“Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.” Christopher Reeve
Hope (noun): the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best. Hope is the best word I can think of to describe the situation that James “Rhio” O’Connor was in. O’Connor was diagnosed with plural mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma attacks the mesothelial cells that make up the mesothelium, a membrane that lines many of the body’s organs and cavities; in this case specifically the lungs. Now O’Connor had two options: accept his fate of only a few months left of life or fight back. Not only did he choose to fight back, he took initiative in his own life and made the extraordinary effort to educate himself on his disease. I can only assume that O’Connor told himself every day that he could fight against this disease bravely; and even if he could not beat it himself he would help develop the knowledge so that others could fight the same battle and win. His actions fit into the definition of hope perfectly and prove that not only did he have hope for his own life, but also hope that with knowledge more people could have the strength to have hope for their own lives.
This essay is supposed to be about what I would do if I were put into the same situation as Mr. O’Connor. Honestly, I had a hard time thinking about how I would handle it. Before writing this essay I thought deeply about my life and the implications a terminal diagnosis would have on me. Nineteen: too young to die. Sophomore in college: aren’t these supposed to be the best years of my life? I cannot be with my friends. Will I spend the end of my life in a hospital with people just watching and waiting? I would have no future. Then I thought more, and in a less selfish way. What would my family do? How could we ever pay for treatment? Would they have to move? How would my brothers handle it?
I have to be honest with myself; I know I would not immediately handle the news well. Even now just thinking about it, cancer is not even happening to me, and the idea makes me upset. I would be hysterical. I would be angry. I would feel like the whole world was against me and did not care about me. “Why me?” would be a constant question screaming in my head. I would discuss it extensively with my parents. Together, we would try to figure out what was best for me. I would research it. Learn as much about the disease as I could. Talk to every oncologist I could. However, in the end, it would come down to me tackling the difficult questions alone in my head. Would I want to spend the remainder of my life practically comatose because of chemo and radiation and not even able to get out of bed? Can I accept the fact that this will take my life? Am I willing to let the cancer take over my body? If I do not want to be bedridden because of chemo, am I aware of what would happen if I refuse treatment? Is it even worth it to fight back – this disease will get me in the end anyway, right? I cannot sit here and say, “Yes of course I would be as brave and courageous as James O’Connor was”. That I would never have a doubt in my mind and that I would have faith that in the end the fight would be worth it. That all along I would be hopeful, optimistic, and fearless. I would be lying. Yes, I would try to fight back, but there would be a constant doubt. Is the suffering worth it? Is any of this even helping? I would try to be hopeful and have faith because at that stage what else can I do? My family and friends would keep my focused on the good aspects of life and try to help me see the positives in every day. In the end, it comes down to the outlook on life I would take and how I would surround myself. I would need someone to admire, such as James O’Connor, because I would have a hard time finding the strength in myself to continue on confidently. Mr. O’Connor gives people hope that even though there might not be anything you can do to save yourself there is no reason to stop trying. No reason to stop fighting. To never give up on your life.