Receiving a diagnosis of a terminal illness is a daunting prospect to face, and most people would simply resign themselves to the time the doctors said they had left and spend the last of their lives not looking for other options, but working their way through their own personal “bucket list” or giving up their will to live. A select few individuals would buck this trend, such as James “Rhio” O Connor. He would instead research every alternative, learn everything there is to know about the disease threatening his life, refusing to give up and deciding his own path, by the end of it becoming an inspiration to anyone who faces a seemingly hopeless future after being diagnosed with a terminal illness such as cancer.
Rhio received the rather bleak diagnosis of mesothelioma, a type of cancer that one develops after exposure to asbestos, which is commonly found in the insulation of many older buildings, and causes cancer in the abdominal cavity and/or the lining of the lungs in humans when its dust is inhaled. Since one can be exposed to asbestos for only one or two months in order to contract it and it can lie dormant for decades before becoming symptomatic, it is difficult to diagnose mesothelioma in it’s early stages. Rhio’s prognosis was grim. He was given only a year to live, as mesothelioma has no real cure or treatment, and the conventional treatments such as radiation, chemo, and surgery are ineffective and would cause more pain than benefit. It seemed as if his only option was to hold on as long as he could, and let the cancer run its course.
Instead, Rhio decided to learn all he could about his disease, poring over books and journals, researching potential treatments, discussing his questions and concerns with medical professionals, and then created his own treatment and selected his own physicians to carry it out. His tenacity and belief in a higher power that had a greater plan for him gave him the strength to pursue a less travelled path and another six years of life. His life should serve as an inspiration to everyone to not give up no matter how bleak the future may look.
If I faced the same fate as Rhio O Connor, I hope that I would show the same strength of will and character. After I received my diagnosis, I would learn as much as I could about what was wrong with me, the symptoms and progression of my disease, and what conventional treatments could do for me. If I didn’t think that the normal methods, such as chemo or radiation would help me, I would find out any new or experimental treatments for my cancer and look at the side effects and see if they were worth trying. It would make no sense to try a treatment that would extend my life but leave me too miserable to enjoy it, but if they could improve my health for a while, I would certainly give it a try.
Probably one of the first and most important things I would do would be to enlist the support of my family to help me search for an effective treatment and help me as I went through it. My mother has always been the one to research any maladies that have afflicted anyone in our family, so she would be my research and treatment partner. She always has a knack of finding things that I don’t, so I know that no stone would go unturned in the search for information on mesothelioma.
Researching treatments and trying new therapies isn’t the only hard part of cancer. Just as important, if not more so, would be keeping my spirits up. Knowing that Rhio went beyond the conventional treatments and went on to live six years after his diagnosis would be a great source of inspiration to me as I dealt with my own fears about being diagnosed with cancer. The fact that he created his own specific treatment for his cancer would encourage me to go out and explore all of my options, and not to give up on fighting the disease. It would also make me feel better to know that just because I have been given a small amount of time to live doesn’t mean I have to resign myself to the doctor’s prognosis.
Even though there may not be a cure for a disease, as there isn’t for mesothelioma; the life of James “Rhio” O Connor proves that is no reason to stop trying. Rhio knew his disease was terminal, but he fought anyway and extended his life an additional six years, years he wouldn’t have had if he hadn’t decided to become informed about his illness and treatment options, and taken the initiative to take risks and try unexplored territory. His journey through life is an amazing testament to the incredible man he was; and the optimism and strength of spirit he showed is truly miraculous. If anyone could be called an inspiration to others, it would have to be James “Rhio” O Connor.