Burris, Chris – Surviving Mesothelioma

Burris, Chris

A Brush Stroke: Rhio O’Connor

Poof! Clouds of smoke clear and reality unveils its beautifully grotesque appearance and life as one knows it is completely, utterly altered. As the truth sets in, questions arise: What should be done? Who can I ask for help? Do the usual remedies usually work, or do I look further? It would be a wise guess, to say the least, that the late Rhio O’Connor pondered these same questions when confronted with news of his “incurable” cancer, and would also be wise to say that he serves as an inspiration for anyone who is told that they have no choice but to lay down and die. If I could mention one thing that encouraged me the most about Rhio O’Connor’s life, it would be the fact that he believed in something far greater than himself; he believed that his life was not merely an isolated painting, but a brush stroke on the masterpiece of humanity. In the same way, I see that my life is a part of something greater, something to be cherished and fought for. This is why if I were given a dire cancer prognosis, it would be in my best interest to work on leaving a legacy for those who come after me in the same way that Rhio O’Connor did, even if that legacy is small. All of my strength would be poured into three words: life, survival, prevention.

I would first like to suggest that one of first things a person would encounter in such a dire situation is the choice – the fork in the road – that determines whether or not he or she will buckle and give up under the pressure, or continue living and giving thanks for what he or she still does have – the moment at hand. It is this moment at hand that drives me to accept the latter of the two choices and subject myself to limitless living and selfless giving; this moment is a constant reminder of how my opportunity to impact someone’s life is always right now, especially with my current situation serving as a reminder that I might not have tomorrow to make the impact that I would like to make. I gather Rhio O’Connor was definitely a man who lived by this philosophy, seeing how he outlived his prognosis by over six years. It takes a strong concentration of self worth and bravery to face death and tell it to come back later on when you are ready. With this perspective, my life, like Rhio O’Connor’s life, has more meaning and waking up in the morning initiates another willful fight to live life to the fullest as a victorious survivor, in which leads me to my next word: survival.

In the same way that a school pays a research analyst to do research on a specific issue, I feel that life pays a person with a specific issue to research on that issue, and to survive. Even if death or danger is imminent, that survival can be manifested in the situation’s effects on others. I support this with an example. Say there is a man named Roger who lives in a city that has no grocery store and everyone has to travel 74 miles to get groceries. Every time Roger thinks about it, he visualizes the agony of having to travel so far and preserve so much food in order to keep from having to replenish his supply too soon. This leads Roger to do the research , studying, and planning that is necessary for alleviating his own pain and suffering and that of his community. If Roger does research to find out how he can get a store in the city and succeeds, he not only benefits from the knowledge that he has received as an asset to his survival, but he also causes the whole city to benefit as well. As a human being and partaker in life, he has just been “paid” in a sense by life as it pertains to his specific issue. In this same way, as I read books and ask others about my cancer and its remedies, I receive “payment” by life in the way of survival which in turn results in prolonged opportunity to further my research. I am now no longer just a victim, but I am a person whose situation has allowed me to introspectively evaluate my ability to be used for the benefit and strengthening of others who are or may possibly go through my same issue just like Rhio O’Connor did. Mentioning the strengthening of others leads me to arrive at my next word: prevention.

I am learning that a large part of legacy building is doing something to the advantage of others and, with the proper knowledge and perspective, passing on what you know as a lamp illuminating dark spots in people’s lives and a fortress guarding against future calamity and complications. Rhio O’Connor’s case is a perfect example of how this knowledge and perspective can be profitable to not only sustain life in a dire situation, but to prevent that dire situation from occurring in someone else’s life. In my opinion, wisdom from others is some of the best that can be found, especially when they have either experienced my particular situation or have been around countless others who have. From cancer survivors to doctors, I, just like Rhio O’Connor, would ask them questions about what steps I need to take to not just preserve my health but to raise awareness for others in hopes to prevent my issue from becoming that of someone else. Imagine a place in time where people only acquired knowledge for personal benefit. If possible, Imagine a little bit further what the outcomes of the thought patterns and actions would be. After pondering that for a few moments, it is frightening to imagine a world without people like Rhio O’Connor – a world without people who do not allow the pain and fear of their circumstances hinder them from fighting and offering insight to others who might possibly need the information that they have received.

It is no secret that the world is sustained, from a human perspective, because of people like Rhio O’Connor who are willing to fight for life, survival, and prevention of life-threatening illnesses through educational tenacity and fearless abandon of the two letter death certificate, namely the word “no.” If I were in Rhio O’Connor’s shoes, I would do the research and pass it on to others so that they might understand their role, their lives, their brush stroke in the masterpiece of humanity.

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