Hansen, Emily – Surviving Mesothelioma

Hansen, Emily

A Nursing Student’s Look at an Incurable Cancer

Cancer is a disease that does not discriminate between race, gender, age, or socioeconomic status. It is a vicious illness in which hundreds of thousands of people die each year. There are a number of different kinds of cancer, some of which are considered to be a death sentence if diagnosed. That is to say, some cancers used to be a death sentence before Rhio O’Connor proved the world wrong. O’Connor was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a “deadly” cancer in which the cells of the membrane coverings of internal organs become abnormal and duplicate uncontrollably. These cancerous cells can then metastasize to other parts of the body wreaking havoc along the way. While cancer can be caused by a number of carcinogens, this particular cancer is linked to exposure to asbestos. Although there have been many recent strides in reducing asbestos use, this chemical compound has been used in numerous different products. As a result, many people have been exposed to this carcinogen at some point in their lives. The therapy approaches for this cancer include standard treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. However, long-term survivors like Rhio O’Connor were not limited by these traditional methods. O’Connor researched his cancer thoroughly and was able to take an active role in his treatment by implementing knowledgeable consent. He tirelessly discussed his diagnosis with doctors, patients, ad other researchers in order to learn even more than what his many hours in the library taught him. This persistence in combination with O’Connor’s optimism and spiritual beliefs allowed him to live with this “incurable” cancer for an unimaginable six years after his first prognosis.

This account of Rhio O’Connor is inspiring to all because it is a true tale of overcoming the seemingly impossible. Mr. O’Connor’s additional and unexpected years of survival are astonishing and bring to mind other feats of grandeur. Over the years, humans have done the unthinkable by building the pyramids, walking on the moon, and cloning living animals. Now, thanks to Rhio O’Connor, surviving a terminal disease can be added to this list. This act of conquering something thought to be so impossible makes me believe that if faced with a difficult challenge like his, I would be able to find a way, however unorthodox, to overcome it myself. If an unexpected and grueling situation arose in my life, I would be persistent as Rhio O’Connor was and take an active role in finding a solution. If I were given a cancer prognosis like Mr. O’Connor’s, I would use every available resource and every ounce of my energy to aggressively fight the cancer by using both traditional and contemporary methods. Like O’Connor, I would explore clinical trials and what would be considered risky procedures because without risk, reward is rare.

If I found out I had a terminal cancer I can think of no better place to conduct research than here at my school, UCLA. I am currently a first year nursing student at the University of California Los Angeles and the resources that surround me would be a perfect place to begin my exploration of cancer. There are numerous libraries available to me as well as a world-renowned medical center on campus as well. I would first find as much information as possible in the libraries, beginning at the Biomedical Library, to get a general understanding of cancer and my specific type. Then, once I have a more in depth knowledge, I would begin to talk to my academic advisors and professors to get their opinion as to what to do next. My professors and teaching assistants in my nursing classes all have been nurses and many have their doctorate degree in nursing. They have all, without doubt, cared for cancer patients at some point in their lives and therefore, would have good advice. With their help I would begin to talk to researchers here on campus at the University’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. In collaboration with the researchers, I would begin to explore clinical trials and begin to alter my lifestyle, as Mr. O’Connor did, in order to fight this disease. I would alter my diet and exercise plan while staying optimistic and determined. I truly believe that positive thinking has great power over the body and that the right attitude can improve your health. If chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery prove not to help my situation, I would then look into the most cutting edge trials and with the help of input from friends, family, nurses, doctors, and researchers I would decide the next step in my treatment.

Through taking an active role in researching my cancer, I would know exactly what was going on and be able to ensure that I was taking every available measure to fight my disease. If I were able to conquer the disease as Rhio O’Connor and others have, I too would inspire many and make them believe that they can accomplish the impossible. Countless people do the extraordinary everyday. With the right approach, conquering cancer is no different.

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