“I’m sorry to break the news to you, but you have cancer.” These fateful words are the shocking and horrific words for anyone to hear. Two years ago, my grandpa was diagnosed with prostate cancer and it changed his life. Immediately, his life was no longer about living, but instead about staying alive and fighting against a force which he had no control over. There is no denying the staggering effects that a diagnosis as serious as cancer can have, but how can anyone cope with such a grave verdict? My grandpa and countless others who have survived cancer have recounted these moments to me. I merely ask “What did you do? How did you react to that news?” and to this day I will remember what my grandpa told me, “I had to have the willpower to live. It became the most important thing in my life.” Not only living for himself, but living for those around him, his family and friends.
With the help of many doctors and physicians, my grandpa was able to have his prostate cancer surgically removed and to this day he remains a happy and healthy individual. Unfortunately, not everyone is as lucky as him, which is very saddening for the world at large. According to the American Cancer Society, there are approximately 1,500,000 Americans diagnosed with cancer a year. Many forms of cancer are not curable through conventional means. Such is exactly the case of a very brave and courageous man: James Rhio O’Connor. Rhio was diagnosed with Mesothelioma in 2001. James and many others diagnosed with Mesothelioma are estimated to live for only one year after late-term diagnosis. Many still fall short of that time, resorting to hospice. The question then is not the cancer and how it affects us, but what frame of mind do we treat it in. Do you live the remainder your life in submission or find any way possible to prolong your existence? Rhio answered these questions with an optimistic attitude, effectively stating that he would do whatever he could to fight his ill circumstances.
After the shock of learning that he had an incurable strain of cancer, Rhio took the first step to fighting his disease through extensively researching his cancer. He spent countless hours talking to doctors, patients and survivors as well as reading books and websites full of information about Mesothelioma. He investigated to the best of his abilities to learn whatever it was he could about his horrifying disease. Likewise, if I were diagnosed with a dire cancer prognosis, I would follow in the footsteps of Rhio. The fact that there isn’t an end-all cure such as chemotherapy available doesn’t mean that I should completely give up. I would conduct research of my cancer and contact specialists in that specific type of cancer. However, if my cancer could not be cured by conventional means then I would take additional steps to help delay and avert my cancer.
The second step that I would take to fighting a fatal disease would be to try and remain healthy and active. Even with a disease, I feel that a reformation of my lifestyle would be a beneficial step. Many people live stagnant lives and exercising in any way possible might be able to help prevent the growth of cancerous cells. Of course there might reach a point where my body might become too weak to stay fit. If this were the case, I would still try and stay healthy by paying attention to dietary needs. Eating the necessary vitamins and proteins would help in my survival. Rhio took many supplements and vitamins in his fight with Mesothelioma, eventually taking up to ¬¬¬one hundred pills a day. He is a great example of taking healthy steps towards a longer survival.
Having the willpower to survive is what I feel is the most important ingredient to surviving a horrible cancer. Attitude is everything, and having the optimistic and indomitable outlook on something so intimidating is the only way someone can truly be a fighter. I could wake up in the morning and admit defeat while resigning the will to stay alive. Regrettably, this is what many cancer patients resort to. They feel there is just no way they can put forth the effort required to live and fight off the inevitable. Just as Rhio did, I would approach this struggle with cancer in a way that would create an unbreakable optimistic attitude to keep going.
James Rhio O’Connor is truly a hero in his survival of Mesothelioma. His book They Said Months, I Chose Years: A Mesothelioma Survivor’s Story depicts how caring of a man he is to share his story with others in hopes that he can help them in any way. He wrote “My wish and prayer for all who read my book is that it will strengthen and inspire you to do whatever it takes to not only survive your disease, but also to thrive and enjoy your life.” Many will miss Rhio’s courage and undefeated outlook on life after his untimely death in July, 2009. We can all look to Rhio as an example not only in creating an unconventional cancer survival regime, but as a role model of how to live life to the fullest every day.