Noelle woke up the day after feeling groggy and tired even though all she could do after she got home the night before was sleep. It was nothing but a bad dream, a horrible mirage, a figment of her imagination, an incubus sent to destroy her every wish and hope that was yet to come. What could she do? She had mesothelioma! What nineteen year old chemical engineering student gets mesothelioma? That had to be the worst joke of the century!
“Ha,” she laughed to herself. “This has been a weird couple of months.”
She sat up in her bed and threw her legs over the side of it. It was a new day, and it was a beautiful one, and she was going to take advantage of its beauty. She looked down at her knees and out of the corner of her eye she saw something yellow on her wrist. On it read “Greensboro Day Hospital.” All of a sudden she felt the sunlight coming from her bedroom window leave her room and she closed her eyes and ran through the events from the previous day…
Noelle was sitting in front of the oncologist, a man named Dr. Waters. Her feet were hanging over the edge of the table. She could feel the softness of the white gown she was wearing. It had baby blue dots all over it and she wanted to look at the dots and stare at them, but she knew that she should listen to Dr. Waters. He was rubbing his hands through what was left of his hair and telling her that she had mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that develops in the lining of the internal organs. He told her she had advanced malignant mesothelioma and her prognosis wasn’t good. She probably wouldn’t live past a year from now. She knew he expected her to cry, but she didn’t. She looked at him, and tried to consume all the information he fed her, but all she could do was nod and throw in an occasional “Uh huh” and “Mm hmm.”
When he finished relaying the information to her he left and said he was sorry for her loss. All she could think about was what was it that she had lost? Was it her future, her aspirations of working for the CDC, and one day becoming a chemistry teacher? Or was it her family she had lost? Did she lose getting to see her younger brother graduate from high school or did she lose seeing her older brother come into his own and become the man she always knew he could be? What did she lose?
Noelle opened her eyes, bringing herself from yesterday to today, from what she thought was a nightmare to what she realized was actually her real life. Yesterday was not a dream. She did have mesothelioma and looking at that unholy yellow wristband only confirmed what she hated: she had lost something and she didn’t even know what she had lost. That was the worst part about yesterday. She didn’t even know what aspect of her life she had lost the most, that’s if you can even lose something more than something else. What had she lost…
The above is only an idea of the way that I think I would react. I can only imagine what James “Rhio” O’Connor had to go through when he learned he had mesothelioma and so I can only fathom the way he felt and what thoughts were going through his head. The only person I truly know is myself, therefore, I can only address the situation of being diagnosed with mesothelioma from a perspective in which I know.
James “Rhio” O’Connor beat the odds by outliving his prognosis of one year by more than six years. He researched intensively and spoke to several experts making sure to examine every aspect of his cancer as much as possible. His perseverance and endurance make him inspiring. He became fluent in the “ins” and “outs” of his cancer and through his optimism he was able to live with cancer. I, however, might not take the same approach.
Given a cancer prognosis like O’Connor, I probably would have to take time off from school to first consider how my diagnosis of cancer would affect my family. I would go over first looking over my statistics. Based off of my age and how healthy I was perceived to be before I was diagnosed with mesothelioma, what I can I expect from the recommended procedures and what is toll that my body can take. The university I attend is a Federal Research Institute where research in the biological and biomedical sciences takes place frequently. I would use this opportunity to speak to some of the professors at my university who know about the new research techniques associated with cells displaying uncontrolled growth, invasion, and metastasized behaviors. The teachers could also help me learn about the new procedures that are being tested and learn the language of cancer. I would look into the procedures that would hopefully provide the least amount of suffering for my family because regardless of how much I suffer, I have to take into account that my family also suffers with me and for me.
Finding what stage I am in, I would probably want to get started on the regimen that is best for me. I would want to find out if I am eligible for an operation and what effects can I expect from the operation. Operations have been shown to be effective as long as they are followed by a combination of radiation and chemotherapy, which is what I would like to have immediately after my operation if I am considered eligible. The combination of treatment has shown to prolong the patient’s life for up to five years or more, and I would like to do that to make sure that I have the longest amount of time possible to spend with my family. When taking chemotherapy I would want to initially ask about having a combination of cisplatin and pemetrexed. Talking with doctors I would want to discuss the effects these drug would have on my body and would I be able to bear something so painful and would my family be able to bear me bearing something so painful.
In the event that talking to doctors proved that operation, radiation, and chemotherapy are not an option to me, I would look into immunotherapy and see what the chances of me getting better are and what I can expect. After immunotherapy, however, I think that I would stop searching. Knowing people with cancer and knowing that hospital bills and treatments are not cheap I would take the time to seriously see what it is that my family could afford. Cancer is not cheap, both financially and emotionally, and I think that the ultimate thing that I would consider is the cost. O’Connor was a man who probably had children and had been a breadwinner for his family, but I am a youth learning how to become an adult and a breadwinner for my family. It is in this respect that O’Connor and I differ. He was able to sacrifice financially for his cancer and I am sure his family did as well. But while he had the courage to go through the physical pain of hanging on to life for a little longer, I am sure his family felt the emotional pain and to some extent hated to see him suffer.
It is in this respect I don’t think that I could make my family sacrifice financially for me even if they wanted. I would only be able to take them spending so much. The longer my physical suffering would go on, the longer my parents would suffer financially and emotionally. All I would really hope for if I was diagnosed with mesothelioma would be that my family would be able to find happiness without me. I would want to leave a legacy that would make family want to do better after I died than they did while I was alive. This could not be possible if I put them further in debt. Many people may think that I should fight harder, but I think that instead of fighting to live another day, I would rather fight to see my family live another day. This would entail me to stop treatment at some point, but it would be okay because my family would be the legacy I leave behind and in the end I wouldn’t lose the people they would become if I hadn’t gotten diagnosed with mesothelioma.
By: Jones, Noelle