Kroska, Emily – Surviving Mesothelioma

Kroska, Emily

You have one year to live. Imagine hearing those words. 365 days of life left to use as you please. This prognosis could send some into a long-lasting depression and some into an insatiable search for bliss. However, Rhio O’Connor did not choose either of these paths; his diligent research and persistent attitude allowed for the creation of a unique treatment plan that prolonged his life years beyond the doctors’ predictions. Mesothelioma is a rare, aggressive form of cancer that is hard to detect early on because the symptoms are often concurrent with those of other diseases. This makes the treatment of it significantly more difficult; many times the damage that has been done before its diagnosis is beyond permanent repair, leading to a shortened life filled with suffering from the painful, weakening treatment plans. More information about mesothelioma is available at https://survivingmesothelioma.com/.

There are many things that I would do upon being given a grim prognosis similar to that of O’Connor’s. The ability to research effectively is one tool that I have acquired through my psychology courses at the University of Kansas. I now have knowledge of what constitutes a reliable study because I understand what elements of research can flaw the results. For example, one must know where funding for the research came from because the results can be skewed in a particular direction to support a certain viewpoint. Also, having the ability to interpret data is invaluable in this instance; I must comprehend the validity of the drug or treatment plan. Did this substance act as it was supposed to in the body? What were the side effects? How will this affect my quality of life? All of these are questions that can be answered through research.

If I change nothing, I will live for 365 days or less. However, if I try alternative treatments, seek out doctors who have resources of their own, and perform research myself, I can live for much longer. More importantly, however, I can live better. Quality of life in patients who are chronically ill has become a largely debated issue in the field of Health Psychology. For example, a person is given the choice to live their last year in some pain but at home with their family, or they can live for two years, but during these two years, they must have chemotherapy and radiation treatments done so often that they are almost always sick and must spend most of their time in the hospital. Some would choose to live longer; I, however, would choose to live better. No one is invincible, and no human can live forever. We all must die someday, so why would we choose the suffering in the meantime if the end result is the same? For this reason alone, I would choose to work toward a solution that I could live with. Research would be my first step; I would spend hour after hour reading through different treatment plans, making phone calls to doctors who can communicate with their colleagues, and using the internet as the incredible resource it has become. As a student, I have access to many databases full of articles through the KU website; this would be a great asset to me as well.

The second resource that I would immediately take advantage of is the networks of people that I know. As a student, I have made so many positive connections for myself. Through working with many professors outside of the classroom, I have formed a relationship with these people, who would be very willing to use their contacts for my research as well. Also, because I work at the Writing Center, I have met many people who are students at the University of Kansas. While I certainly cannot keep in touch with each student that I help, many of those that I help find my assistance so useful that they continue to return, as both a tutee and a friend. Also, my boss, similar to many other professors, has worked with people from all across the country. The power of the internet will be of great use to me because these people can be contacted instantly, and their responses have the potential to be nearly immediate. Knowledge from around the globe can be obtained within days, giving me the power to reach my ultimate goal: more time to live a happy, fulfilling life. Other important personal resources that I have will be those involved in the organization where I coach a children’s soccer team, the domestic violence shelter where I volunteer, and the psychology laboratories where I work to increase my knowledge as a research assistant. Each person that I interact with can be seen as a resource, a fountain of abundant knowledge to be shared; this person then has contacts of their own, and the pattern has the potential to continue. Because I have formed such personal relationships with many of those whom I work with throughout my semesters here at the University of Kansas, I have the incredible advantage that the word of mouth provides. As my passionate, determined disposition is displayed in my efforts to prolong my life, this will evoke empathy and persistence from those who are exposed to the contagious perseverance that I possess.

The final goal of my research is to find a treatment plan that will allow me to live somewhat normally while undergoing the process. Certainly I will encounter immense amounts of pain in nearly every treatment; however, I want to minimize the suffering to the best of my ability. Currently, I spend each day living in the moment in an effort to respect the past experiences that I have endured, while not dwelling on the painful times; I look toward the future with an optimistic attitude, one of hope and the expectation that each day has the potential to be better than the last. My goal is to maintain this belief all throughout the cancerous experience. As a child, my parents often were amused by my most frequent mantra: “I will do it my own self.” While I look back at this and laugh at the ridiculous notion of doing everything on my own, I still to this day have this attitude in many ways. I believe that this aspect of my character would be of great assistance to my survival. I will never give up; my persistence to live would cause me to work tirelessly until I discovered a solution. Luckily, I have gained the knowledge that doing everything alone will ultimately result in failure and loneliness; now, I am aware that interpersonal relationships yield many great results, all of which will be of help to me in my search for a treatment. If the treatments that the doctor offers are painful, debilitating, and will lead to little quality of life, then my response will be something like: “I’ll do it my own self.” Persistence, a positive attitude, and hope will lead me to a treatment that my body and mind can handle, one that will yield a continued life of love, happiness, passion, and joy.

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