If I were faced with the decisions that Mr. O’Connor must have been following his prognosis concerning the mesothelioma deteriorating the inside of his body, I can only imagine that I would follow a similar pathway as Rhio. All too many of the treatments that exist today for cancer, especially those available to the general public, are an unsuitable solution to the problem. Their mechanism of action is like that of a nuclear explosion inside the body. No part of the body is nil affected by many of these treatments; chemo therapy trumping that list.
Every body is different just as everybody is different. Seeking an individualized treatment plan seems, to me, the sanest decision one could make when faced with certain death. At the very least, one can meet that end on their own terms and not those of the aggressor. I believe that is what I find most inspiring about his struggle. So many people today are perfectly healthy, yet are awaiting death for whatever their reasons. This man was dealt a hand that would easily push any over the edge into despair, seclusion, or worse. The refusal to simply lie down and die is something that anyone can respect and admire. But to not only stand for yourself, but for those yet diagnosed or born, that they may have a better chance, this is where illumination lies. Already an academic, a library wasn’t an un-too familiar sight. In my opinion, he approached the problem in a most “lawyer-ish” fashion. He knew that he must seek a treatment, but he didn’t know what that was. He then set about “building his case” against the cancer by doing his homework and by finding the people who are the expert witnesses against these agitators. As he gained knowledge, which it is important to note the disparity of the discipline he was then studying compared to law precedents and statutes, in a new discipline, his treatment began to evolve to something that is more personalized. The decisions made by him to seek procedures and treatments that were questionable were indeed very brave; pioneering the way for, unfortunately, more to come. One could infer from his willingness to undergo risky or even suicidal treatments that he may be considered his life forfeit on some level. This is a sign of real-life martyrdom.
I tell myself that I would follow a similar pathway if faced with the same decisions as Rhio O’Connor, but I could only be certain of that if I were faced with the decision in real-life. Lawyers are oft mocked for their lack of moral fortitude. They were wrong about this one. He could have just as easily ran for the hills and try to squeeze a couple more years of vacation or some other pleasure pursuit until it was no longer possible. He could have done that, but he didn’t. He considered his body a battle ground upon which a great war was to be fought. The implications of his approach to his treatment of his cancer has had long lasting effects in the medical community, indeed the entire philosophy concerning cancer treatment and its’ relation to the body. The fact that doctors now seek to individualize every patient’s course of treatment is a well-enough indicator that the battles Rhio fought were not in vain. His self sacrifice has imbued in us all his memory. Through his family, loved ones, and those inspired by, and following his example will he never perish. I tell myself that I would follow a similar pathway, but I cannot be sure until faced with it.
If there is anything to take to heart in this story, inspiring in many ways though it is, is this; life is short no matter what takes you. With all due respect to the mantle of work involved in becoming a lawyer, it took a death sentence to one man to motivate him to change the way medicine is done in the context of cancer treatment and, moreover, the individualized-style of treatment proliferating medical practices the world over. It is feats of this nature that make one feel extremely guilty for every day wasted in front of the television or involved in other equally fruitless endeavors. Perhaps there is something to the old adage: “the candle always burns brighter at the base”.