When a doctor gives a patient prognosis, the doctor is simply estimating what will happen based on what has happened to patients in a similar situation. The only problem with this estimate is that every patient is different based on his or her willingness to either let himself or herself die, according to the prognosis of the doctor, or to step up to the challenge and fight for his or her life. This is precisely where it was different for James “Rhio” O’Connor.
Would Rhio’s story have been different if he had not decided to research the cancer which his doctor said would take his life in one year? Did it matter that he was informed about the decisions that he took? The answer to these questions is simply, “yes.” It absolutely made a difference in Rhio’s life that he decided to investigate what was going on in his body to be able to make a more informed decision as to how to treat his disease.
It is admirable that Rhio was able to outlive his prognosis by more than six years. Not only that, but what is more admirable is that he did so by researching mesothelioma and how it was affecting him. Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that forms in the mesothelium, which is the membrane that lines the internal organs of the body.
If any of us received a similar prognosis of cancer and was given the dire news, “you have one year to live,” how would many of us react? Would any of us react like Rhio did? Would any of us think of researching the disease at all? Or would we just think, “let me make the best of the situation and enjoy what I have left to live”? Is this considered giving up?
Even though I am not quite sure what my reaction to such a prognosis would be at the time, I am slowly beginning to realize that it is a good idea to begin thinking about it. Before I could get into detail about what I would do given the news that I have “one year to live”, I would like to take a moment to examine that phrase. “One year to live.” What does that mean? Does that mean that I literally have one year to live? Does that mean that no matter what I do, I have no hopes of living longer than one year? Who is the doctor to tell me how long I have to live or not? Is the fact that he is making an estimate based solely on what has happened to other people in similar situations give me any hope that my situation could be different? Am I just going to let this doctor dictate what will happen in my life?
I would begin asking myself these questions as I first hear those words from the doctor. Honestly, the thought of me letting a doctor dictate what may or may not happen in my life without me having any control over it whatsoever is something that I am not willing to accept. This is the first step in me deciding what will happen with what I do with the news of my prognosis. I strongly believe that it is not the prognosis which shapes what happens after I am given the news, but what I choose to do with that prognosis that will make the difference in whether I survive or not. At this point, one’s life becomes about survival and not about simply living.
Crying is defined as “shedding tears as the result of a strongly felt emotion.” I can honestly say that I would not cry as a result of hearing the news about having cancer and having such a short time to live even though the emotion felt at that moment could definitely be categorized as “a strongly felt emotion.” Why would I not cry? Simply because I believe that a doctor is not the one to make a decision as to how long I have to live my life. Thus, I will clearly not accept my doctor telling me how long I have to live.
The next thing I would do with the news is research. I would do as much research as I could to find a treatment plan that would work for me. I would conduct a thorough research on the different types of treatment for cancer in the United States and abroad. I would research the pros and cons of radiation therapy, chemotherapy and surgery. I would find as many resources online, in libraries and in scientific journals to support the type of treatment that I would eventually get. I would talk to different clinicians, researchers and doctors and see what they would say about my prognosis and what different things could be done to treat the cancer. I would go to a naturopathic doctor, a homeopathic doctor, a holistic doctor and a regular doctor and see what they all have to say about my situation and what the different options are for treatment in the United States.
I would take the best of the advice from each of the professionals that I have mentioned above and I would make a plan that would work for me. I believe that in order to treat the cancer, I have to find someone who is willing to work with me and not just with the cancer that is within me. What I mean by this is that most doctors treat the disease and not the patient.
There are other things that could be done to treat cancer, as well. I would really look into alternative ways of dealing with the cancer. For example, nutrition is a very important factor in how cancer is treated. I would look into how cancer is treated in other countries with nutrition. I would research a raw food diet, a vegan diet, an organic diet, a microbiotic diet and other diets and try to understand the benefits of each one and how they could contribute to my health and how I could incorporate them into my life.
Another thing which I would do is research the different medicine systems in the world. I would find out more information about how cancer is treated in China with traditional Chinese medicine and the movement of Chi in the body. I would also find out how cancer is treated in India with Ayurveda, the medical system in India, which is based on the movement of energy. I would compare and contrast the way in which medicine is practiced in the United States and be better prepared to make a decision regarding my treatment and as to what part of the world I would like to get treated in. There is something else that I would immediately do. I would find a therapist whom I could talk to for an hour once or twice a week. I believe that talking about my situation and how I am feeling about it is a freeing experience that could only contribute positively to the outcome of my cancer diagnosis. In the past, I have gone to a therapist and I believe it is refreshing to be able to talk about one’s problems with someone who is trained to listen.
I would also begin writing everything down in a journal. I would write down my thoughts and my emotions and what I do every time I am presented with a new challenge. Since I hope to be a writer, I would keep these records to write a book if I happen to outlive the doctor’s prognosis to give hope to other people who might be in a situation that is similar to mine.
Finally, I would spend more time with family and friends. I happen to believe that socializing with the people whom one loves could greatly contribute to a cancer treatment. I would make sure to live close to family and friends and to spend as much time as I could with them. I would plan get-togethers where I could spend time together with my family and friends.
There are so many things that one could do in order to fight such a severe cancer diagnosis without feeling like one has given up. I believe that regardless of which path is chosen to fight the cancer, one has got to find a plan that will work for him or her. Not only that, the most important thing in finding a plan that will work for each individual person is to remember not to give up and to continue fighting because life is definitely worth living.