Hoellein, Shaylee – Surviving Mesothelioma

Hoellein, Shaylee

Gandhi once said that “strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”

I believe this statement to be true, as I have seen success through self-determination in my own life and through the stories of others such as Rhio, a survivor of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that forms from the body’s protective lining surrounding many of our internal organs, and it is almost always caused from exposure to asbestos. Rhio’s self-determination, research and positive spirit helped him outlive his prognosis of having less than one year to live.

First and foremost, it’s inspiring to know that through Rhio’s own personal research – not solely the information provided by his doctors – he was able to outlive his prognosis by more than six years. I admire his will to pave his own path to success rather than relying on one paved by others. I have a strong belief that there is no one right plan of attack in any situation or on any subject matter that is right for everyone in the world. Naturally, experts’ research and knowledge is critical, but no one’s context is ever exactly the same. In accordance with this belief, I can imagine that my first steps after finding out I too had such a rare cancer would be similar to Rhio’s.

Before I told my family and friends about the prognosis, I would want to be prepared with all the information I could find about my condition alongside a decision about what kind of treatment (if any) I would be receiving. I feel that vague information about such a serious situation is never a great idea. My own research would start first in the library and on the web, as I would want to know about all aspects of the cancer, including causes, stages, side effects and long term effects. After learning about the cancer itself, I would want to talk to other patients diagnosed with the same condition, researchers, and clinicians about the various options for treatment. Any one form of conventional treatment alone has shown unimpressive results – therefore, I would consider multiple forms of treatment, such as surgery in combination with radiation and chemotherapy. However, even though combined treatments have had a higher success rate, none of these options are guaranteed to work for everyone all the time, and these forms do produce negative side effects.

Because of this, I would look into complementary forms of healing alongside the conventional treatments. Art therapy, meditation, acupuncture, etc. can all assist with a patient’s emotional well-being and help provide a sense of peace and stability during what I can only imagine to be a trying and scary time in life. Having a healthy and emotionally sound mind may very well be a key component in avoiding the rapid spread of cancer cells.

If a conventional treatment solution seemed to unlikely to work due to the stage or seriousness of the cancer, I would next look towards specialized doctors and researchers about alternative forms of treatment such as electromagnetic therapy and essiac (herbs). These forms of treatment are still being evaluated, but have been merited as successful and helpful in many cases. Some of these therapies are geared towards reducing side effects, controlling/curing the disease, or even just preventing stress. I would consult patients who have participated in alternative forms of treatment and weigh my options.

• What is the ratio of success in past cases with each form of treatment? • Which form of treatment feels right for me? • Which forms of treatment would be the best combination for my situation? • Do I need complementary treatments to help with emotional well-being, or can I obtain that through other personal means such as religion, hobbies, family support, etc.?

It is important to take into consideration the opinions of experts and professionals, but I feel that the final say most certainly belongs to the patient. Where would the world be if everyone always took the advice of the experts? Only you know what is genuinely right for yourself.

Finally, after I had presented my research and decisions to family and close friends, I would consult their opinions. How did they feel about my choice of treatment? Have they themselves done any research that relates to my situation? Do they know anyone who has survived my (or any form) of cancer? After so much research and a final consultation with those that know me best, I feel that I would be ready to make an educated and well thought-out decision.

I was truly inspired by Rhio’s story because as I have already mentioned numerous times, I am a strong believer in the power of oneself and the importance of education. I feel that the more you know, the better equipped you are to make responsible decisions for yourself that can lead to a happy and fulfilled life.

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