Head On

Head On

It has only been two months since I received the devastating news that stomach cancer has invaded my body. I believe it all started about four months ago when I began to feel discomfort in my upper abdomen. When the pain hit, I would take some antacid, thinking it was just indigestion, but occasionally the pain would be so intense that I would double over and clench my stomach until I felt well enough to move again. I waited a couple of days to finally tell my parents. After telling them about this recurring event, they decided it was important to know what was happening to me so they took me to see the doctor. When the appointment was over, the doctor gave me some stronger sample antacids. I faithfully took the samples until they were gone and things seemed to be back to normal.

Just when I thought everything was going to be fine, the pain decided to come back a few weeks later. Unfortunately, pain chose to bring its friends nausea and fatigue along for the ride. My parents noticed the change in my behavior and decided to take me to the doctor again. We all wanted answers. After a chat with the doctor, we scheduled another appointment for testing. When the time came for me to take a few tests, the doctor shared and explained his concerns, but he told me once the results came back we would know the one true diagnosis. A number of weeks passed and the phone call came. My parents and I listened to what the doctor had to say. He told me that I had been diagnosed with stomach cancer. Luckily for me, it was only in its beginning stages so it could be treated, but I would have to make some major changes in my life.

During the first few weeks of my diagnosis, it was hard for me to face the fact that I actually had cancer. I never thought it could happen to me. As the words “you have cancer” echoed through my mind, the information shocked me as if I had just heard it for the first time in my life. Moping around was my favorite activity and I did not care to see any of my friends or hear their sympathy.

One day, after a week of moping around the house, my mom forced me to go outside to get some fresh air and sunshine. While I was walking down the street, I began to admire a neighbor’s gardening. There was a patch of tulips in her front lawn. The colors were magnificent, but that wasn’t what stood out to me. In the patch of a dozen pink tulips, there was a single white, wilting tulip. I began to feel sorry for the little white tulip. It was different from the rest, but it was still beautiful, and it still had a chance to survive. With the proper tools and care, it would live.

It finally hit me. Even though my own body was beginning to wilt, I could survive. With the proper tools and care, I would be able to fight my cancer. Slowly but surely I began to realize that this cancer could never take hold of me. There was a way to overcome! An overwhelming feeling of hope rushed in and I knew that things would get brighter, no matter what the outcome.

Now I am able to say things are not so bad. Even though I am forced to change my lifestyle, cancer is not going to change me as a person. It is only a new chapter of my life that is being written. Even though it is hard at times, I am still able to move forward. I know this chapter will end one day and I will be able to move on to the next chapter of my life. Between the encouragement from my family members and friends and the hope I have found, I can never lose heart.

Fortunately for me, I have never been diagnosed with any form of cancer, but there are over a million new cases of cancer each year that have the potential to change a person’s life in an instant. When these life-changing events arise, paths begin to fork and the answer for the next step is sometimes difficult to find. We begin to ask questions: Why me? What do I do now? Is there any hope? Can I beat this? Some people may feel there is nothing they can do except to let cancer take its course. Others may accept the fact that they have cancer, but they don’t let it take over their lives.

One man, James “Rhio” O’Connor, was willing and ready to take his cancer head on, not giving it a chance to consume his life. O’Connor was diagnosed with a deadly cancer called mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is considered to be an incurable, rare form of cancer in which cancerous cells are found in the mesothelium, a protective sac that covers most of the body’s internal organs. O’Connor was given only one year to live, but he was ready to fight and found his own path to health. Through his research, he was able to create his own therapeutic protocol. With his strong will, optimistic spirit, and belief in something greater than himself, he was able to outlive his prognosis for more than six years.

James O’Connor’s determination and fight should be an amazing inspiration to anyone who is facing cancer or any obstacle to life as it should be. I know he is an amazing inspiration to me, and I don’t even have cancer. His determination to thwart his cancer was intrepid. If I were given a dire cancer prognosis, I believe I would follow in James O’Connor’s steps in order to do everything in my power to defeat my cancer. I admit, it would be hard to get over the initial shock of having cancer, but I would eventually be able to move on. First of all, I would educate myself the best I could on my diagnosed cancer. In order for an army to defeat its enemy, the first step is to know and understand the ones they are up against. Secondly, I would surround myself with people who could encourage me in my battle. Allies strengthen you so you don’t have to fight alone. Finally, I would do my best to have an optimistic attitude while taking everything one step at a time. The best and only way to win the war is to win the battles.

During the research process, I would use as many sources as I could. First of all, I would go to reliable internet sites to get a feel for what I am dealing with. I would make my way to the library to dig a little deeper and would seek out a number of different specialists to discuss treatment options. Finally, I would find other cancer patients to see what type of treatments they have tried to determine if the same treatments would work for me.

With the research process completed, I would then begin to make my treatment decision. My decision would rely heavily on advice from specialists and cancer patients. I believe the most valuable information would come from cancer patients who have experienced treatment options because they have firsthand experience of how the treatment affects them. They would be able to report to me the pros and cons and side effects of the treatments they took.

If chemo, radiation, and surgery had little to offer, I would definitely look beyond those treatments in order to find my own path to recovery. There is no doubt that it would take a long time, but it would be worth it. But I don’t think I would do anything too extreme like move to the Himalayas to drink yak’s milk for the rest of my life. As with many things in life, there is usually more than one way to get to a conclusion.

In making an informed decision, I would certainly want my resources to offer more than just advice but encouragement as well. Having a sturdy support group containing family members, friends, co-workers, other cancer patients, and medical personnel would give me the opportunity to see things in a new light. Their encouragement and opinions would keep me accountable and reassured when things seem unbearable.

Even though James “Rhio” O’Connor’s story is obviously a great example to anyone who is taking on an incurable cancer, it is also a great example for anyone who is facing a bump in the road. When things get difficult, it is extremely easy to give up. Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. If we are determined and able to be optimistic while thinking outside the box, we will find a way to take anything head on.

By: Bowers, Kendra

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