Cooper, Kiara – Surviving Mesothelioma

Cooper, Kiara

If you were to ask a room full of people the first thing they think of when they hear the word cancer, the majority of them would say “death sentence” or something along those lines. I admit I used to be one of those people until I learned James “Rhio” O’Connor’s story. James was diagnosed with Mesothelioma, a deadly form of lung cancer that causes the protective lining of major organs to function abnormally therefore damaging them. Instead of being discouraged by his diagnosis, James thoroughly researched his cancer. After gaining as much information as possible about his cancer, James was able to survive for six years after his diagnosis.

A few of my family members have died from various forms of cancer. As a self proclaimed “chronic worrier”, I’ve often thought about what I would do if I were diagnosed with cancer. Because of all the horror stories I’ve heard about chemo therapy my plan, if I were to ever get cancer, would be to enjoy the time I had left with my family and friends and die without going through the agony that is chemo. After hearing James’s story, however, my plan completely changed.

I strongly believe that one of the most important parts of trying to beat cancer is the resources a person uses to make a decision about their treatments. First I would try to gather as much information about Mesothelioma as possible. I would visit all the libraries in my area and read the books about my cancer and all of the possible treatment options. After finding the treatment options I would use the internet as a quick way to go into detail about treatments. Aside from books and computers I would also look for advice from the people closest to me, most importantly my mother. My mother is the only person I trust 100%. We have a very close relationship and I know that she is one of the few people who will always have my best interest in mind. Although she is not a doctor, she knows me better then any doctor. I would look to her for advice on which treatment she thinks would be best for me. I would also use my doctor as a resource because my doctor knows my body and health history. He or she would be able to tell me about the different treatment options available, the side effects and the process of each treatment. My most important resource would have to be patients with Mesothelioma. Hearing other patient’s first hand experiences with their treatment options would give me a good idea of what my own experience would be like and it would help choosing my own treatment a lot easier.

My first choice of treatment would be radiation therapy. New data from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center suggests that conventional radiation techniques can reduce local recurrence by about 50%. Only if the cancer returned after radiation therapy would I then turn to surgery.

Other then looking for help and advice through doctors, cancer patients as well as family and friends I would look to god for help. I believe that after a while there is only so much that you can do and the rest you have to put into gods hands and I’d have complete faith in god to get me through my cancer.

James O’Connor’s story has inspired me to keep fighting no matter what, whether it is through cancer or any other obstacle you may face in your life. I’ve also learned that no one else should ever control your fate. If James O’Connor would have accepted the fate his doctors gave him he would have never been able to inspire so many cancer patients as well as people in general to keep pushing forward no matter what someone else tells you. Through writing this essay I have learned that cancer is not an automatic death sentence. Just like anything else in life, cancer is an obstacle. Obstacles aren’t meant to stop you, but to see how hard you’re willing to work in order to reach your goal. James O’Connor did his best to work around his obstacle and reach his goal of a longer life. He was able to obtain his goal and change many people’s attitudes about cancer, he definitely changed mine.

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