It is not often that the orthopedist removes a cast from an ankle and tells the patient that they have developed lymphedema. It is not often but is does happen. I know firsthand because it happened to me. When I asked my physician if he could provide me with more information about the condition, his response was “Well the condition is progressive and it’s not curable. The only real relief available is to wear compression sock or stockings and you will have to wear them for the rest of your life. You will probably need to walk with a cane so you can forget playing anymore basketball. ”
“Was this man crazy?” I thought to myself. While he was busy writing out prescriptions for painkillers, compression stockings and a cane, my mind was racing in panic mode, “Walk with a cane? Compression stockings? I have children to raise, I have to finish school, how am I going to do my job? There has to be other treatments available.” And as I took the prescriptions in my hand, I made up my mind to find a way to deal with this condition. But first, I had to understand what it was and how it affected my body. I had to begin with researching the condition on the internet.
James Rhio O’Connor (“Rhio”) took a similar approach to managing his disease. He was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma caused by his exposure to asbestos when he was younger. His prognosis was less than a year to live. But he did not allow his dire prognosis to dictate how he lived his life. He did not accept his physician’s words as the final authority. Rhio educated himself about mesothelioma and armed with his newfound data, he developed a course of action that did not include chemotherapy and radiation treatments. His course of action included diet, dietary supplements, exercise, a positive attitude and faith. His course of action extended his life for over seven years. Rhio proved that one of the primary keys to treating any condition is understanding the playing field. The mesothelium is a membrane that covers and protects most of the internal organs of the body. The mesothelium produces a lubricating fluid that is released between these layers, allowing moving organs (such as the beating heart and the expanding and contracting lungs) to glide easily against adjacent structures. Mesothelioma (cancer of the mesothelium) is a disease in which cells of the mesothelium become abnormal and divide without control or order. They can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs. Cancer cells can also metastasize (spread) from their original site to other parts of the body.
The life expectancy for mesothelioma patients is generally reported as less than one year following the diagnosis. In order to understand why most mesothelioma patients only survive for a short time, it is necessary to understand the nature of the disease. In most instances, mesothelioma is not detected until it has reached its later stages. This is because symptoms can take as long as 50 years to appear once a person has been exposed to asbestos. Without the presence of symptoms, those with mesothelioma usually do not even realize they have developed the disease.
While my condition is not life threatening (unless it goes untreated), it is life altering and psychologically damaging. Lymphedema (pronounced LIMF-eh-DEE-ma) is a side effect that can begin during or after breast cancer treatment. It can also develop as a result of a traumatic injury. Lymphedema involves swelling of the soft tissues of the upper extremities i.e., hands and arm or the lower extremities i.e. feet, ankles and leg. The swelling may be accompanied by numbness, discomfort, and sometimes infection. The lymphatic system is crucial to keeping your body healthy. It circulates protein-rich lymph fluid throughout your body, collecting bacteria, viruses and waste products. In short, your lymphatic system is your body’s filter system. For example, tap water is contaminated with toxic heavy metals, synthetic organic chemicals, chlorination by-products, biological parasites and virtually thousands of harmful contaminants. We use products like Brita and Pur to remove the toxins thus purifying the water. The lymphatic system operates in a similar manner.
Before reading Rhio’s story, I thought my method of treating lymphedema to be unconventional. I had not seen immediate results I was on the verge of giving into the conventional treatments. Traditionally, the condition is treated incorporating the use of compression garments i.e., arm sleeves, and compression wraps, as well as manual lymph drainage and pneumatic compression. Based on research and clinical trials in the United States, Sweden and Germany, these therapeutic models did not fully restore the patient to good health. But after reading his story, I realized that I was in fact on the right path. Rhio was able to harness the power of the information on the internet to develop an extremely intricate treatment plan that addressed the root of the symptoms of his conditions while strengthening his core internal functions which enabled his body to fight off the production of the cancerous cells.
Rhio’s story is an inspiration to all of us and can be found at www.survivingmesothelioma.com. He took control of his life and his health by becoming informed about his condition and the various treatment options available to him. Rather than engage in chemotherapy and radiation which kills both the cancerous cells along with the healthy cells within the body, he took the courageous path by employing a holistic approach to treating his disease. What if every American changed their diet to one rich in organic green foods, limited our red meat intake, eliminated processed foods and sugars from our diet and incorporated exercise into our daily routines? Would there be a need for us to be engaged in a national debate on healthcare which is polarizing our nation? Is it possible that we could see a drastic decrease in the number of chronic illnesses? I would venture to say that if we used Rhio’s approach to life and to health we would all lead much fuller lives.
I am thankful to have read James Rhio O’Connor’s story because he serves as confirmation that I can recover from lymphedema. I am thankful that James Rhio O’Connor has made his story available for all of us to read because it serves as an inspiration by telling the world that having cancer is not the end, it is a change at a new beginning.