Hemmerich-Reisis, Jeanie L

How can we possibly become a strong person, if we have an easy life? The tougher it is, the tougher we have a chance to become – if we choose to fight back. Tough times never last – but tough people do. I believe the James “Rhio” O’Connor story is a perfect example. In reading his story, I looked at the struggles in my own life and how I was able to overcome them. I am totally inspired to continue to persevere in the face of adversity, much like Mr. O’Connor did.

Malignant mesothelioma, the condition Mr. O’Connor was faced with, is a rare type of cancer that occurs in the thin layer of cells lining the body’s internal organs, known as the mesothelium. There are three recognized types of mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of the disease, accounting for roughly 70% of cases, and occurs in the lining of the lung known as the pleura. Peritoneal mesothelioma occurs in the lining of the abdominal cavity, known as the peritoneum and pericardial mesothelioma originates in the pericardium, which lines the heart. www.Mesothelioma.com

I personally have never been faced with an illness such as cancer, however, many close friends and family have been. It was difficult to witness their struggles with the disease, but I was also inspired by their strength and courage in facing the disease head on.

Over the past few years I have participated in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, and I am inspired and in awe of the number of survivors at the event. These survivors show me how very possible it is to survive cancer and be inspiration for others diagnosed with the disease. If I were faced with a cancer diagnosis I would educate myself as much as possible with the diagnosis. I would need to be prepared when going to my oncologist and being prepared means having the knowledge about the disease so that I would best be able to understand the proposed treatment plan.

I would let my doctor know that I would want to try alternative or unproven treatment. There are many herbs, supplements, or treatments that claim to cure or treat cancer. Keeping my doctor abreast of any alternative treatments I am interested in trying would be imperative to ensure they would not be harmful or interact negatively with the traditional medical treatment I would be receiving.

Checking my medical insurance policy’s provisions is crucial. On top of the disease and all that comes with it; I would not want to be in a financial crisis as well.

With the stress cancer causes, it would be important that I take care of myself–the whole person–not just the cancer. I would want to become more “in tune” with myself, or just do things to take my mind off the disease. I would look at physical activities such as walking, dancing, and yoga that I have heard improves your sense of well-being and makes you more aware of your body. I am a huge fan of poetry and music so, I would look at creative ways to express myself and keep my mind off cancer. Meditation and relaxation training would also be a key to dealing with the anxiety and symptom control. Taking on a new and challenging activity could give me a sense of accomplishment, as well as help reduce stress.

Taking care of me also means accepting help from others. When a person is diagnosed with cancer, he or she may need to ask for and accept help for the first time ever. This can include help from friends and family or outside help. Asking for help does not mean you are a weak person. Arranging transportation to and from treatment, getting medical equipment to use at home, hiring a home health aide, or finding someone to watch the children while I am being treated are just a few of the many tasks that may need to be done. Handling all of these changes along with my regular responsibilities can be stressful. To manage well, I would ask for help.

I have a behavioral science background so, a good support system is vital to effectively coping with cancer! Support can come in many forms, like through friends and loved ones and support groups. The key to good cancer support is learning to recognize when you need it and where to get the best support.

I would target the people in my life who are spiritual warriors, prayer partners, organizers, and who have been feeling helpless while I’ve been in treatment. I would put them to work creating hope on my behalf. They can pray, listen, counsel, line up meals or rides, clean my house, baby-sit the kids, or come and hold my hand. I believe its okay to ask for support from hopeful people. If I were in treatment, I would allow myself to stop trying to do it all.

In closing, I do a lot of scrapbooking, so I would take out my scrapbooks and reflect on celebrations, or vacations that were very positive experiences. Having a photo or postcard is often a good way to focus on a good memory. If I were feeling blue, I would dive into the positive memories and soak up the hope that belongs to me.

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