Hahn, Danielle – Surviving Mesothelioma

Hahn, Danielle

Poor Prognosis

Most of you do not know that a short time ago, specifically on July 11th, of last year an inspirational, motivated, strong man died of cancer. Many people die of cancer, but this man was special in the way that he dealt with the news. His name was James O’Connor, also known as Rhio, and he died of the rare cancer, Mesothelioma. The inspiring part of this story and the reason I am writing this essay is to prove and inform you of how taking matter into your own hands may be better than following someone’s advice. Mr. O’Connor was diagnosed with this cancer of his chest in October of 2001. If you did that math in your head you would calculate that he lived seven and a half years with this cancer, but what you did not know is what his doctors told him was that he only had a year, at most, to live.

His doctors diagnosed him and told him that the most probable cause for the tumor was being exposed to asbestos as a young child; he was sixty-one at the time of his diagnosis. They discussed treatment options, which included the most common choices, surgery and chemotherapy. Surgery was too much of a risk because Mr. O’Connor’s tumor was too close to his spine and chemo would most likely decrease his quality of life, but would not increase his life expectancy. What other options could there be? He was advised to just get his affairs in order and relax for his last year, possibly go on a cruise with his wife.

Rhio O’Connor was not happy with this news, understandably, but not only that, he rejected the doctor’s advice. He told himself and his doctors that he will live longer than just one more year. So he could not have surgery or go onto chemotherapy drugs, he could still survive. He worked with multiple clinicians and formulated a plan that included over one hundred supplements a day. He also changed his diet and studied alternative mind and body medicine.

There are many lessons to be learned from O’Connor’s story. I take with me that self-determination and independence can go a long way, especially when big issues or crossroads come into your life. Often I think about how life would change if I had an expiration date, due to cancer or a crystal ball, and researching this cancer and this man brought me a new perspective on the matter.

I am the type of person some people may call a “worry-wart” because I over stress about things. I am not dying of an unexplainable disease or an incurable cancer, but I think it is worth it to consider what I would do if I was. If I were to get the news that I was going to die within the next year from “Mr. Meso,” as Mr. O’Connor called it, the first thing that would run through my mind is how do I leave my family comfortable and ready for my passing. I would want my family to be at ease when I finally have to go so I would plan a giant family reunion to make sure everyone knows what kind of person I grew up to be. I would mend all fences I have built with my family and work really hard to stay calm and collected for everyone else.

I also have a habit of stressing, but during a situation such as this, it would be even more important to work on destressing techniques. Possibly, I would try out yoga or Pilates. I would try to take each day as a new day because I would not want to give up and it would be beneficial to keep an open mind. Not losing hope is one of the most important things when faced with a problem like this. To stay calm and live every day to the fullest would help in keeping my mind clear and logical.

Part of staying logical is being able to accept the problem and think outside of the box to find the solutions to fix it in a way that is best for me. I am not one to question doctors’ orders so I would believe them if they told me surgery and chemo would not work for me. There are other options when it comes to cancer treatment, such as acupuncture, diet changes, including supplements, aromatherapy, traditional therapy and meditation. Keeping the rest of my body at its healthiest and my immune system up to bar is important so keeping my diet in check would be important. I have never tried acupuncture, but it could help with my stress and relieve the physical pain associated with a giant tumor in my chest. Traditional therapy and meditation could help to keep my mind calm and open, as well.

Aside from treating my mental state, I would also consider treating the cancer itself, but in O’Connor’s situation surgery and chemo was not an option. A new treatment option is PDT or photodynamic therapy with mild side effects. PDT is where the patient is injected with certain photosensitive drugs intravenously. After a few days, the patient is treated with a laser light directed at the cancer site that will hopefully kill the cancer cells. The side effects are similar to those of chemotherapy patients, vomiting and metallic tastes, but also may include light sensitivity.

Another new treatment option that I would consider would be immunotherapy to boost the body’s immune stability and ability to fight off the cancerous cells. This treatment could be administered with pills or through an IV at a hospital. There are various side effects including loss of appetite, chills, fever, and vomiting. The side effects would worry me, but it works off of my own body’s defense system which sounds a good way to fight any disease.

James O’Connor did not believe he should just give up and give in to his cancer and that is inspirational. I can only hope that when I am faced with my own death, I can do the research and keep myself mentally and physically stable enough to fight. It takes courage and self-determination to do what Mr. O’Connor did, and it paid off. Cancer treatment is getting better and better everyday, offering more and special options.

I hope that if I am ever put in his situation or a situation as dire as his, I can be as self motivating and brave as Mr. O’Connor and fight for my own treatment. Take matters into my own hands. Do the dirty work and spearhead my own future. My future starts today; Knowledge is power. I ask all my readers to love themselves enough to lead their own lives with determination and goals, it is worth it.

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