A year and three months ago, my older brother Stephen died of a type of leukemia known as ALL. For over a year, he had been struggling to regain power over his body with several false remissions. Though I know that I can never really predict how my reaction would be, watching my brother’s unending battle with himself, I have learned a great deal about how I would and would not conduct myself were I given a diagnosis of killing cancer.

I would immediately consult as many specialists as possible and compare their recommendations with both typical and experimental treatment plans outlined on several medical databases. I am fortunate enough to have a father in the medical field, so my access to research information and doctors, either through consultations or referrals, is more expansive than most. After beginning a rigorous and immediate medication or operation known for being the most effective–also typically the option most strongly suggested by both personal research and consulted doctors–I would continue to search for treatments or medications being tested that have shown some promise in their research thus far in case the common therapy does not prove successful. Considering my family’s rather extensive past with cancers unresponsive to typical treatment, this alternate procedures would be particularly important for me. One source of information that has provided explanations and potential treatment plans for my family has been databases of individual case studies. It was a resident scouring one of these sites for cases similar to Stephen’s that uncovered what had caused my brother’s memory loss and eventual paralysis. Though the discovery was too late to make a difference, we learned the value of realizing that individual doctors do not hold all of the answers and you must be your own advocate. Another case from which I have learned this valuable lesson is that of James “Rhio” O’Connor, a victim of mesothelioma. He sought out his own treatment through personal inquiry, and worked with his doctors in order to outlive his twelve-month life expectancy by six years. Mesothelioma, as https://survivingmesothelioma.com/ explains, is a malignant cancer that attacks the mesothelium, a membrane that covers most of the essential internal organs of the body, and the cancer cells that attack this vital part of the body can quickly metastitize. Despite the odds against him, James O’Connor used every resource available to him in order to ensure that he was getting a treatment tailored to his body’s needs, proving that research rules out.

Though following the advice of experts would be my initial plan, there are times when their advice does not lead to remission. Sometimes, as in the case of my brother, the usual treatment compounds health issues and leads to deathly complications. Were this the situation or the previous approach ineffective, I would pursue the alternate options that I was researching. Boston, the city we moved to in order to get my brother the most knowledgeable care and my current home, provides a vast array of doctors, foremost in their field, that are conducting groundbreaking research, so I would not have to travel far to find many potentially life-saving treatment plans. Many of these experimental drugs come with risks, but a willingness to take uncertain courses will save a life and keep cancerous cells from metastasizing much faster than inactivity and passiveness. Technology has provided unbounded information just waiting to be found, so there is no excuse for me to simply sit and wait for my potential cancer to eat away at my body.

Another aspect that would factor into my own pursuit for health would be to surround myself with family, and use their support to keep myself from drowning in depression. I have never had a life threatening illness, so I cannot know how much mindset can effect the body in that case, but I have found that maintaining a positive frame of mind and keeping active can provide a sense of balance and control that combats illness. Hopefulness is a very powerful energy, and after I have exhausted the research available and followed the plan of treatment that best fits my situation, I can have the confidence to believe that I can survive significantly longer than the standard life expectancy, just as James O’Connor and others like him have done.

By: Grab, Elizabeth A.

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