C.C. Scott once said “The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it.” James “Rhio” O’ Conner is living proof that with a strong spirit and determination anyone can overcome any obstacle placed in front of them. In October of 2001 O’Conner was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. His doctors gave him less than a year to live. He was told to make final arrangements and to say goodbye to his wife. O’Conner refused to listen to his Oncologists and instead made up in his mind that he would live and not die. Determined and optimistic he found his on regime and treatments that allowed him to live 6 years past what the doctors expected. His story is inspirational to all people affected by cancer.
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer in which malignant cells develop in the mesothelium, the protective lining that covers most of the body’s internal organs. It is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos. The most common site where mesothelioma occurs is the pleural, the outer lining of the lungs and the inner chest wall. This type of cancer carries a poor prognosis, meaning that the prospect of recovery is very minimal. The most common treatments of mesothelioma are radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery. For O’Conner surgery was not an option because of the location of the tumor and chemo therapy would make life harder so he chose to turn to other more unconventional forms of treatment. He spent countless hours in the library learning as much as he could about the disease. He then consulted numerous physicians, nutritionist, and clinicians. He created his own regime of over 100 supplements a day, and used unconventional forms of medicine. With a new diet, the use of mind-body medicine, and an unyielding spirit he was able to survive for multiple years. In 2009 O’Conner passed away 7 ½ years past his original prognosis.
I am especially inspired by his strength and his refusal to give up on life. Sometimes certain situations can make you feel like giving up, and sometimes you do. Hearing Mr. O’Conner’s story inspires me to strive to survive in any situation, even if faced with cancer. If life ever threw me a curveball as hard as cancer I think my first decision would have to be to adopt a spirit of optimism and hope and not one of sorrow and surrender. O’ Conner could have easily accepted his fate and given up but his first step in his effort to beat cancer was his attitude, he quickly adopted an attitude of optimism and hope. He believed in something bigger than him and he knew that cancer was not a death sentence. First I would go to countless doctors to make sure that the diagnosis is right. I would look past chemotherapy and radiation treatments because and into more forms of unconventional treatment. Like O’ Conner I would then consult countless nutritionist, physicians, and clinicians about other forms of treatment. I would further research the disease and look at the stories of people who have lived long and healthy lives with mesothelioma. To make an informed decision it is important to first educate yourself on the disease and its causes and its effects. By doing all of these things I would be able to come up with a formula for my own personal regimen, and be able to survive well past any doctor’s prognosis.
Watching my grandfather helplessly die of cancer was a very difficult time in my life. Every day I wished I could have done something to save him, something to help him. After he was diagnosed I watched him suffer in agony as cancer took his life. Knowing what I know now I believe that I could have done something to help him. I could have helped him fight instead of watching him helplessly surrender to cancer. Cancer is a terrible disease and its effects are dire, I am a living witness to that. O’ Conner’s story inspired me to never give up in any situation. His story taught me to examine every situation and to make well informed decisions about what to do.
We all must believe in something greater than ourselves like Mr. O’Conner. He knew in his spirit and his mind that mesothelioma would not be the end of his life. He didn’t tap out of the ring; he chose to get back up and fight, to fight as hard as he could. And fight he did, he put on his gloves and with the strength of his spirit he lived longer than his doctors could have ever imagined. His story will be an inspiration for many people dealing with cancer. Although he is no longer here his spirit will live on for years to come.
By: Bradley, Myss