Keep Moving Forward
Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that develops from the protective lining that covers many of the body’s internal organs. The internal chest wall and outer lining of the lungs is where this type of cancer is mostly found but has also been know to appear on the lining of the abdominal cavity, the hear, and the sac that surrounds the heart. Exposure to asbestos is what mesothelioma comes from. Though this cancer is considered incurable there is man who spent much time researching treatments and making his own path for his survival.
Being diagnosed with this very deadly cancer and given a prognosis of only a year was undoubtedly something very hard for Rhio O’Connor to hear. Rather than spending his last bit of life in a hospital bed or awaiting the inevitable end to his life, O’Connor decided to take a chance for his future. Spending many hours in doctor’s offices, libraries, and research facilities Rhio made his own path for treatment. Though this was most certainly not an easy path and at times very discouraging, he was able to find the drive and treatment necessary to out live his prognosis by 6 years. Never giving up hope or taking no for an answer, this man was able to fight for a longer life and be rewarded for his efforts.
Lois Wolcheck is a woman that O’Connors story made me think of after I had first read about it. In the spring of 2008, this woman was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer that was possibly also spreading to her liver and brain. She was given no more than 6 months to live. Lois Wolcheck is my grandmother and her story is another one that inspires me to fight for a right to live no matter what the case is. Having been a dedicated smoker for almost 50 years, this was not a major shock, especially with the history of cancer that has taken hold of the women in our family. Throwing out the cigarettes and buying her first wig, my grandma held her head high and said “I am going to beat this thing, no matter what it takes.”
My grandma started her first chemotherapy treatment about a week after her diagnosis. There were many struggles along the way though. Having to kick cigarettes was not nearly as easy as she made it seem and slipped back into that deadly poison a month after her first Chemo session. After much convincing from her nine grandchildren, she was finally able to kick the habit for good though. Chemo was able to reduce the tumor by 80% but spots still kept appearing on even more organs than before. Falling and breaking here hip in the fall of 2009 made it impossible to keep up with treatment for a while. Needless to say, the cancer took over once again but as soon as my grandma could start treatment she looked for another way to get ride of the growth besides chemotherapy. It took a lot of persuasion, but she eventually had her doctor switch her to radiation instead in hopes of taking the battle with cancer to another level.
Once again Lois Wolcheck’s cancer had been reduced and this time by 90%. Some of the spots have even disappeared. This woman has come a long way from the prognosis of 6 months. Having fought this battle for almost 2 years now, she is still holding on strong and not willing to let go anytime soon. The determination and strong mind set was able to set forth inspiration when another woman in my family was diagnosed with a cancer.
Lisa Lathrop is the daughter of Lois Wolcheck and my mother. 6 months after the news of my grandmother’s lung cancer struck our family, we got yet another surprise of leukemia. Coming home from an ordinary day of work, I found an empty house. The next thing I remember is hearing the news from my mom while I was sitting across from her hospital bed. She never thought the routine check up would lead into a new cancer chapter for our family.
The first step in her journey was to be flown to University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska. From there she found out that her cancer was very aggressive and could not be treated with just chemotherapy or radiation. Both of these forms were needed as well as a bone marrow transplant. Against all the odds, my mother’s sister was a match for her bone marrow. However, when a bone marrow transplant takes place the patient needs to be within 100 miles of the hospital for 6 months. Living in Minot, North Dakota was no longer an option with this next step. On January first I finished my senior year graduating early and our family moved down to Omaha. The bone marrow transplant took place 2 weeks after arriving as well as a very aggressive round of chemotherapy. From there we all relaxed a little bit thinking the worst was over.
A month later my aunt was called back to UNMC to once again give bone marrow for another transplant. This time Lisa took twice the amount and underwent intense chemotherapy as well as radiation. The next 30 days were spent in a hospital bed recovering from the exhausting procedure. From the time she was able to leave the hospital to now has been a bumpy ride. My mother is still suffering from some of the side effects of her medication, which makes her almost brain dead at times. There are some days that are better than others and ones that we wish would never have to happen at all. The bright side is that in the fast few weeks she has been able to start walking more and more each day and bring some of the life back to her voice and face. Each time I talk to her she gives me the words of advice of “Keep your eyes on the prize. Always keep moving forward.”
Three different stories of mesothelioma, lung cancer, and leukemia through three different people are all stories that I have taken inspiration from and applied to my every day life. There may be tough times right now as an art student struggling to find my voice and place in the world but that is nothing compared to the battle that I could be fighting. Though there is much discouragement and negativity to keep going at times, I always keep pushing forward trying for a break through. I once heard from an art teacher I had in high school that the time you give up is the time that you would have succeeded the most. The statement is one that I hold true above all because if you give up then you never know what the reward is for sticking through all the hard parts.
Rhio O’Connor, Lois Wolcheck, and Lisa Lathrop are three people who have all pushed through the dark spots in their battle to reap the rewards of their hard work and that is something I intend to do if ever faced with the same challenge. Whether it be having to find my own path to a prolonged life through research or fighting through broken bones or failed bone marrow transplants, I know that I will never stop fighting or take no for an answer when it is looking me straight in the face. If presented with that challenge, I want to know what is on the other side of that big no and what there could be for my future.