Elizondo, Ricardo | Surviving Mesothelioma

Elizondo, Ricardo

Rhio O’Connor: A story of Inspiration

Rhio O’Connor was a remarkable person. Rhio was diagnosed with a rare and extremely deadly form of cancer, known as a malignant mesothelioma, which occurs in the mesothelium, the protective outer layer found in many of the body’s internal organs. Still, despite the fact that he was presented with a grim prognosis and given only a year to live, he refused to give into defeat so easily and fought his way through the cancer with one of mankind’s most precious tools: knowledge.

Rhio wasn’t a superhero; he didn’t have tumor-shrinking powers or a magic wand that made disease go away. He had something else, though, determination. Spending countless hours researching potential treatments and therapies, Rhio was able to survive far more than what everyone else expected him to. He turned a year of suffering into six years of successes and medical “miracles”.

When I initially read about Rhio’s journey, I was immediately flooded with a feeling of warmth. His passing is without a doubt a lamentable event, but he didn’t die in vain, he left behind a remarkable story of perseverance and determination, something some of us could use a bit more of.

In all honesty, I don’t know what I would have done in a similar situation, especially at my young age. I think I am bit of a hypochondriac, because sometimes I worry too much about what horrible diseases I might have without knowing, but in the event that I was actually diagnosed with a deadly disease as Rhio was, I would be truly devastated. I very well understand the fact that our time on Earth is borrowed, and that the only certainty we have when we enter this world, is that we will one day leave it.

I don’t know the exact circumstances of Rhio’s diagnosis, or his initial reaction, but as for myself, regardless of the circumstances, my initial reaction would be the same. I would probably not cry, I would probably not even get angry; I see myself sitting in a dark room, unable to feel emotion, and wishing it was all a bad dream. What I would certainly do is research my type of cancer. I’m guessing that going to Wikipedia first is not the best thing to do, but I will be honest, it would be my first stop. I’ve always been a logical person, trying to analyze situations and trying to come up with solutions, and though Wikipedia might not offer a lot insight on my situation, it would certainly help answer my basic questions.

Next, I would probably try to look for the worst possible outcome for the disease, meaning, what’s the absolute worst that could happen to me. Once I figure out what that is, I could motivate myself into getting as far from that as possible. As I’m writing this I realize you will think I’m crazy, after all, wouldn’t it be better to be inspired by stories of success? And while stories of success are surely inspirational, I think I would be more motivated to fight for my life if I saw what would happen to me if I didn’t.

Besides researching the cancer on my own, I would also like to speak to people that know more about it and can give me more insight as to what to actually expect; doctors, patients, organizations, etc. And after having a good understanding of the disease I would like to speak to a few doctors to understand what different treatments do and how I could combine them to get the best possible chances of survival. Since not every patient is the same and not any two situations are equal, I don’t think that it is smart to give the same treatment to everyone with a certain disease. Obviously the overall procedures and drugs will be the same, but quantity, timing, and order should be something that is set on a patient-to-patient basis. Also, perhaps some treatments are riskier than others, but in all honesty, if you decide to fight, I don’t see why you shouldn’t go all out and fight with everything you have.

In my personal experience, I’ve had one relative die of cancer. My maternal grandmother, who was not even 60 years old at the time, was found to have a brain tumor a couple of years ago. The surgery to remove the tumor went extremely well, and it seemed that they had gotten it all out. Likewise, after chemotherapy and radiation, it seemed that the cancer (which had started to spread to the rest of the body), was finally starting to die off. Still, after a couple of months of increased optimism, the cancer started to grow back and spread beyond control. My grandmother died not even one full year after the cancer was first detected, despite the quick actions of the doctors and their hopeful predictions.

So overall, I think that the best thing to do when presented with a grim diagnosis is to research what is it that you have, ask people that know more about it, read about it, etc. And then, after you have a pretty good idea of how is it that it works (for instance, does it attack the liver? Can you get a transplant? Can you remove some of the liver, etc.), you can start working on an appropriate course of treatment that suits your specific case.

As we learned from Rhio’s inspirational battle, the difference between a year of suffering and six years of success is not just about going through a standard treatment and hope your body will respond, rather, it is about knowing what your options are, how you should combine them in order for them to be most effective, and having faith that if you work hard and give it all your energy, your chances of success will be vastly improved.

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