The Inspiration of Perseverance
Cancer…this is not a word that anyone wants to hear. But every day, in every corner of our society, in small clinics and expansive hospitals alike, there are people who are faced with this grim diagnosis. Cancer comes in many forms, strikes young and old, and affects different systems in the body, yet somehow, we can all sympathize similarly when we hear of someone we know who has been diagnosed with any form of cancer. The word itself strikes fear in our own hearts. Some patients become bitter or helpless, facing this disease as a death sentence, enduring weeks and months of chemotherapy and radiation, growing weaker with each treatment. But then there are those who fight…in an unconventional way. James Rhio O’Connor was one of those fighters.
Mr. O’Connor was diagnosed in 2001 with a rare form of cancer called mesothelioma. This cancer affects the mesothelium of the body, which is a membrane that covers internal organs in the body and allows them to slide freely over each other. Mesothelioma is often attributed to a history of working with asbestos. Symptoms usually do not occur until years after a person has had exposure to asbestos, and the symptoms vary depending on the region of the mesothelium that is affected. Readers can access more information about this type of cancer and treatment options available by visiting www.survivingmesothelioma.com.
When diagnosed with cancer, Mr. O’Connor was given less than a year to live. Doctors suggested that he should take his wife on a cruise and then plan on returning home to hospice care. Essentially, they were preparing him for his death. However, Mr. O’Connor did not accept this prognosis for himself. He began to delve deep into research, finding out everything he could about his form of cancer, spending countless hours reading and developing a plan to survive. He made changes in his lifestyle, including diet and supplements, as well as other untraditional treatment methods that he developed along with the team of doctors that he chose. Mr. O’Connor survived his cancer for seven and a half years after his diagnosis, finally passing on July 11, 2009 at the age of 69. His example is a challenge to rethink traditional cancer treatment and to consider within ourselves: What path would we choose? What is the right path?
When thinking about cancer treatment, usually there are two words that enter our minds: chemotherapy and radiation. Many of us probably believe that these treatments, aside from surgery to remove cancerous tumors, are the only ones that are available to cancer patients. However, it is inspiring to know that a man who wholeheartedly denied the traditional methods of treatment for his disease and worked tirelessly to find his own way was able to live much longer than so many people who accept the traditional method. Should this be a resounding awakening for the rest of us? For some, the traditional methods are effective. But we do have other options! We often forget that we are in charge of our own health…Mr. O’Connor knew that he was.
If faced with cancer, what would I do? I think that the answer to this question depends upon what type of cancer it was. Different cancers respond to various treatments in differing ways. I would first research and find as much new information as I could on my particular type of cancer. I would do this by using libraries, both online and physical locales, to find books and journal-based research that supported treatment types that were more effective than others. I would also access the Internet to find valid sites with accurate information on the disease, its progression and prognosis, as well as statistics on effective treatment methods. I would consider looking into unconventional methods of treatment and work to find research to decide if these methods could be a plausible option for me.
I would then work to find a primary care physician who was willing to at least explore all of the treatment options for that type of cancer. Mr. O’Connor chose the doctors he wanted, the physicians who would include his wants in the treatment plan. I am a firm believer that my health and the care of my body is my own responsibility. Doctors have the knowledge base to help their patients make good decisions, but I believe a good doctor always allows the patient to be in charge of his or her healthcare. We need to know that we can make informed decisions for long-term care of terminal diseases if we care enough to find answers for ourselves that match our own beliefs and philosophies about healthcare.
Next, I think that it would be of vital importance to search diligently to find specialists or researchers who were on the cutting edge of technology and research findings with that specific cancer. With access to the world at our fingertips through the Internet, there would be no reason why I could not locate doctors, researchers, clinics, and associations that could be instrumental in my care. There are numerous hospitals and treatment centers across the country that specialize in cancer treatment and research. Many of these facilities have multiple locations for accessibility purposes. Once again, it comes down to the understanding that we can make decisions for ourselves about our own care, and that we as patients need to become self-advocates.
I believe that James Rhio O’Connor should inspire us all with his perseverance in finding his own answers. He is a testament to the difference that education, self-advocacy, and unconventional medicine can make in a person’s life. His is a story that demands us to take another look and not discount treatments that may not be as widely accepted in traditional medicine. Desperate times call for desperate measures. But sometimes desperate measures aren’t so crazy after all. In the case of Mr. O’Connor, they were the very things that allowed him to live longer and show the world that the “right” answers in healthcare are not always right for everyone. And that, in itself, is inspirational.