The Journey, The Cure and You
Can we find a cure? Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer which develops from the protective lining that covers critical organs of the body. More specifically, the most common type of mesothelioma known as pleural mesothelioma develops in the lining of the lungs also called the pleural membrane. The pleural membrane supports and protects both the lungs and chest cavity. This consists of two layers; the inner layer which covers the lungs and the outer layer which lines the diaphragm. Exposure to asbestos is the cause of this type of cancer (Pleural). Asbestos is a silicate mineral with long, thin fibers which are great for insulation purposes as a result of their resistance to heat, chemical damage and other factors. These fibers are so fine that they are easily inhaled (Asbestos: Medlineplus).
During respiration of the asbestos, moisture traps fibers in the cells of the inner and outer layers of the membrane where pleural mesothelioma usually develop within one layer and spread to the other. Asbestos fibers cause the abnormal division of cancerous cells, which consequently results in the thickening of the pleural membrane. This thickening secretes a fluid known as pleural effusion which places severe pressure on the respiratory system. Thus, one of the first symptoms of pleural mesothelioma is an inability to breathe properly. Other symptoms include, but are not limited to; painful breathing, shortness of breath, pain in or around the respiratory area, a dry cough, coughing up of blood, difficulty swallowing and lumps under the skin near the chest area (Pleural).
James Rhio O’Connor’s diagnosis with pleural mesothelioma in October 2001, after exposure to asbestos begins a beautiful journey of inspiration for many. In his book, “They Said Months, I Chose Years: A Mesothelioma Survivor’s Story”, Rhio expands on his courage to reject his oncologist’s prognosis in having less than one year to live and how he prepares for the battle ahead. The position of the tumor near his spine dispels his possibility to undergo surgery. The cons outweigh the pros in his decision to perform chemotherapy, with little or no surgical and chemical options for Rhio. A man with great will-power, Rhio embarks upon an excursion fermented in faith, discipline, determination, mind-body medicine and alternative cancer treatments; including a regimen of over one-hundred supplements per day, his belief in a greater being, an altered diet and a spirit so well-rooted in hope that he survives for more than seven years after his prognosis (James).
Rhio’s plight reinforces my beliefs in hope, determination and the possibilty that anything can occur through the grace of a greater being. As an undergraduate international student, surviving the death of my mother at the age of five, having a father who sacrifices his life for the benefit of his three children and the realization at a young age of the power in faith and pray, I am aware of my ability to achieve anything I put my mind to. Through my predicaments I continue to find myself, my strengths and my the path to life, while I battle with a world that constantly tests my abilities. The challenge to maintain my focus to build a firm foundation for a fruitful career in the future, through the grace of God, hard-work and support from my never-failing father, whom I owe everything, I am reassured by Rhio’s journey that I can succeed.
Rhio O’Connor’s ideas about “thinking outside the box”, with reference to the cause of cancer and its rational treatment, advances my mind to a new realm of possibilities. If I were to face the same challenges as Rhio, I will definitely take his advice and look beyond the box. I will look beyond the box of chemotherapy and radiation because of my belief in alternative treatments and also as a result of my aunt’s own personal experience. I vividly remember her agony after radiation treatment for breast cancer. This experience perturbs my belief in a fight for ‘life’. It’s difficult for me to accept that bargain because I believe life should be fulfilling and meaningful, not just lived for the sole purpose of ‘existence’. I suppose that as human beings, we do what we must to survive.
I confidently believe in the mind-body medicine which Rhio used in treating cancer and this may be my first step toward treatment. It’s about positive examination of the mind, which in my opinion is the most critical aspect. Then the purification and nourishment of the body, and finally synchronization of both the mind and the body. Re-evaluation of lifestyles, attitudes, eating habits, relationships with peers and abilities to deal with stressful situations are critical in dealing with cancer. Another essential path to explore is advice from peers, professionals, workshops and mediums of the media to obtain information for surgical procedures. I believe that detailed research on the various types of alternative treatments used by others can also be very beneficial in the creation of personal regimens. “Cancer is a diverse class of diseases which differ widely in their causes and biology” (Medical-News). This definition explains to me, that for each person, the cause is different, the journey is different, so therefore the cure would ultimately be different; which makes this disease extremely difficult to treat. However, it also says that there are innumerable methods to survive, which is exemplified by Rhio’s remarkable attitude.
My stumble upon a group on the internet called, “Thank you God for cancer” is the reason for my belief that cancer is a personal self-fulfilling journey. Some of the members of this group express how grateful they are for the humility, maturity and wisdom they gain each day. Cancer is about ‘you’. It’s about finding ourselves, becoming more in-tune to our health. Synchronize the power of the mind to overcome ailments of the body. Like Rhio, we can all find a route to fight the disease and that route begins with belief in the possibility that there is a cure.
Through the powers of mind-body medicine, imagination to think out-of the box, acceptance of the self-fulfilling journey and the sound values of hope, faith, persistence and determination anything is possible. Now, the question is not whether ‘we’ can find ‘a’ cure for cancer, but, can ‘you’ find ‘your’ cure for cancer? I wish everyone grave fulfillment in their endeavors and thank you Rhio for sharing your journey.
“Asbestos: Medlineplus.” National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes Of Health. 11th January 2010. U.S National Library Of Medicine. 10 February 2010.
“James Rhio O’Connor.” Surviving Mesothelioma: A Patients Guide. Cancer Monthly Inc. 7th February 2010. https://survivingmesothelioma.com/rhiooconnor.cfm
“Medical-News: What causes cancer?” The Medical News. Medical-News.net. Wikipedia.org 10 February 2010.
“Pleural Mesothelioma: Prognosis, Symptoms and Treatment Options.” Asbestos. 4th December 2009.
Mesothelioma Center. 10 February 2010.