Inspiration from the Life of James “Rhio” O’Connor
If someone were to give you the date that you were going to die, what would you do? Would you choose to accept your fate, or would you fight with every remaining breath to live? Many people have been thrown headlong into this situation. Some simply succumb to the fact that there is little hope left for them and accept their fate. Others, however, choose to fight. They choose to dedicate what remaining time they have left to finding a way to beat whatever it may be that is taking their life in the hopes of not only finding a cure for themselves, but for others that may be put into a similar situation after they are gone. One person that chose to follow the latter path was James “Rhio” O’Connor.
O’Connor was diagnosed with mesothelioma, and was given only one year to live. Mesothelioma is an extremely dangerous cancer that is caused by over-exposure to asbestos particles, which used to be found in nearly every building in the United States due to its fire retardant abilities. This particular cancer forms in the mesothelium; which is the lining found around most of the body’s internal organs, and it ordinarily develops in the lining around the lungs because inhalation is the most common form of exposure to asbestos.
Even though O’Connor was given a very grim forecast for what was to come, he chose to not give in to popular opinion and to take it upon himself to find a way to extend his life. He spent innumerable hours researching the disease and its possible cures. He also worked tirelessly with doctors, researchers, and other patients to find a treatment protocol formulated specifically for him. This, along with a strong will to live, allowed him to extend his life well beyond his initial timeframe; six years compared to just one.
Rhio’s story inspires me, personally, because of this man’s amazingly strong will to persevere. Instead of giving in to the belief that there was nothing he could do, he fought in order to hold on to what little hope there was. If I were to be thrust into a similar situation tomorrow, I honestly cannot predict exactly what I would do. I like to think that I would follow in his footsteps, but the truth of the matter is that no one really knows the limits of their own personal resolve until they are put into a situation that seems utterly hopeless. I would, however, rather be remembered for standing strong in the face of adversity than for cowering down and giving in when all seems lost.
If I was given the same prognosis that O’Connor received, after the initial shock and despair wore off, the most important move would be to attempt to find out all of the information that my current physician had on my own personal diagnosis, along with all information on the disease itself. My next step would be to meet with as many other respected doctors and researchers as I possibly could in order to get as many different perspectives on my situation as possible. Many people have been given only a short time to live by one doctor, but found another that had a treatment regimen that greatly extended the prognosis or even beat the cancer in its entirety.
Personal research about the cancer would be just as important as getting opinions from different doctors. It would be too much of a risk to go headlong into a fight with an adversary you know nothing about. I would owe it to myself to be knowledgeable on the subject in order to help myself understand what it is that the clinicians are asking of me and to make well informed decisions. The internet is a bastion of information regarding all kinds of diseases, so starting there would be a good plan. Once I have learned the basics about the cancer, I would try to find more in-depth resources in order to discover a suitable treatment path. Other cancer survivors and cancer specialists who have many years of experience dealing with these types of situations would be the best source.
The most well know forms of cancer treatment are chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. They are relatively successful at ridding the body of cancerous cells if the cancer is not already too far along to treat. However, chemotherapy and radiation therapy can ravage the body. If these methods are not going to provide any real help then I would rather not expose myself to that. Of course, this choice would be run past the clinicians overseeing my treatment, but in order to prolong my life I would rather avoid treatments that would weaken a body already struggling with cancer if they would do no real good. If the standard treatments will not help any more, then there are other non-medical or experimental treatments that have been known to at least prolong the life of the patient. For me, these treatments would come as a last resort, but really all they can do is help. I can’t see any reason why I would stop in the middle of the fight to refuse some new or natural treatment that could in some way extend my life, even if it only slows the cancer.
Those people that are closest to me would play a major role in determining how I would go about getting treatment for any disease, as well. My parents, siblings, significant other, and close friends would be the first people to learn of the situation. Family and friends are very important in a person’s recovery from any terrible ordeal. The comfort and support that these people offer can be invaluable, especially when given a bleak prognosis like the one that James was given. My spouse would be the first person I would consult if an important decision regarding treatment needed to be made. My parents would come next, and then my good friends. I feel like these people could all offer opinions stemming from different view points when I need to make a tough decision. Children, however, would be a different story. If I have young children, and this situation occurs then I would try to keep them removed from what is going on. A parent, at least in my opinion, is supposed to be that steady rock that a child can always hold onto. Parents are never supposed to get tired, hurt, or sick so I would wish to keep a younger child away from such problems if I can. I can honestly say that knowing I have all of these people behind me, supporting me every step of the way, would really help to bolster my spirits and give me strength, even when I feel like giving in. My family and friends are probably the best reason for why I would want to keep fighting my disease with whatever strength I have left.
If this situation were to ever happen to me, I would do my best to keep faith and believe that I will pull through no matter what. If you put your faith in a higher power and truly believe that you can win, then there is no telling what may happen. However, I cannot allow hope to blind me from the harsh realities of my situation. I could, very possibly die. So regardless of how much time I have remaining, I want to be sure that I make the most of it. It may seem rather cliché to say that I would want to be sure to spend any extra time I have with my loved ones, and attempting to mend my relationship with God. However, in the end what else does a person have besides their family and the Lord? Currently I feel like I haven’t been perfect towards either, and I would hope that both would be willing to forgive, but I don’t see the point in taking that hope for granted. For me, the answer to the question I posed earlier is clear.
Do you accept your fate and go out quietly, or fight for as long and as hard as you can? This question is one that no one hopes to have answer in their lifetime, but most inevitably will in some way or another. Personally, I am not naïve, and I realize that life is not eternal and that eventually everyone will pass on to whatever is next. However, the courage demonstrated by James “Rhio” O’Connor and others like him inspires me. I can only hope that if a similar situation was to befall me that I will be ready to fight for every extra day that I can find, as he did. I also hope that, while I pray to never be put in the same situation as Rhio, I can learn from him and treat every day like it could be my last.
By: Hank, Cory