In 2001, Rhio O’Connor was diagnosed with Mesothelioma, a rare but deadly kind of cancer found in the lungs. He was given only a year to live. This devastating diagnosis did not stop Rhio, infact it motivated him. Instead of laying back and letting cancer happen to him, Rhio fought that cancer with all he had. Rhio studied his cancer in every way possible. He researched his sickness, he spoke to doctors, researchers, and even patients in order to find a way to beat the Mesothelioma that had attacked him. He found out about all sort of treatments and their effects. He really took his cancer head on.
Rhio’s perseverance was not in vain. Through his rigorous study and his positive attitude Rhio O’Connor outlived his prognosis by more than six years. Rhio O’Connor is an example of determination, hope, and resilience.
I am blessed to have some “Rhio O’Connors” in my personal life, people who have taught me the value of life, the importance of fighting, and the importance of never giving up. When I was 15 years old, a good friend of mine found a small bump on her arm. We all thought it was nothing, as Maddie was a young and healthy girl. As a precaution she and her mother went to the doctor and had the bump looked at. The doctors said it was just a cyst and removed it. After the surgery, the doctors learned that this was not just a cyst, but that this lump was cancerous. My friend, Maddie, was diagnosed with epithelioid sarcoma, a very rare but very aggressive form of cancer. Because the cyst was removed the doctors assured her that she was cancer free and that she would be fine. A few months later, in a routine check-up, they found that not only did she still have cancer, but that it had spread to her lungs. The tumors on her lungs, unlike her arm, were impossible to remove. The doctors explained that she could try chemotherapy, but that with this kind of cancer, it was usually not successful. Despite this Maddie decided to give it her best and try the chemotherapy.
Like the doctors had said, it was unsuccessful. The cancer was unaffected by the treatment, but Maddie did not give up. Maddie decided to try alternative treatments, researching anything that could possibly help. After months of fighting, however, the cancer beat her. The cancer did not defeat her, however, she beat the cancer in her own way. Despite her sickness, Maddie lived a full life. She did not let the cancer stop her from making friends, from embracing new things, and reaching her goals. Throughout all her sickness, Maddie always wanted to graduate high school, and she did. She fulfilled her dreams.
A couple of months ago, my Aunt Kim was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Since Kim’s diagnosis she has undergone two surgeries and is currently undergoing chemotherapy. Kim does all this working full time and taking care of my three cousins. She truly inspires me.
Having so many people around me deal with cancer, I have often thought of what I would do if I were to be diagnosed myself. I have decided that I would have to fight it. I know it would be tempting to just let it happen to me, to let the cancer run its course. That would probably be my first inclination. After seeing the example of Maddie and Kim, however, I could never just let it happen to me. I could never pretend that their fights and struggles have not affected me. Watching them go through their battles with cancer has changed me.
If I were to be diagnosed with cancer I would fight it like Rhio, and Maddie, and my Aunt Kim did. I would do all I could to keep my life. I would research every treatment, I would talk to several doctors, I would look into alternative treatments. I would map out every possible way to beat the sickness. I would weigh the pros and cons of every treatment and find one the right one for me. I would do this, because, if Maddie and my Aunt Kim have taught me anything, it’s just how important life is, how much it’s worth fighting for, how great it really can be. They never lost sight of that, and I never want to lose that sight either.