England, Kendra | Surviving Mesothelioma

England, Kendra

Mesothelioma to an unknowing victim is such a frightening word. I am going to tell you about a very rare form of cancer called mesothelioma that is rapidly growing in our society. You never really can be prepared for the news. Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos particles. Second hand exposure such as washing a person’s clothes that have been exposed to asbestos can also bring about a case of mesothelioma.

This terminal form of cancer produces malignant cells that develop in the mesothelium, a protective lining that covers most of the body’s internal organs. Its most common sites are the outer lining of the lungs and internal chest wall but, it could also occur in the lining of the abdominal cavity, the heart, the sac that surrounds the heart, or the tunica vaginalis. Unlike lung cancer, there is no association between mesothelioma and smoking. Although there are more incidents of this disease reported now than in the past 20 years it is still a relatively rare cancer.

Mesothelioma occurs more often in men than in women. A man by the name of James “Rhio” O’Connor was diagnosed with this form of terminal cancer. He was given one year to live. Through extensive research, courage, and belief in something bigger than himself he beat the odds and outlived his prognosis by over six years.

When I read his story it inspired me to dig deeper into cancer research. I am a freshman in college and setting my sights on the nursing program. Through learning and reading about James I believe that I might steer toward a nursing career in the oncology ward. It is hard to say what I would do if I were faced with the same diagnosis and decisions that this man had to make. Each person is unique; therefore, each person has unique complex emotions and ways of dealing with such tragic circumstances. I believe that I would want to do as much research on the disease and its treatments as possible so I could personally choose the best route for me to go. I also believe that I would spend time going over the options with my family, my doctors, and the specialists to make sure of what options are available to me.

I would spend time examining the situation with my Mother who has been a nurse for thirty-one years and my husband to decide the type of treatment that would benefit me. I would access medical books, medical journals and internet sites. I would also talk with other cancer patients who have been through or are going through similar situations to get advice on the most aggressive treatments, the side effects of the treatments, the odds of success of the treatments, the emotional aspects of the choices and living with the disease. I do believe that I would look beyond chemotherapy and radiation to bring me more options for success and to help me in prolonging my time with my kids and my family.

So far the only known treatments for the disease include radical surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and heated intraoperative intraperitoneal chemotherapy. Although I can talk about what I would do if I were faced with this situation I cannot really grasp how I would actually feel or react to the reality of a true diagnosis. I have had several family members pass on battling the terrible disease called cancer, however, I cannot begin to fathom the realization of the choices that a person would have to make or the emotions that must be going through their minds at the time when they are making these life altering choices. Time is a precious thing that most of us take for granted and it is hard to say how much time a person has left to do the things that mean the most to them. I commend the courageous people that are faced with these heart breaking decisions every day. In conclusion, even though I believe that I would make the same choices to fight the disease as James “Rhio” O’Connor did; I cannot ensure that my feelings would not change if diagnosed with this “incurable” form of cancer.

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