“You have cancer. Why don’t you take one last vacation and prepare for hospice care when you return… you have less than a year to live.”
Sixty one year old Rhio O’Connor heard this statement in October 2001. He was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, where cancerous cells are found in the mesothelium, a protective sac that covers most of the body’s internal organs. The average life expectancy for mesothelioma patients is less than five years. Although that specific form of cancer is rare, Rhio’s decision on what to do next was exceptionally rare. Most people would have followed the doctor’s advice and recommended path of treatment, however Rhio was a survivor. He chose to be responsible for his own health and proved the doctors wrong.
Rhio’s course of action was truly an inspiration to anyone facing a battle, whether medical or otherwise. He faced the problem head on, and then found the best way to solve that problem. He chose to educate himself about his illness and make his own informed decisions regarding treatment. He consumed over 100 supplements daily (spending over $1000 a month on vitamins alone) and followed a strict organic diet.
Government sources estimate that in the next decade more than 35,000 people nationwide will be diagnosed with mesothelioma. That is a huge number for such a serious diagnosis – so I have to consider what would I do if faced with something like that? After studying a man like Rhio and what he did, someone would be naturally inclined to follow in his footsteps.
My mother is a survivor of ovarian cancer, and she taught me a lot about life when she was sick. Growing up during and after her illness, I was taught that life is not about who has the coolest clothes, or the biggest house – it is about family. I was very lucky as a child to have these values instilled at an early age, because I think some people lose sight of what happiness truly is. If I was diagnosed with a terminal illness, I would certainly depend on the experience and wisdom of my family members. My mom would be a main source of support, mainly because she is a survivor, much like Rhio.
The very first thing I would do if diagnosed is to have a meeting with my family. Although living with cancer would be a very personal battle, I would want my family to be a part of any and all decisions made. I know that every choice that I would have to make would potentially impact my family, and I would want them to learn about my illness. I trust them with my life, and I value their opinions as much as any advice a doctor could offer.
In addition to seeking out opinions and information from my family, I would devote time to gathering the most recent information about the illness, by interviewing current patients, field experts, and classic internet research. I would be extremely interested in learning about any new options for treatment that need volunteers for testing. I would definitely want to be a part in any medical breakthroughs that could help other patients. For any disease that has been cured, that probably wouldn’t have happened without selfless patients that were willing to undergo treatment that has not yet been proven successful.
I believe the key in overcoming any battle is using positive imagery – visualizing the outcome you want to achieve. Rhio was given a grim diagnosis, however he chose to overcome cancer and not let it beat him. By putting in countless hours dedicated to researching his specific type of cancer, as well as alternative methods of treatment, and using his own personal funds, Rhio was able to survive for 7 1/2 years after his doctor gave him less than a year to live. Because of his thorough investigations, Rhio was able to make very educated decisions about his health care, which many patients unfortunately are not.
Rhio’s outlook gives us all something to look up to, what would the world be like if we treated all roadblocks in life as he did? We can choose to conquer any barrier that is put in front of us, by putting in 110% and willing it to happen.
If you would like to learn more about Rhio O’Connor or surviving mesothelioma, please visit https://survivingmesothelioma.com/.