It was a little brown notebook.
It was so inconspicuous that my family members didn’t find it until the second day of sorting out my belongings.
Once they opened it, though, they saw exactly what I went through in more than three years of battling pleural mesothelioma before finally dying on July 13, 2010.
My family knew I could not go the conventional route of chemotherapy, surgery or radiation because of where the cancer was and because of my preferences to have a high quality of life. They also knew I outlived my prognosis by years.
They didn’t know exactly how, though. That is, until my mom opened up the little brown notebook and found my journal. She then began to randomly read some of the entries, starting with the day I received my diagnosis.
February 18, 2007
I got the worst news of my life today. It’s cancer. I can’t believe it. I still have so much to do with my family and my friends.
But I have a year to live, the doctor says. They got the results back from the pathologist and I have pleural mesothelioma. It’s a cancer of the membrane around my lungs, most likely from contact with asbestos.
They say I can’t do surgery because of where the tumor is. Radiation and chemotherapy are my only options.
I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I can’t let this beat me.
February 21, 2007
Things aren’t looking well. I just back from the doctor and we talked about my radiation and chemotherapy choices. None of them sound good.
The side effects will be worse than I thought. They don’t really increase my life expectancy that much, either. I don’t know if I want to try them. My parents and I discussed it and we all said that those options would change my life too much for me to enjoy it. If I have less than 365 days left on this planet, I want to enjoy them. I want to spend time with my family and I want to keep living like I do.
I guess it’s up to prayer and positive thinking now. Dad says to keep a smile on my face. It’s hard to do with the future I’m facing but if it gives me just an extra hour on this planet, then it’s worth it.
March 1, 2007
Dad told me today that there’s science behind a positive attitude and better health. That makes me feel like I can somewhat control what’s happening to me.
He’s been doing a lot of research. I’ve got to admit I have not. I know I have to beat this, but it’s scary.
Because of that, I haven’t really made the initiative to see what’s out there. I’m too scared to see what the research says.
I think my dad is right, though. I think I have to do more research.
March 3, 2007
There is hope.
My research has shown there is hope. I found out about a man named James “Rhio” O’Connor. He was also given a year to live with pleural mesothelioma but has lived years past it. He’s even done it without the conventional remedies. It can be done! O’Connor has done it through a lot of research and determination.
It’s time for me to do that too. It won’t be easy, but Rhio O’Connor has shown there is hope for people like us.
March 5, 2007
I’ve done nothing but research this cancer for the past two days. I’ve signed up with every article database I could find. I’ve also been studying at the university library and the public library. I really need to eat healthy, based on what I’ve found out so far.
No more sugar, based on the studies I’ve read online. It’s going to mostly be organic fruits and vegetables for me.
My parents say I’ve been smiling more. Now that I know I can battle this, I’ve had a more positive outlook. It’s a challenge now. It’s me against mesothelioma. With research, a positive outlook and commitment, people can beat this.
March 18, 2007
Having been in and out of the hospital since my diagnosis, I’ve developed a list of people to contact about this. I’ve learned who to ask and what to ask when it comes to medical professionals thanks to my online research.
Recently, I’ve been tapping into that list. I’ve especially been calling nutritionists and holistic practitioners. Some may discredit them and their methods but if they help people, why ignore them? Isn’t it better to help people?
I also have read countless medical studies and journals on the topic and feel I’m quite informed. I’ve been keeping careful notes. This allows me to ask the right questions. I also get second opinions on everything since some people may not know everything or want to tell me everything because they think “nonconventional” methods aren’t valid. They’ve worked for Rhio and they can work for me.
March 20, 2007
I met with a nutritionist and I was absolutely right about not having sugar. I also am not supposed to eat anything with added hormones such as most of the meat on the market.
As I’ve been calling or visiting nutritionists and holistic practitioners, I have developed a regimen of various herbs, vitamins and pills to take. I know what I have to do but now I just have to do it.
I also have talked with other cancer patients about what they have done. Through this, we are finding what works and what doesn’t. I ask a lot of questions with everyone I talk to. I want to know the side effects, the theories and the philosophies associated with every possible therapy. Only through more knowledge can we beat this.
My research has shown that I should involve the mental side more into my fight. I’ve been praying often and have even taken up meditation. It’s given me focus and has shown me that I was meant to get past this. There is more for me to do in my life after this year. Something greater than me is telling me that.
June 24, 2007
I have been holding to my diet and regimen that was set up through research and interaction with medical professionals. I modify them based on further research I do. I also exercise a little and I continue to meditate.
My scans aren’t great, but I’ve been told it can take awhile for my hard work to show up. I know I can beat this.
February 18, 2008
One year and I’m still here! So much for that prognosis and so much for the failure of “nonconventional” methods.
While conventional methods may work for some, nonconventional ones have worked for me and for others. It’s taken commitment, a lot of research and a lot of talking to many medical professionals. Most importantly, it’s taken a belief in myself. It’s taken a belief that I can do it and that I’m meant to do more here.
February 18, 2009
We’ve hit the two-year mark and I feel fine. I was supposed to be gone a year ago, but I’ve been able to learn Spanish, go on a trip and spend quality time with my family since then. Not a bad year at all.
July 23, 2009
I found out today that Rhio O’Connor passed away recently. The inspiration for myself and others who are fighting mesothelioma is no longer here, but we’ll continue his message of surviving through nonconventional methods and through finding our own therapies via hard work and research. He will be missed, but he leaves the world better than he found it.
February 18, 2010
Things are not as good as they once were. My results are getting worse and I can tell that my body is worse. My time is winding down, but I am fine with that. I have come to accept that it will end eventually. I’ve outlived the prognosis by two years now. I’ve done a good job with my various therapies and I’m happy with how I’ve handled everything.
July 12, 2010
I don’t have much time left, probably just a few days. It’s sad but I’m ready. I did what I wanted to do while I was here.
I outlived the doctor’s prognosis by years and they were great years with my family and friends. There were a lot of memories.
Through the help of others, hard work, commitment, a belief in something greater and an inspiration from Rhio O’Connor, I was able to fight using nonconventional means and have a good last few years.
That fight will be my legacy.
Upon reading my final entry, my mom put down my notebook and sobbed. Everyone did. They all knew that I fought and lived longer than was expected. Not only that, it was a good life. In that, they found happiness.