While it would be hard for any of us to say exactly what we would do if we suddenly found ourselves facing a dire and dismal prognosis, I believe the answer to this question reveals an abundance of information about the character and strength of the individual in question. Would we sullenly submit ourselves to the treatments prescribed by the professionals? What if the prescribed treatment would inevitably result in a diminished ability on our part to enjoy the remainder of our time on earth? Would we become deeply depressed and throw our hands up in despair at the very thought of the future that awaits us? Or, would such a situation inspire us? Would it cause us to reflect on the time we had and the time which still awaits us? Would we allow such a thing to quash our spirits, or would it inspire us to dream, with this newfound information only deepening our awareness of the beauty that resides in each moment of time?
James “Rhio” O’Connor encountered this scenario when he was diagnosed with mesothelioma. When he was told he had only a year left to live, he did not simply succumb and accept this prognosis. Rather than merely taking this information at face value, he spent hours of his precious time researching the various alternatives available to him. He did not choose to lie down and die; he chose to stand up and fight with every last breath in his body. What courage and stamina he must have had to dismiss the expert’s opinions. Instead, he chose to seek out answers on his own. He would not allow another person to inform him of how the remainder of his life would be. He rightly decided to have a say in the matter, as it was his life.
If tomorrow I was informed that I had little time left on earth, I would relentlessly seek out options other than chemo, radiation, and surgery. I would carefully consider the side effects and risks involved with these treatments for it is highly likely that these treatments could diminish the enjoyment I was able to seek out of the remainder of my life. Enormous risks accompany surgery, and many of the treatments commonly suggested may leave one spending much of their remaining time confined within the walls of a hospital.
The first step I would take upon being informed that I had little time left would be to ignore such statements. No one on earth has the power to decide such a thing. Yes, doctors possess a great deal of knowledge, and can therefore make an informed prognosis, but I would never simply take the word of another individual simply because he or she had more experience in a particular area or field. I would owe it to myself to seek out answers on my own.
I would begin by scouring and collecting any information I could obtain on my condition. We live in a world where information is often no more than a few mere clicks away. Scholarly journals and peer reviewed published literature can help us evaluate the expertise and experience of the writers in question. Furthermore, technology is so far developed that one can easily research the affects of natural treatments, vitamins, and various other herbal supplements. Claims of effective treatments that do not come from verifiable and knowledgeable sources should not be immediately dismissed. One can still evaluate these suggestions and claims by running them by more informed sources.
A great deal of information can be obtained via the internet and massive databases at our disposal. However, one should never overlook the effectiveness behind personal confrontation. Some people believe in-person communication is becoming less necessary as we now embrace newer forms of communication like email. These people cannot be more wrong. If my life was hanging in the balance, there is no way I would merely rely on virtual communication. Doctors or other people within my vicinity who I believed might possibly have anything of value to offer me would be receiving impromptu meetings with yours truly. I’ve learned quite a bit from my ongoing college experience. Often, we receive prompt and succinct responses via email, but sometimes simply showing up unannounced can be extremely effective in obtaining the attention we deserve.
The internet, libraries with comprehensive databases, and doctors and researchers are all great resources, but there are countless other avenues one can explore and exhaust to compile the information needed to make an informed decision. Often, it takes creativity and a new and different way of thinking to obtain new and different results.
If the alternative options failed to make a significant impact on the disease, what would we do next? Would we become isolated and withdraw from others? Or, would such a confrontation cause us to reassess our relationships, drawing us closer to our loved ones?
If I knew for certain the time I had left was drawing to a close, I would likely contemplate on my relationships with God, the people I love, and with myself. I would not want to waste a moment of the time I had left. However, in situations like this, not wasting time might mean mending, resolving, or strengthening these relationships. Making the best use of our time might mean we need to take some time to reflect on the things or people that we love.
I would love to travel. This has always been my dream. I want to see the pyramids in Egypt. I want to see the coral reefs off the coast of Australia. I want to see the mountains in Switzerland and the glaciers in Alaska. In the real world, we usually do not have the money at our disposal to do these things. In the real world, taking time to travel may mean we are forced to make some decisions. Do we spend the time we have left with the people we love, those we have known for all or most of our lives? Or, do we see the world while leaving our loved ones behind? Everyone has his or her own answer behind the decision one would make. I only know what I would do. I will not spend the last few days of my life in a hospital. However, it is unlikely that I will spend these last few days at the top of a mountain or snorkeling in the sea either. No, these last few days will be spent just as they always have. I will likely be at home, quietly waiting for whatever tomorrow brings.