The month of October, in the year 2001, could have been the worst month of Rhio O’Connor’s life. This is when he was diagnosed with mesothelioma. When Rhio was younger, he was exposed to asbestos, the main cause of this form of cancer. Although his exposure to asbestos was by no means Rhio’s fault, cancer doesn’t care who you are or what you’ve done. Cancer is blind reaches out into unexpecting people’s lives; in this case, cancer found Rhio.
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer, almost always linked to asbestos exposure, which develops from the protective lining that covers many of the body’s internal organs, called the mesothelium. The most common site for this cancer to appear is in the pleura, the outer lining of the lungs and internal chest wall. The symptoms of mesothelioma include shortness of breath, chest wall pain, and general symptoms such as weight loss. The effects of mesothelioma do not show up until 20 to 50 years after the asbestos exposure.
When Rhio received this diagnosis of having cancer, he was given one year to live. The tumor was located near his spine, which made surgery impossible. Chemotherapy would also not work because it would decrease his quality of life and not significantly increase the length of his life. The doctor, who gave this message to Rhio, told Rhio that he should get his affairs in order and to start hospice soon. Rhio refused to let this cancer beat him. That day in October could have marked the last days of his life, but Rhio was strong and determined to overcome this cancer. He worked with professional clinicians, doctors, and researchers to formulate a supplement regimen of over 100 pills every day. In addition to the pills that Rhio took daily, he also changed his diet, practiced mind-body medicine, and relied more on his own self discipline to get him through the tough times.
Rhio continued to follow his regimen daily, and also began to learn about different therapies that were offered and what their short term and long term side effects. He even wrote a book to inspire other people entitled “They Said Months, I Chose Years: A mesothelioma Survivor’s Story.” Because of Rhio’s strength, courage, and determination, he lived for seven and a half years after being told that he only had one year left. Sadly, James “Rhio” O’Connor passed away on July 11, 2009 at the age of 69.
This story of Rhio is a very powerful one. Just think if you were given a one year sentence to live. What would you do? How would you live the rest of your life? If I was given a dire cancer prognosis, I don’t know if I could show the same strength and courage that Rhio did. I would listen to everything the doctors told me, absorb it, and then make my own decision as to how I wanted to handle things.
After learning about this terrible news, I would first inform friends and family of what was happening so that they could be a part of the decisions to be made. I would sit down with my friends and family and hear each what each person was thinking. Depending on the severity and location of the cancer, I would look into different treatment options. I know that doctors would have their own recommendation as to what course of action I should take. But with all due respect to doctors, it wouldn’t be their life in question, so I would choose the course of action that was best for me.
I would conduct research to help gather information on various treatments, which would lead me to reach a decision on the treatment best suited for my case. I would talk to other doctors, oncologists (cancer specialists), and other patients who have been through this type of cancer. If chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery had little to offer, then I would have to look passed these options into alternative treatments. I could do what Rhio did and get information from clinicians and determine my own supplement regimen to take daily. I would also rely heavily on my spiritual background to provide me with strength, support, and an overall sense of peace.
Receiving a diagnosis of cancer is never good news. It makes a person start to question life and whether it is their time to leave this earth. A cancer sentence can bring out the true character of a person and demonstrate their morals and values. In Rhio’s case, he showed his strength, courage, determination, belief in himself. Instead of lying down and letting cancer beat him, he fought cancer and found ways of increasing the length of his life and quality of his life. He was given one year, and lived for seven and a half. If that isn’t strength, then I don’t know what is. Rhio’s story can give people hope when they receive tragic news and inspiration to people who go through this horrible situation. I only hope that if I ever face this type of adversity, I have half the strength and courage that James “Rhio” O’Connor did.
By: Garner, Anthony L.