Langston, Alyssa – Surviving Mesothelioma

Langston, Alyssa

A Fate Worth Fighting For

Rhio O’Connor was diagnosed with a cancer affecting the lungs called mesothelioma. It is a tumor that forms in the lining of the lungs and is brought on by exposure to asbestos, unknown at the time of O’Connor’s exposure. This has been the case for countless other lives lost due the use of this substance. It was used in many World War II ships and therefore, thousands of veterans, who risked their lives for our country only returned home to be plagued by a battle with cancer. O’Connor, however; fought long and hard against his one year prognosis with mesothelioma. Because of this he was actually able to live over six years past the expected, he did not simply sit and let the cancer take over or let one doctor tell him what to do. He worked hard, he researched, and he used an incredible nutritional diet to prolong his life on this earth. He did not try and squeeze as much life as possible into what doctors said was all there was, he tried for more time to squeeze life into. And he succeeded.

Being faced with the deafening reality of actually having a cancer in my own body is a terrifying thought. Cancer is a word almost spoken lightly in this day and age. The word is has become close to commonplace. “I have cancer,” has lost its intensity. Yes, it is still a tragedy and for any loved one or those with cancer themselves, it is a nightmare, but for the rest of the world it is only another disease. If personally faced with some form of the disease I would be devastated, but I would like to show people that it is serious and it is a fight. Though I know I would fall short I would hope to be somewhat similar to Mr. O’Connor. He is an inspiration. I would indeed want to fight for as long as possible against the tumor, through research, numerous opinions, new developments or treatment options, an extremely healthy diet and not simply following the norm. Doctors know a lot, but no one opinion is ever enough, so talk to as many as possible and never ever give up.

I recently had the opportunity to read a book entitled The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch and I strongly recommend it. He, himself was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, an almost immediate death sentence. He has already passed and left behind a wife and three young kids, none fully old enough to have truly even known their father. There is no happy ending, there is no changing your final outcome, but you can change what you do with your time. This is what he taught me the most. He was not in denial; he had ten tumors that had metastasized throughout his liver, and was given three to six months to live. He, like O’Connor did everything in his power to try different treatments, be healthy, get as many opinions as possible. He was a professor, research was right within his fingertips. Yet, nothing helped, and in his lecture he said “we cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” O’Connor played his hand quite well, and in my opinion, was dealt a gruesome hand of cards, but that did not seem to discourage him. He lived up to the last second doing his best to fight his disease and provide others with a hope and a chance as well. He knew the most precious thing he had was time and he used it well. He did not waste his life or his time. He was passionate to show others there is not just one way to go about a desolate cancer diagnosis. There are options and there is time, use it wisely.

It has almost become a cliché to utter the words “live like you were dying.” It has become many a song title or lyric and yet, so few often do. Why is it that only in those last moments do we actually decide that life really matters? Why do we finally realize what is truly important? So what would be my passion if faced with any number of cancer prognoses, what would I do with my time? I would like to say that I will have lived every day up to that point in a way in which I would not have to wonder whether I could have done so much more with the time I had been given. I would like to live life to the fullest. Would like to spend time with kids with cancer. I do not think that they see enough of the fighters. The people who can show them, yes I have cancer and yes it is awful but I am still alive and living and there is a way to keep pushing through. I realize that some stages leave people weak and sick and bedridden, but there are still the good days to be joyful for. I will have fun everyday. I will be loyal, I will not be arrogant, I will be grateful, I will be forgiving. I will not complain, no matter the circumstances. Complaining helps nothing and no one it only diminishes joy. I will be a mentor, a friend, and a teacher. And I will fight, never giving up, cherishing every moment. I will try and find the best in everyone even if it takes awhile, I will help others, I will apologize. I will be earnest, honest, and not focus on myself. I will have a positive attitude and will be an encourager. I will be a dreamer, I will have goals, I will not feel sorry for myself. I will be healthy. I will be willing to try new treatments, tests, etc. I will research, I will talk to many doctors, not just one. I will have joy, and I will hope always. I will love others much.

As I say all of these things, I realize that these should all be done every single day. Like I said, why wait until the end to understand that this is the way I would like to live and treat people all the time. Are they not worthy of this treatment on daily basis? I will show respect to everyone around me and will treat them the way I would like to be treated. These are the goals I will strive for, and were I to have cancer, this would be my life; a passion for and devotion to others.

The old cliché states that “winning isn’t everything, it’s how you play the game.” In the end, not all cancer can be defeated. In the end, we will all die, cancer or no cancer. We will lose; it is out of our control. Trying to win will get you nowhere. Therefore, play the game with the time you have right here, right now, and why not live for something greater than yourself.

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