“In Remembrance of Rhio”
“It is not our struggles that define us but our character through our struggles that define who we are.”
The unforgettable struggle that outlined and landmarked the equivalent of not only a brave soul but, a leader and role model of our time. James was the very “titan” of what it means to suffer and then overcome. He was the very definition of not giving up or giving in which made him a soldier. A soldier: overcoming and winning through obstacles and roadblocks of the deadly cancer pleural Mesothelioma. Sometimes we look at life and take for granted the small things such as a good nights rest, something to drink, and breathing. James knew what it was to live with a clock, a clock that would soon run out. We need to exhibit this man and learn from him so that our lives might be better through his inspiration.
In October 2001, sixty-one year old James O’Connor was diagnosed with pleural Mesothelioma that was a direct result of his exposure to asbestos when he was younger. His doctors let him know of his one year that he had to live. Something in side of Rhio was brought to the surface as he rejected any idea of dying. His will power to live was stronger now than before he was diagnosed. He was determined through a higher power and a regimen of his own to make it through one of the deadliest cancers in the world.
With one year to live, Rhio was able to extend that one year to 7 ½ years. He worked closely with several clinicians, doctors, researchers and patients to try to find out as much information as possible about this deadly disease. In doing so he was able to battle his cancer prolonging his life with the utmost humbleness that resulted from it. The people that knew him best would describe his as humble, intelligent, humorous and full of intellect. Without ever knowing him one could conceive from his book that he made an impact not only on himself but on his professional peers through his determination as well.
His story inspires me to humble myself and be an inspiration to others because of what he overcame. I have never been put into his shoes or any situation like his. I can say that I am truly blessed not to have been. His determination to live has given me a new meaning to live: to live every day as if I were dying. If I faced the same challenges that he faced I would not have the same will power without the strength from something greater than myself. I would have put my trust in the Lord and sought relief from this struggle. I would not have been as motivated as Rhio if I seen my whole world coming to an end in the blink of an eye. I might have crumbled before I would have found the strength to rise and combat the disease. “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is my strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” -Psalms 27:1
The steps I would have taken once given a dire cancer prognosis would have been small at first. I would have investigated the disease like Rhio to see what and how many treatments are available. Once I found out as much as possible about the disease I would have began to humble myself to whoever would be willing to offer their assistance to me. I cannot put into words the struggle that I would have faced everyday having to deal with a deadly cancer such as Mesothelioma.
My research would have been done through whoever was willing to lend me a hand with their knowledge about the disease. I would have started first with patients that have already survived or who are surviving the cancer. After that, I would have spoken to the doctors who have seen first hand a “solid” method that has at least decreased weakness and fatigue in the body. Then after hearing their testimony I would have made the decision to choose a treatment method based on the treatment that had the best repetition of success.
I would have to look beyond the chemo, radiation and surgery if they did have little to offer. These options could have brought more of a burden than an advantage with so much at stake and very little success. I can say the disappointment from these would have only made my desire to find valid treatment methods stronger and more motivating. My limited options would have hindered me into a corner that I feel would have forced me to fight instead of flight.
My resources that I would have chosen to make an informed decision would have only come from foundations that lay valid treatment options on me. I would not have had a bias to any one resource as so long that it was a benefit rather than a hindrance. No option would have been discounted because every little bit of motivation could have come in the form of a pat on the back to a good diet plan. I would have surrounded myself with positive individuals including family, researchers, doctors, patients and even librarians. Every person as long as their positive could have something to contribute.
Rhio was often asked how he was able to cope with the struggle of dealing with Mesothelioma or “Mr. Meso” as he called it. He would often answer “it’s a tough road.” To help put into words what he could not satisfy in a conversation, Rhio wrote a book titled “They said months, I chose Years: A Mesothelioma Survivor’s Story.” He wrote this book to become an inspiration to others who were going through similar struggles. He was a leader and continued that notability by writing his book.
Pleural Mesothelioma is the cancer disease that took the life of Rhio. This disease is the result of the exposure to high levels of asbestos. When this disease is discovered it shows that it attacks the thin membrane layer in the chest. These attacks can include a thickening or calcification of the pleural lining which is usually diagnosed as: pleural plaques, pleural thickening and pleural calcification. This disease once attained begins in the abdominal cavity and works its way to the outer extremities of the lining of the lungs and into the internal chest wall. The disease carries with it several irritating, life threatening symptoms that if not dealt with, themselves may be able to kill.
The major symptoms include shortness of breath caused by expanding pleural effusion and persistent dry cough that retracts salivary glands from salivating. James knew these side effects which he clearly states in his book. Pleural Mesothelioma is a serious disease and can kill very quickly if not dealt with efficiently and swiftly. This disease took the life of James “Rhio” O’Connor: He died at the age of 69 July 11th 2009. If you would like to know more about Mesothelioma including side effects, causes and survivor stories such as Rhio’s please visit www.survivingmesothelioma.com.
Rhio wanted to educate the future leaders in medicine and patient’s alike about his experiences and struggles. He knew that strength does not come without knowledge and knowledge will help to find a cure. His attitude and persistent motivation to live was what allowed him to write a book and come up with a protocol that would lay the foundation to a new type of treatment. He wanted everyone to be educated and understand that they will never be alone with this cancer but, that there will always be his memory and book to help guide and support you on your journey. His book titled “They said months, I chose Years: A Mesothelioma Survivor’s Story” is also available at www.survivingmesothelioma.com. May you rest in peace Rhio, you’ll continue to live in our memory…Godspeed!
“You know quite well, deep within you, that there is only a single magic, a single power, a single salvation…and that is called loving. Well, then, love your suffering. Do not resist it, do not flee from it. It is your aversion that hurts, nothing else.” – Hermann Hesse
James “Rhio” O’Connor