only a year to live with an incurable cancer called pleural mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelium which is the membrane like sack that covers all the major organs of the body and allows organs like the heart to move freely. The major cause of mesothelioma  is exposure to asbestos products. Through their jobs men come in contact with asbestos more often then women, therefore the risk of men developing mesothelioma is higher then women developing the disease. I could not believe that over 2,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year in the United States alone.  Rhio never relied solely on his doctors but studied and talked to as many researchers, doctors, and patients as he could. He finally decided to develop his own treatment plan. The treatment plan consisted of taking over 100 supplements per day, practicing mind-body medicine, and changing his diet. When he went to the doctors he had chosen for his care, he was able to make informed, rational, necessary, and important decisions. Rhio O’Connor went on to outlive the doctors expectations by more then 6 years before finally succumbing to the disease. Just the mere fact that he was able to take such a proactive approach to his health while still dealing with the everyday realities of his disease is amazing. The way Rhio kept up his spirits and remained positive through it all has changed my outlook on my own diagnosis.

March 13, 2009
I have decided to wallow in self-pity and despair no more, especially after reading Rhio O‘Connor‘s story. My prognosis is not good, and traditional treatments like chemo, radiation and surgery appear to offer no hope. The second opinion I have received is giving me from 8 months to a year to live. I have been talking to everybody I know who has had cancer, trying to get advice from friends and family members. I spend lots of time on the phone crying and receiving help from those closest to me. I find myself talking to other patients in the many doctors offices I visit. Attending local cancer group meetings, and joining an online group has assisted me to begin dealing with the heavy emotions of having cancer. Knowing I am not in this alone has been like soothing aloe on a burn.

March 15, 2009
With 8 months to live and counting, I have decided to take a self taught crash course in cancer medicine. I went to the library today and checked out every book possible on cancer in general and on the specific kind I have. One book I checked out is called “Everyone’s Guide to Cancer Therapy” and is 900 pages long. The book teaches at a lay person’s level the complexities of cancer. It teaches everything from the different treatments available, to side effects that I can expect, to where to go to get the best doctor. At home I have also been looking up different websites. It is a lot of information but I am determined to learn all I can.

April 14, 2009
I have just read a book called “Cancer Increasing Your Odds for Survival.” It addresses a need I have thought very little of in treating my cancer, namely the need for phycological help. One quote from the book that was particularly helpful is, “[psychological] Therapy can help resolve emotional stresses that deplete our energy and immune system.” I have decided to seek out a cancer phycologist who can help me through this difficult time. Another beneficial chapter covers practical steps I can take for my healing. A few of the steps are: Commit to Life, Do Your Homework, Avoid Complacency, Minimize the effects of Chemotherapy and Radiation, Consider Alternatives, Use Complementary Therapies and several other steps.

April 25, 2009
A vital part of my recovery will come from thinking outside the box of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgury as they will not help much at this point. I watched my Grandpa Blake die from loosing hope and his reason to live, refusing to change his life habits, and the severe treatments that did nothing but weaken his already weakened immune system. I am going to be seeking help from clinics and researchers who view as important the building of the immune system and other alternative therapies. The website www.survivingmesothelioma.com not only has Rhio O‘Connor’s story but leading information on alternative treatments for mesothelioma and other advanced cancers like mine. I was excited to learn about the healing properties of one herb called Pawpaw on this website. A Purdue University study stated, “Extracts of paw paw are among the most potent of the 3,500 species of higher plants screened for bioactive compounds in our laboratories… has been effectively used by certain cancer patients.” In using herbs and other alternatives to treat my cancer what do I have to gain but my life. 

May 6, 2009
I was thrilled to receive confirmation of the role the immune system plays in fighting cancer. While searching the surviving mesothelioma website,  I was reading about Marco Lucchi, MD, a surgeon at the University of Pisa, Italy, who was testing an immune-based drug called interleukin-2 (IL-2). Although, the results were not as good as he hoped “Dr. Lucchi believes that this type of therapy might ultimately help transform mesothelioma… [into a] slower moving cancer that gives patients a better chance at long-term survival.” Immune Therapy is the new wave of the future and each new treatment I learn about brings me that much closer to my own cure.

July 4, 2009
The joy of experiencing the daily things like watching my nieces and nephews play, seeing their happy little faces as they watch fire works light up the sky, and listening to their excited chatter are all reminders of the blessings of life. I no longer take these simple life joys for granted.

February 14, 2010
Valentine’s Day is here again and I am still fighting the cancer battle, but I am hopeful for the future. With the combined help of all the people in my life I can find the strength to continue to get up each morning, determined to survive. The true love demonstrated to me in so many tangible and overwhelming ways has given me abundant hope to continue, but after all, isn’t that what Valentine’s Day is all about?

Resources

Balch, James F. and Phyllis A. Balch. Prescription for Nutritional Healing. Garden City     Park, NY: 1990. Print.

Bognar, David. Cancer, Increasing Your Odds for Survival. Alameda, CA: Hunter House,     1998. Print.

Cancer Monthly. Surviving Mesothelioma. Cancer Monthly LLC, 2009. Web. 25 Feb.     2010

Dollinger, Malin, et al. Everyone’s Guide to Cancer Therapy. Kansas City, Missouri:     Andrews McMeel, 2002. Print.

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