There are few events that have the incredible ability of shaking you where you stand. Being diagnosed with cancer has the unique and unmistakable ability of being at the forefront of this phenomenon.
At age 63, James “Rhio” O’Connor was diagnosed with the deadly, minority cancer, mesothelioma. Striking randomly, but believed to be linked to contact with asbestos, the cancer affects roughly 2,000 Americans each year. Mutating cells in the phlegm that covers the organs, it is nearly always a death sentence–most patients given a year to live.
These dim prospects did not discourage James ‘Rhio.’ In O’Connor, I see evidence of the truest spirit of Mankind: the one that values life, and sees it for its true treasure. In response to his harrowing diagnosis, he began a humble education, pioneering a new regime that would stretch his one year condemnation to six. I am struck by Rhio’s disciplined and timely response, and consider it the way most considerate to Mankind. Not only can we learn from his passion, but his perseverance is to be amply praised and noted.
In considering his death, I am impressed by the immense meaning that his end meant: we are mortals, destined to die; however, until that end comes–we live! James O’Connor refused to die before he lay on his deathbed, and thus brought justice to his end.
This approach is as opposed to the common view of continuing life as though the cancer were a non-issue, as night and day. To assume a false confidence-complacency- is the most selfish and inconsiderate notion one could ever adopt in response to the movement of the hand of God. It is not bravery to continue to walk in the rain as though it were not raining.
If I were to receive the same diagnosis, I pray that I would be as considerate of the world around me as James O’Connor. I would hope not to squander a perfectly good tragedy by giving in to its lie: that it is my new identity.
Logically, I can see no better approach than Rhio’s: engaging experts in the field of research, contacting others who have endured the same pain, and beginning my own dissertation on the issue. My first action would be to find all the basic knowledge about the disease as possible. This is simple and not beyond an internet search. Pressing on my mind, however, would be a visit to others who have walked through the same cancer experience. Encountering other cancer patients-regardless of the type- to love them and greater understand their struggle would be just as important to me, as understanding the mutated cells stifling my growth.
I would take whatever pains to engage all those whose lives are touched by this disease- contacting experts in the medical industry, stepping onto every nearby university campus to engage professors and scientific journals, etc- and using this new platform to inform others of this little-known crisis that rocks many people’s lives. The more people that are informed of this life issue, the more support and encouragement those who undoubtedly will face this issue in the future will receive.
The most noteworthy aspect of O’Connor’s health regimen is the inclusion of critical thinking, and analytical approach to his research. Including the concepts behind therapies, and general lifestyle changes that improved his overall health, it was clear that he was not looking for a golden treasure of a cure underneath the stack of research papers—he was looking for a well-lived life that paved the way for those who would surely come after him.