Hoffmann, Lori – Surviving Mesothelioma

Hoffmann, Lori

The Fight Inside

The most important thing I’ve learned about the battle of cancer is no matter how rare, no matter how difficult…just no matter what, don’t give up and don’t let the cancer win by letting it take over your life. James “Rhio” O’Connor did just that after being diagnosis with mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer, giving him a year to live. The location of his tumor ruled out surgery, and his doctors did not believe chemotherapy would lengthen his life significantly to justify the decreased quality of his life from the therapy. Mr. O’Connor didn’t let his cancer take away his will to live. In contrast to his grim one year diagnosis he lived more than six years longer than expected. He did so by educating himself about the disease he had and the long and short term effects of different treatments. This allowed him to be the final decision maker of how to treat his cancer along with some guidance from his selected doctors. Mr. O’Connor is an inspiration to people either with or without cancer. Everywhere I turn these days someone I know has or worse yet, had cancer. It seems that there are hundreds of different cancers a person can develop that I can’t even keep up anymore. You name it; breast, skin, lung, pancreatic cancer and leukemia have all stricken my family. There have been so many people in my family that have died of cancer that there was a period in my life I almost felt doomed. Having the realty shoved in my face that one day I will die and it just might be from cancer terrified me. I was scared of every ache and pain that I had, I was sure that when I went to the doctor he was going to tell me I have cancer.

Thank god, I don’t have cancer, but if I was to be diagnosis with cancer I would be devastated. It would probably take a couple of days for it to sink in, but then I would more than likely get mad and feel like I was being cheated out of my life. My next step would be to do as much research as I could about the disease. I would have a strong desire to know how this has happened to me. Therefore I would search the internet or go to the library because I would want to learn every aspect of the disease, how it develops, how it progresses, what slows it down, and what the statistics are. I would also talk with different healthcare professionals, as I have learned that doctors are just people like you and me. They all have their own opinions; it would be up to me to find the doctor that is best suited for my needs. I would also seek out a support group to talk with other people that are living with cancer and learn from their experiences.

Once armed with an understanding of the disease I would start on my research of the medicines, treatments and the alternatives that might be available to me and the effects they might have on my body. If I was told that I was dying and chemo, radiation or surgery might help me live a little longer, but will more than likely take away any quality of the life I have left. I would have to decline these options because I would want the time I have left on this earth to be good memories with the people I love the most. It is hard enough to watch someone suffer from the illness of cancer alone; now throw in chemo, radiation or surgery on top of the cancer. I’m not saying that these treatments don’t help some people. I’m telling you that these treatments are very hard on an already ill body. Sometimes these treatments make a person’s body weaker than it already was. So a person needs to be aware of every option available to them. James “Rhio” O’Connor didn’t want to live what life he had left in that manner, and I wouldn’t either. He was determined to make the best out of what time he had. Still to this day when I hear the word “Cancer” I cringe, what a dreadful word. The first emotion I feel is “empathy”. How terrible it must have been for Mr. O’Connor to live with the symptoms of his mesothelioma. I think of my father, mother, aunts and uncles and their experiences with cancer. All of which took different roads in their fight against cancer, I can’t say any of their decisions were wrong. But from reading Mr. O’Connor’s story I learned that people have to educate themselves on what the best path would be right for them in their fight with cancer. James “Rhio” O’Connor stepped up to the fight. He wanted to learn and be armed with the tools he needed to ask the right questions and make the right choices. In my eyes Mr. O’Connor won, he outlived his prognosis and he helped educate people that you don’t have to give up and die because that’s what you were told. I’m a true believer in the old saying “knowledge is power” and just like Mr. O’Connor, I’m a person that wants to know, wouldn’t you?

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