Lee, Chris – Surviving Mesothelioma

Lee, Chris

Fight Today to Live Tomorrow

In our life times, we will all face some mountain to climb, an obstacle to overcome and a fight worth fighting even if the outcome is set and fixed. It is not the obstacle we face, but our own fears that hold us back from achieving greatness, fortune, or in some individual’s cases, survival. It’s that preservation of life that is so vital and instinctual to so many that we would be willing to face insurmountable odds to reserve our own and others’ mortalities. Whether our fight is simple as fixing our hair the right way in the morning or going to bed hungry knowing the morning will be no different, we all fight some battle each and every day to survive. We fight so hard to live because life is difficult to let go for a plethora of reasons. We all have a purpose even if that purpose is not apparent and defined in our own lifetime. This country is overflowing with those who fought for a higher purpose; one of those individuals can be described as a true fighter. Of course, many do not know his name or his story but if you knew the story of James O’Connor, I know that you would go forth with a sense of empowerment, renewed vigor, and hope when facing your own daily and lifelong battles.

James O’Connor was a man I never meet; however, something stirs inside of me when I read his story. James “Rhio” O’Connor was an extraordinary man when he was diagnosed with the deadly cancer mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is considered an incurable disease; to this date there is no cure. O’Connor’s approach to life and his “thinking outside the box” mentality is an inspiring and moving story. James O’Connor was a man full of life even after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma. In his original diagnosis, James, was given up to one year to live. After learning of this O’Connor began to intensely research the disease, in an attempt to discover any method that could cure him. James O’Connor spoke with countless physicians, experts, and patients to learn as much possible to endow him with the knowledge to begin his battle with this cancer. By educating himself, James, began to formulate his own curative methods that in turn prolonged his life by six years. The knowledge of this is a powerful testament to the human will and intellect when used is a productive capacity. In a medical sense what is mesothelioma?

In short mesothelioma is a deterioration of the mesothelial cells. These cells are vital to the lubrication of the space between organs and their surroundings. Our organs move inside our body, they do not travel but shift and this causes friction to occur. The mesothelial cells’ purpose is to reduce this friction and protect adjacent organs from damage caused by this motion. Mesothelial cells can be found throughout the body, but reside mainly in the thoracic (chest) and abdominal cavities. Each cell has its own distinct name that differentiates it. For example, the pericardium protects the heart specifically, the cells protecting the abdominal region are known as the peritoneum, and pleura covers the lungs located in the thoracic cavity. Any damage that occurs to these vital cells causes an increase in friction with surrounding organs. The increased friction causes damage to the related organs. Try this as a quick example of friction that is occurring internally. Rub your hands together for thirty seconds or until you can feel the heat you are generating by this motion. Now imagine a similar scenario occurring for years to your heart, lungs, or any of the other important organs mesothelial cells protect. The significance of this example is to illustrate the importance of these cells in protecting the vital organs they enclose.

So what exactly causes Mesothelioma and what are the warning signs that an individual may have Mesothelioma? Mesothelioma was first discovered as a tumor around the late 1700s; however, the technology of the age shed little light on the subject. It wasn’t until 1960 that a larger amount of evidence was found which identified a leading cause of Mesothelioma. The major cause of the cancer was prolonged exposure to a mineral known as asbestos. Most of us residing in the United States have seen the TV commercials or remember the legislation passed to ban asbestos, but what exactly is this potentially deadly material? The name asbestos is derived from a Greek word meaning “inextinguishable.” In ancient times, mined asbestos was a prized material that was used to create fire and heat-resistance fabrics. Interestingly enough asbestos is a fibrous mineral that is mined, not produced and can be found easily in mines around the world. It is because of this mineral’s abundance and low cost of obtaining it, that the modern world once used the fire resistant properties of the asbestos as an inexpensive insulation for commercial structures. It wasn’t until 1989 when enough evidence linking prolonged asbestos exposure to a multitude of cancers related to the damage of mesothelial cells that the United States banned its use. Unfortunately, the damage was already done, and many were exposed. Mesothelioma is known as a silent killer and is very difficult to diagnose. The difficulty with diagnosing Mesothelioma is the lack of clear symptoms because the action is internal. The symptoms of this disease are mostly attributed to common, every day ailments and pains, with most patients living with symptoms for months before being diagnosed. Some warning signs are persistent chest pains and shortness of breath. Remember to take into account that many individuals are prone to similar symptoms due to inactivity and poor dietary choices, and these are not to be confused with Mesothelioma.

Regrettably, Mesothelioma is often diagnosed in its advanced stages, with life expectancy being slightly more than a year following its discovery, as it was in James’ case. If diagnosed early enough, however, a patient’s survival rate can increase dramatically. Most treatments tend to be in the form of surgery. Many types of therapies and treatments have been researched and employed have allowed some patients to live well past their original life expectancy as James proved this to be true. So how would you deal with the knowledge that you have only a set amount of time to live? If given the opportunity to dig for the answers, would you? I know that I would certainly dig deep to find the strength and courage to find answers if I were to be diagnosed with a deadly disease. I am truly blessed to say that in the event that I was to face such a trial that I would not be doing it alone. I live in northeast Florida, which is home to UF and Shands Hospital, which for years has been on the cutting edge of technology and new research in a multitude of fields. I would definitely exhaust that resource in hope of finding a cure or even allowing myself to be tested in hopes of unlocking the key to a cure. It also doesn’t hurt that I am no stranger a library. Many web sites have been established, similar to Cancer Monthly to help inform those affected by this disease and you are just one click away from others sharing their knowledge “Mesothelioma”. As I am a man of faith, I would rely on God to bestow upon me the necessary strength to continue to fight for the sake of my family and mankind in order to face down the jaws of adversity.

The following link is another important a website that contains a wealth of knowledge and a free information packet http://www.mesothelioma.com/mesothelioma.htm available if you are a family member, friend of, or sufferer of this lethal cancer. Do not think for one second that you are in this fight alone; James didn’t. I have no fears about what I am looking to accomplish during my lifetime because of stories like James O’Connor’s. I know that if I continue to fight to stay on the right path that I will be successful in all of my future and present endeavors. I feel a deep unexplainable connection with James’ fighting spirit. Let’s face it only a fighter is willing to look past his or her own fears of failure, weakness, and in James’ case immortality to continue to fight as long as possible to shed light and more importantly hope to others who now are staring down this horrendous disease. I look forward to the day in which I have built my finances to a point to where I can give to organizations who research and more importantly inform others of this and many other debilitating cancers. Knowledge is power, and James “Rhio” O’Connor exemplifies this by empowering those who know his story with the knowledge of keeping up the good fight. Here is to you, James, and thank you for inspiring me to keep on fighting.

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