Gallione, Arielle – Surviving Mesothelioma

Gallione, Arielle

No obstacle is harder to face than cancer. It does not matter whether it’s affecting you or someone close to you; it is a battle that needs to be fought with the unyielding will to survive. James “Rhio” O’Connor is an inspiration to all who doubt whether they are fighting for a lost cause; because he never gave up hope when he was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a malignant cancer which forms in the lining of the lungs and can form in the abdominal cavity, and the prognosis is usually terminal. Reading about O’Connor’s story has truly inspired me, and it also strikes a cord in my heart. I have lost family and friends to cancer; but I have also witnessed a life long friend fight for his life and survive.

Rhio O’Connor was given a prognosis of one year to live, and most people in his situation would simply give up; spending the timeline they were given to spend time with their family and come to terms with death. However, just from reading his story, I can infer that O’Connor was someone who held a lot of tenacity and will power inside of him; and accepting what his doctors had told him was not an option. He began to fight and survived by vigorously researching mesothelioma and using his resources to help himself, instead having to be helped. Rhio spoke to numerous doctors, patients and researchers and was able to create his own therapy that allowed him to outlive his prognosis by more than six years. That is six more birthdays and anniversaries he got to spend with his wife. That is six years of celebrating survival and life. It is absolutely remarkable what the power of the mind, body, and spirit can do for an individual.

It is unbearable to fathom the idea of being faced with a terminal illness, and I cannot even imagine what it must have been like to be in Rhio O’Connor’s shoes. However, I do know that I would never give up; because with out hope, we have nothing. A childhood friend of mine has been in remission for over a year now, and that is thanks to the determination and support of his family and friends. My friend Joey Keyser was diagnosed with brain cancer, and the prognosis was unsure; so Joey and his family did the only thing they knew how to do, fight. Chemotherapy just wasn’t cutting it, so Joe’s family, friends, and physicians began searching for other options until one was found: proton radiation. Proton radiation uses the beaming of protons to rid the body of diseased tissue; however, it is not as “practical” and much more expensive than chemotherapy, so there were not medical centers in the Chicago land area that provided a center for this. At this time, the cancer and the multiple surgeries Joe had undergone began to greatly affect his motor function; but this did not stop his family from continuing to fight. Joey’s mom took him to the nearest proton-therapy center in Florida where they resided for six weeks so he could get the treatment needed for Joey’s survival. Joey has been cancer free ever since, and is residing at a rehab center in downtown Chicago where he is regaining the life that had once been threatened by cancer. Giving up is simply not an option to take, because it means admitting defeat. Defeat is something that I do not accept lightly in my life and it would certainly not be accepted if I were ever to undergo the circumstances that Rhio or Joey went through. They are both true inspirations to life, and their stories both have affected and changed the lives of many others.

I think it is important that you have a plan of action when taking on cancer; you absolutely cannot play it by ear or take it on a day by day basis. Yes, you have cancer. No matter what way you look at it, it is what it is, and it is not going to magically disappear; you have to do something about it and fight for your survival. You really have to give cancer a good old fashioned kick in the behind. It is imperative that you take matters in your own hands; cancer is attacking your body, you need to be satisfied with the way you are going to fight back. Before making any decisions, it is important to be aware of what your body is going to endure, and that is where the research comes in. You can start researching with a simple click of a button on the internet, and it does not stop there. Through libraries, medical journals, and scientific publishing, the resources are endless. You can exhaust all of them; absorbing all the knowledge your brain can handle. Even though chemotherapy is a good source to kill cancer cells, it pumps toxins through the body; which causes severe damage to the healthy cells in your body like hair follicles and in the digestive tract. Chemo and surgery seem to be an oncologist’s favorite things; however, there are many other non-medicinal ways of approaching cancer. I recently came across an article about Asparagus vs. Cancer, and it is truly incredible to see people doing things as simple as eating four tablespoons of pureed asparagus a day to rid their whole body of cancer. There are many nutritional and mind-body remedies that have been developed and have been proven to significantly reduce cancer. Rhio O’Connor was the forefront of his own fight, and it paid off for him and many others who have taken his advice. At first, I would probably try chemotherapy and the other doctor-recommended suggestions; but if I am not seeing results within a short period of time, I would not allow chemo to destroy my body for no purpose. If alternative medicine is your route of choice, it is also important that you have people to consult in order to make an educated decision. Your family should be your backbone, so you should always consult them before any decisions are made; however, it is also import to consult the experts: doctors, researchers, and patients who are going through the same stresses that you are. I cannot stress how much I believe in a strong support system, as well as a plan of action towards the fight against cancer.

Physical measures alone will do work; however, it is also important to have a good sense of emotional health. To me personally, it means having faith in God which allows you to keep moving forward; however, whatever works for you to embrace life and love it is what ultimately makes the difference. Someone I knew who was a true inspiration to all was an amazing woman named Darleen Felten. She passed away from cancer, 20 years young, in October of 2008. No matter the pain she was going through, she embraced life for everything it truly was. She fought the hardest battle that anyone ever could; and she did it with a smile on her face. You truly need to be at peace with your life and accept the fact that death is facing you in order to keep fighting. Darleen was a pure example of this, and she did not let cancer prevent her from living her life to its fullest potential. Rhio O’Connor did the same. Life is what you make it, and it is a precious gift that should not be taken for granted; especially when threatened with something like cancer. I believe it is of the most importance that a sense of well being is combined with all of the physical and medicinal aspects of fighting cancer, and I firmly believe that it can improve the way that the battle is fought and your quality of life.

When it comes time to face the facts, you have to come to terms with what cancer is; a disease that wants to take one of the most incredible gifts from you: life. Yes, you can accept it and go down with out a fight; however, that would truly, truly, truly be taking the easy way out. Why should you let a disease rob you of the things and people you cherish the most? The question is rhetorical because the answer is clear: YOU SHOULDN’T! Give it your all, do whatever it takes; do not go down with out a fight. Rhio O’Connor, Joey Keyser and Darleen Felten are all people who have truly inspired me, and they should inspire you as well. Never give up. No matter what the circumstances, there is always something to be done. Do not let anyone else tell you otherwise. Find something that inspires you, and allow that to help you to move forward. “We can not change the cards we are dealt, just the way we play our hand.”

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