Each day, we progress through our lives striving to be seen as normal. None of us plan to incorporate cancer into our lives like we may anticipate having a family or graduating from college. For this reason, being diagnosed with cancer is not seen as normal. It is my perception that those who are fighting cancer are often considered and even portrayed to be abnormal or different in some inferior way to others. Due to the ostracizing of those with cancer in society and common acceptance of its ambiguities, cancer is given permission to continue ruining and destroying the lives of innocent people. The thought of cancer as mysterious and “out of our hands” permits the cruel dismissal of the cancer-diagnosed by society as seen in the casual estimations, predictions and guesses toward the lives of human beings by doctors.
James “Rhio” O’Conner experienced this in a crucial way. Diagnosed with “Mesothelioma” at the age of sixty two, doctors told him that he had less than a year to live and that he should quickly make all the necessary preparations for death (Horwen, 2009). But instead of taking the doctor’s statement as fact, Connor created his own regiment including changing his diet and avoiding traditional cancer affiliated medicines and treatments with the help of specialized professionals (Mesothelioma Story: Survivor Documents Treatment Plan That Helped Him Outlive Doctor’s Forecast, 2009). Upon facing the deadliest form of asbestos derived cancer that works to destroy the protective sac enclosing the lungs, abdomen and heart (Harrar, 2003), Connor made a conscious decision not to give up on life. He literally shouted to the world that people with cancer are indeed normal and should be treated as such; that there is hope and they can survive. His story inspires me for the reason that it shows how persistence and control over one’s life is possible in the midst of an uncertain future. It is a profound example of how one can believe in life and survival successfully and proves that the struggles of daily life are pale in comparison to the fight of a life threatening disease. I have learned from him that the only priority we truly need in life is to focus on living.
I want to say that if I were diagnosed with cancer that I would be as bold, brave and strong as Rhio O’Connor. I want to say that I would be able to reach beyond myself, to defy what the doctors say about the day of my death and dismiss the predictions as he had done until his death in 2009 (Horwen, 2009). I want to say that I would embrace the fight for life with open arms and pursue justice in all its forms. But all I can think and feel firsthand is an agonizing fear, an unspeakable fear that threatens to cripples me in realizing that inside my body, cancer is making an attempt on my life. It is difficult to imagine being optimistic in the face of something that it is often painted as tragic. However, I cannot deny how O’Conner’s fight transcends to my spirit and gives me the confidence to say that I too, could fight for my own survival against cancer.
In conducting research and making an informed decision when choosing a treatment, my research would consist of various means since certainly one doctor’s opinion is not sufficient. I would take into account several types of printed and electronic media (Internet, scholarly journals, periodicals, magazines, newspaper articles, websites, blogs, etc). The library would be my aide as well as cancer support groups in my community. I would speak with cancer survivors and their families, doctors and patients who specialize in and have experimented with alternative medicine and start a blog about my cancer experience while joining online forums. I feel that informed decisions are a combination of our inner thoughts, the effects on our families and us. I would also look at other mediums of information and outlets. If chemo, radiation and surgery had little to offer, I would look beyond these.
In closing, Rhio O Connor’s fight against Mesothelioma transcends to everyday life. It is a testament to us all that we can pursue life in defiance of uncertainty and fear.
Harrar, S. (2003, December). Hope for a rare cancer. Prevention , 55 (12), p. 142. Retrieved February 23, 2010, from Research Library Core. (Document ID: 489605411).
Horwen, M. (2009, July 21). Mesothelioma Survivor Outlives Prognosis by Seven Years. Retrieved February 23, 2010, from Surviving Mesothelioma: A Patient’s Guide: http://www.survivingMesothelioma.com/news/view.asp?ID=0039
Mesothelioma Story:Survivor Documents Treatment Plan That Helped Him Outlive Doctor’s Forecast. (2009, July 28). Retrieved February 23, 2010, from Weitz & Luxenberg.
By: Felder, Shaunita