Fernandez, Stephanie – Surviving Mesothelioma

Fernandez, Stephanie

If there is anything that my six months of studying abroad has taught me, is that I have to enjoy every moment that life brings, take advantage of the good company that surrounds me and no matter how bad a misfortune in my life may be, there is always something that is worth learning from that situation.

While researching different scholarships, I uncovered a story about a man who was diagnosed with Mesothelioma and given one year to live. Mesothelioma is a cancer that attacks the outer lining of the lungs, internal chest wall, lining of the abdominal cavity of the heart and or the sac around the heart cavity. People who are exposed to asbestos have a higher chance of receiving this type of diagnosis. Unlike some cancers where early detection can prevent further harm, this cancer usually appears twenty to fifty years after exposure to asbestos, so the damage can not be reversed. Signs of exposure can be seen in examples such as chest wall pain, fluid surrounding the lung, shortness of breath, wheezing, hoarseness, or cough and in severe cases, blood clots in the veins, a disorder causing severe bleeding in many body organs and tumor masses. Although Mesothelioma is thought to be a sign for the worst, Mr. “Rhio” O’ Connor, the man who was diagnosed with Mesothelioma decided to beat this cancer the best way he knew how by, researching the disease himself, making conscious and informed decisions about numerous treatments and by maintaining his intellectual curiosity, inner strength and most importantly by keeping a positive outlook on life.

People who are given a ‘limit’ on their lives and beat the nay sayers are of a different breed. They don’t follow rules, they take life by the reins and ride until they say the sun goes down, these kinds of people are leaders. If given a diagnosis of Mesothelioma and given one year to live I would stop working, stop worrying about petty things such as past fights and resentments with loved ones, stop worrying about money or of what importance I am to the world at large and start living. If cancer knocked on my door and unexpectedly enters my life every second of every day, all I can do is start enjoying what I have around me and do things I haven’t put the time into. I would spend my time enjoying my family, and friends. I would go to Thailand and backpack through Europe. Most importantly, when I wasn´t at the doctors, traveling, enjoying the beach and dancing with family and friends, I´d allot my free time working with, once again, disadvantaged kids. The only difference this time would be the type of children I´d work with, children who have been diagnosed with Mesothelioma.

If I had received the news that this ugly cancer that has been introduced to my life and has become my new unexpected companion, I would focus on enjoying and bettering my life each and every moment. In that time, I would take steps to research of the best treatments by meeting specialist in North California, going to conferences about the subject, reading the latest medicine articles about this disease and by staying positive about the whole situation. I would visit hospitals around the bay area and ask lots of questions about my situation. I would take advantage of prestigious colleges in my area by visiting UCSF, Cal State Berkeley, and Stanford, universities I am fortunate to live near, and talk to as many professors who study this type of sickness. A focus on spirituality would allow me to beat any time limit someone gives me about my own life. Instead of facebook wall posts, I´d be reading blogs and personal stories of those who have been changed forever by Mesothelioma. Support groups would give me an outlet to share the latest research, pain, frustrations and a good laugh since getting mad at the past doesn´t change my situation at large. Within a couple of months researching in North California, I would be able to choose the best treatment for myself. If the options of chemotherapy and surgery would not be attainable or suitable for me, I´d focus on finding another way to battle and win this war that came to my door.

There would be no stopping me from enjoying my life, because I will not allow limits in my own personal life. Every day I would focus my efforts on staying strong and positive just like Mr. ´Rhio” O´ Connor. In my mind, just because I may be handed negative news does not mean I have to be negative. Maybe my struggle and fight to stay healthy will inspire and help others, adults and children alike who need this type of encouragement, to keep going and will influence them keep learning and keep living no matter what life may throw at them.

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