Cancer Survival Guide

Cancer Survival Guide

Mesothelioma – that is the dreaded name doctors assign to a malignant form of cancer that affects the mesothelium, a membrane that covers several vital organs within the torso area, including the lungs and the heart. In almost every case of the cancer, exposure to the substance asbestos is linked as the cause of the disease. Asbestos is group of silicate minerals often used in construction for its durable qualities. The mere utterance of mesothelioma, while often associated with a death sentence within a year of its diagnosis, can be overcome through a spirit of optimism, practical knowledge, and persistence. These three traits describe James “Rhio” O’Connor, a mesothelioma patient who overcame his prognosis by six years.

What further separates Rhio from many hospital patients was the will to make difficult choices when the time called for them and the thorough research he underwent in order to further understand and attack his mesothelioma. He sought for answers far beyond the traditional chemotherapy and radiation treatments offered by his doctors. In this way, he often resorted to specific vitamins and even traditional Chinese medicine and herbs in order to alleviate his condition, to the point that he was taking “142 pills a day”. Indeed, Rhio believed that his doctors focused too much upon fighting the mesothelioma itself and underestimated the value of attacking the symptoms that reduce a patient’s life expectancy in the first place.

Needless to say, the manner in which Rhio handled his cancer diagnosis can serve as an example to any individual haggling with the likes of Death himself. While there is no deal with the devil to be made, if given a cancer prognosis, I would look up to Rhio’s example but at the same time seek my own alternative solutions. Indeed, any individual may look up to me as to how I manage such a struggle, so the decisions I make not only impact the individual, but also will have a ripple effect within an extended community.

When confronted with any type of a life crisis, whether controllable or uncontrollable, the first step would be to develop a concrete philosophy as to how the crisis is to be tackled. Without a doubt, among the most grueling experiences of treating a chronic condition such as cancer is simply finding out the verdict – that is – the exact time I would have to live and the extent of the condition. With that in mind, I would comfort myself with the fact that once the verdict is announced and given that symptoms do not worsen or change dramatically, there is no need to further exaggerate and panic about the prognosis. One is stuck with the prognosis until the cancer is cured or the patient is dead.

Moreover, with this approach in mind, I would engender what psychology terms as an internal locus of control, which offers myself as much control as I can over the events that befall upon me while experiencing cancer. By granting myself more control over how I interpret and act upon life events, I take away undue stress, which alone can shorten my life expectancy. Indeed, the body reacts to stress in much the same way as imminent threats. In both scenarios, the brain activates the “fight or flight” response that includes increasing blood pressure, dilating the pupils, and preparing the muscles for increased activity. While this process is essential to survival, remaining in a state of constant “fight or flight” by cursing fate and panicking about what to do every day would certainly distract the body from attempting to deal with the big picture.

While developing an internal locus of control is essential, I also emphasize maintaining a close professional relationship with a trusted physician. Ultimately the plan of attack against any terminal condition is a combined decision between the expertise of the physician and the judgment of the patient. With this process in mind, I would seek as much information as I can pertaining to the condition of the cancer and understand how and why a doctor would suggest a specific solution such as chemotherapy or surgery over another solution such as radiation. Nonetheless, while the risk of malpractice insurance ensures a degree of authenticity among doctors, I would be suspicious of a doctor who seemed lacking of specific knowledge, overly confident in one solution over the alternatives, or simply uncooperative due to a lack of attention and care.

As Rhio mentions in his book “They Said Months, I Chose Years: A Mesothelioma Survivor’s Story”, I would place a preference to be treated with a simple operation such as chemotherapy first, but if an extenuating condition such as a weak heart or liver condition existed, that would be the point when I would subscribe to more holistic methodologies. If there were no panacea (for the most part there is none) to the cancer at hand, the most reasonable approach would consist of highly focused nutrition and steering away from substances such as sugars. With nutrition, one is focusing on the symptoms of a cancer, such as a weakened immune system, which can indefinitely increase life expectancy; even if it means recognizing that the cancer will exist for the rest of one’s lifetime.

In addition, I would also utilize Internet resources to their fullest potential as the Internet not only allows for unprecedented freedom of expression, but also contains infinite reservoirs of research papers and medical reports that may potentially relate to any terminal condition. Indeed, breakthrough medical technology and treatments are updated virtually by the day, ranging from common sense to radical treatments akin to the Garson therapy.

Nonetheless, unlike Rhio, I would likely find myself more selective as to how many supplements I use. Not only would I consider how well a supplement could alleviate the symptom, but what is also important is what side effects there are to be concerned with. Based on the information received, a relative cost-benefit analysis of each treatment or supplement would pay dividends not only in reducing high medical costs but also ensure that each action taken has a defined purpose in the treatment of cancer.

Despite how my underlying war strategy differs from that of Rhio, his example ultimately endures as a testament that the individual patient can make all the difference even if a prognosis suggests otherwise. Although he was defamed for his handling of the Great Depression, perhaps Herbert Hoover offers among the greatest forms of inspiration that matches the spirit of Rhio in his emphasis of “rugged individualism”, which espouses that individual agents have the primary responsibility in creating one’s own success and well-being, not the spoon-feeding from an overarching institution. Moreover, even with the best technology one cannot guarantee a survival against cancer, what matters most is, in the words of William Ernest Henley’s Invictus, that “we are the masters of our fate: the captains of our soul.”

By: Hasson, Sean

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