Practically everyone has heard the proverb “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” but who among us has been able to take this message to heart? In reality, people often do not give words the credit they deserve and often under estimate their power. While physical injuries heal and leave behind visible marks of pain that has long since vanished, words can leave scars that are never seen and can still hurt years after the damage is done.
Words often have the same physical force of not just stones, but boulders. They can catch you off guard and knock you off course before you ever knew what hit you, leaving you behind in pain, forced to deal with the aftermath. Everyone has had experience with words like these; words that suddenly create a “before” and “after” in your life. There is a different story for everyone, but many stories often start with words like “death,” “accident,” and “disaster,” but for me and my family, the word that came out of no where and completely steam-rolled us was “cancer.”
I was ten years old when my parents sat me down to explain that my mom had breast cancer. Being the oldest, they thought that I was the most likely to understand what was happening, and it was my job to help around the house and with my two younger sisters while my mom was sick. But, even at ten, I didn’t fully understand what cancer was. I had never encountered the word, let alone the disease, so up close and personal before. All I knew was that it left a bitter taste in my mouth when I said it, and at even the slightest hint of the word, a rock settled into the pit of my stomach.
Over the next year, my mom went through surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, while my sisters and I watched from the sidelines either at our own house or at different relatives houses. I am happy to say that my mom beat breast cancer after about 15 months of treatments, and to this day she is still going strong, but looking back on that year, I know for certain that how little I knew about the situation only increased my fear. I could not see beyond my mom’s hair loss, the way she was constantly sick, and her pain.
Even though cancer is no longer a word used in our house, it does not mean that it has left us. Now that the seed has been planted in our heads, it often creeps up and implants a little bit of fear. I often wonder: will my mom’s cancer come back? Next time, will I be the one steam-rolled by this horrible word?
Ever since my mom’s diagnosis, I have frequently thought about what I would do if I were diagnosed with cancer, but I never thought beyond the conventional methods of treatment, until I read about James Rhio O’Connor’s story. Even after O’Connor was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma and informed that normal avenues of chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation would not be an option for him, he did not give up. Instead, he researched different methods of treatment, he spoke with various physicians, he asked questions, he demanded answers, and he created a treatment that he believed worked for his body. He knew that fear is often fueled by the uncertainty of a situation and no one would fight for him if he did not have the will to fight himself. By creating his own regimen, O’Connor was able to outlive his year prognosis by six and a half years. His will to fight allowed him to live a longer, happier life, which is what everyone aspires to. In the long run, all anyone ever wants, including myself, is to live a long and happy life.
After reading about O’Connor’s triumph over his cancer, I realize that there are many more options out there to help you fight, and I know for certain that, if put in a similar position, I will search for the option that works for me. If told I only have a short time to live, I will research my options, speak with as many doctors as possible, contact support groups and other people that have gone through similar situations, and I will rely on my friends and family to get me through. Most importantly, I will savor every second I get to spend with the people I love. Ever since my mom beat her cancer, I have thanked God every day for giving us more time with her, and I learned that there is nothing more important than the people you love. My family and friends, along with O’Connor’s story, will be my motivation to fight for more time.
It is true that words can knock you down before you realize it; however, there are also words that are not meant to hurt, but, instead, are meant to heal. Words such as, “love,” “kindness,” “caring,” and “compassion” give all of us a reason to fight through the bad times and make it back to the good times. One word far outshines the rest, lets us know that there will always be more good times if we are willing to fight, and it is exemplified by both my mom’s and James Rhio O’Connor’s stories: “Hope.” Every story of people defeating cancer lets us know that no matter how bad our lives look today, there have been people that have been through the same thing and have made it through to better times. “Hope,” along with the help and support from loved ones, is what keeps us going, through good and bad.