When Cancer Wants to Take a Life, Take Life One Step at A Time
I’m sitting in the waiting room, anxiously awaiting my name to be called. My hopes are high that the results will come back negative, but there’s a pit in my stomach that leaves me uptight. I’m a nineteen year old girl. I have dreams, and I have ambitions. What if something has gone awfully wrong? What if I, Shanna Giedl, have cancer? Where would I turn to for help, and for car? What am I going to do with my life? Most people don’t ever want to have to think about these thoughts. And at this moment, all the thoughts are batting around in my brain, but the real question is, what if I have cancer?
Sometimes in life, one doesn’t expect to have to worry about life changing events such as cancer. Unfortunately, a man by the name of James O’Connor, also known as “Rhio,” faced a life changing challenge at the age of sixty one (https://survivingmesothelioma.com/rhiooconnor.cfm). Rhio was diagnosed with mesothelioma, which is a rare type of cancer that generally affects the lining of the lungs, heart, and abdomen. Mr. O’Connor was diagnosed more specifically with pleural mesothelioma, which develops in the lining of the lungs. Pleural mesothelioma is caused by prolonged exposure to the harmful chemical, asbestos. Mr. O’Connor was told that he was given one year, and one year only, to live the rest of his life.
After his diagnoses, Mr. O’Connor didn’t waste any time. The war between him and the cancer had begun, and he was determined to conquer this deadly disease. First, he began extensive research on pleural mesothelioma. He spent hours upon hours researching his cancer, and how it was going to affect his body over time. Mr. O’Connor also began consulting as many clinical specialists he could find to battle his cancer. Most importantly, Mr. O’Connor began taking actions for himself. He looked into healthy eating and exercise that would best benefit his body while he was fighting off the cancer. Before O’Connor’s death, he ended up writing and publishing his book, They Said Months, I Chose Years: A Mesothelioma Survivors Story. The title of Rhio’s book is just what he did. In fact, Rhio ended up living another seven and a half years after his diagnosis of mesothelioma, a whole seven and a half years after he was told he was going to die.
Rhio’s story deeply inspires me for a few reasons. For one, if there is one quality that I admire, it’s the quality of determination and the mind set to never give up. Personally I feel that with determination, a person can accomplish amazing and miraculous goals. Rhio’s determination to conquer his cancer is what carried him along for another seven and a half years after he was told he was going to die. His extreme hard work, extensive research, and dedication to surviving his cancer rather than just giving up personally inspires me in many aspects. As a college student, I am determined to continue to receive good grades through hard work and determination. One day, I hope to become a medical professional, and in order to do this, I am going to need a lot of determination to carry me through this journey. Other than school, Rhio’s determined, ambitious attitude also fuels my ambitions to accomplish other future life goals such as finishing a marathon, traveling the world, and raising a healthy, loving family.
Flashing back, I’m still sitting in the doctor’s office anxiously waiting to hear the doctor’s news. I keep wondering to myself, what will the results reveal? Finally, the nurse calls my name. I immediately pop out of my seat and proceed to follow the nurse back to the consultation room where I wait to hear what the doctor has to say. After worrying, and worrying, the doctor finally reveals that my tests were negative for cancer cells, and that I am cancer free. Even though this is just a simple situational narrative, the story allows me to put myself in Mr. O’Connor’s shoes. What if I hadn’t been cancer free? What if instead, the doctor told me that I tested positive for cancer, and I was given only one year to live?
If I was diagnosed with cancer today, my initial response would probably be sheer disbelief, shock, and fear. I would probably begin to panic, seeing my life flashing before me in my head. A rush of different thoughts would hit me like a rock. From that moment on, I would see my remaining time through a completely different perspective. I’d stop living into the future, and I would narrow my thoughts on what I was going to accomplish now and only now.
I would first seek my family. First, I’d seek my mom for comfort, and then I’d inform the rest of my immediate family of the news of my positive results. I am a very optimistic person, and I would enforce the fact that I didn’t want my family to be upset and worrying constantly. I’d also spend a good deal of time discussing the cancer with my two grandparents who have both had cancer. My friends would be the next to find out, and I’d do my best to break the news to them as nonchalantly as possible. Once again, I wouldn’t want to dwell on what the future beholds, I’d just focus on making each moment of life count.
I’d later begin researching. My interest in nutrition and health would aid my research and I’d look into which foods would be most beneficial to my body for fighting off the cancer cells. For example, I know from prior knowledge that berries are said to be high in antioxidants, so I would look into my options for healthy dietary recommendations. As I continued to research, I would look into healthy exercise habits as well. I would keep thoughts about Rhio in my head as I moved along with my research. Clearly, miracles can happen, and Rhio’s long hours of research really paid off. Next, I’d take the initiative to consult other cancer patients and professionals specializing in my type of cancer. I think it would be very helpful to ask others about therapies and treatments they are undergoing for cancer, and what I should expect if I chose to seek those treatments. I would also take great initiative to find the best doctors in the region to help me with my cancer. I would continue to think of Mr. O’Connor, and I would be determined to do all that I could do to conquer the cancer within my body.
Despite advice I’d heard about treatments, I would by no means disregard seeking treatment for my cancer. I would not overlook treatments because I would want to do all that I possibly could to kill off the cancer in my body. Trying chemotherapy would be a start. I would not want the feeling that I could have possibly done more to live those extra days, months, or even years. Any type of treatment, surgery or therapy would be just one step closer to killing off the cancer and achieving my goal of conquering the cancer once and for all.
Most importantly, despite the amount of effort that I would be putting into my cancer treatment, I would step back, stop, and slow down. Setting my mind to new experiences like traveling to a new country to get a taste of a different culture would my next approach. Maybe I’d even attempt to learn how to do something new, like surf the ocean waves. I would dedicate myself to great times with my family, and my friends. I would continue to look toward the best of the situation, and continue to hope, and rely on faith. I would be sure to laugh harder and more often. I’d smile more than I’d ever smiled. I’d lend an outstretched hand. My surroundings would become more beautiful. I’d appreciate everything and everyone more than I ever knew that I could.
In conclusion, James “Rhio” O’Connor has proved himself a remarkable man. His immense determination and outlook on life has changed my views on life as a healthy, young, nineteen-year-old woman. Being a college student, it’s very easy to get wrapped up in my surroundings and to forget about the little things in life that are the most important. I truly feel that I’ve opened up my eyes to life and realized that there’s no time to take life for granted. James O’Connor’s cancer battle has allowed me to put myself into his shoes and to think about what I would do if I was diagnosed with cancer.
By: Giedl, Shanna