As we move though our daily lives, from the moment we have our morning cereal until the minute we close our eyes at night, not once do we consider the possibility of being diagnosed with cancer. We live as though we were untouchable, almost unreachable, and we become convinced that “it can’t happen to me”. The reality, however, is that in the overall scheme of life, we are all the same, and if it happened to James “Rhio” O’Connor, then it can certainly happen to you and me.
O’Connor was diagnosed with Mesothelioma, or cancer of the Mesothelium, and given a less than optimistic life expectancy. In this particular type of cancer, the thin layer of cells that surrounds the internal organs of the body, like the heart and lungs, become malignant, abnormal and divide without control or regulation. These abnormal cells can attack and harm nearby tissues and organs. Although the exact cause of Mesothelioma is unknown, exposure to asbestos is one of the known risk factors. Despite the fact that he was given a year to live, death was never an option; alone he opened the door to a new beginning and a longer life. He took his life into his own hands by going above and beyond what doctors told him without fear of the unknown. With research, will power, and determination he was able to live more than six years beyond the prognosis.
With a mentality that considers cancer impossible, how does it become achievable to survive against all odds? Like anything else in life, and just as O’Connor proved correct, education is key to not only surviving but also to maintaining a healthy environment for our families and loved ones.
To tell the truth, if I was diagnosed with Mesothelioma cancer the first thing I would do is cry uncontrollably and give up on everything I have worked hard for, including school. This is on the reasons why O’Connor is a true inspiration; not only because of his ability to research and find his own way, but because he has taught us to go against all odds, and to believe not only in ourselves, but also the decisions we make. After reading a story like O’Connor’s I regained hope in the unimaginable and for the first time began to believe that anything is possible.
The first step after acceptance, is understanding the illness by considering all the therapies and treatments available; aside from the conventional ones like chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery since after a while these begin to take a toll not only on the patient, but on the family as well. While finding the best doctors and treatments is important, it’s also vital to be realistic about the type of treatment that you can actually afford and are able to attend without disrupting the flow of your family’s routine. Moving to a different state, or even country, would be almost unrealistic since not only would there be the issue of the illness, but the misplacement among your family and even friends. At times like these, it’s essential to have as many supportive friends and family members to rely on as possible.
The internet would be my primary source of knowledge since phone books and family contacts are no longer enough, especially when it comes to considering all the available options. If the conventional treatments are not a choice, then alternative treatments mixed with naturalistic methods would be preferable.
Despite all of the sources available it’s extremely difficult to find credible and understandable sources. During my search for Mesothelioma treatment, I became frustrated and at times desperate to finally find an answer. Frankly, what O’Connor accomplished was exceptional, and certainly required a lot more work than many of us are willing to invest in details.
Studies are always a great source for data on previous and existing Medical research. Numbers speak louder than words, if a treatment has a high rate of improvement among patients who have been under that treatment, then that would definitely be a possibility to seriously consider. Choosing a physician and treatment would be based on previous trials and the benefits that these brought for the patients. As long as a treatment has had consistent positive results then it’s worth a try.
Since Mesothelioma is not usually diagnosed until the later stages, like III and IV, surgery would no longer be an option. However, this can also mean good news since it implies that many studies exists that emphasize on patients who are at the advanced state, rather than at the beginning. Either way, it’s always better to believe that there are alternative options no matter what the circumstances look like.
Even if at the end O’Connor’s life met a tragic fate he has left us with something to live by; to never give up and to always search for a way out, for an alternative to what others say or believe. There is a difference between what experts believe and what actually is, it all lies within the realm of what could have been and what we did to change it.
By: Hoil, Yaneth