Looper, Jayme – Surviving Mesothelioma

Looper, Jayme

Responding to Mr. Meso

I have read many articles of the story of Rhio O’Connor and his valiant fight against “Mr. Meso,” the name he gave to the pleural mesothelioma that struck him in 2001. The doctor’s prognosis of Mr. O’Connor living only for another year challenged Rhio to a relentless drive to overcome “Mr. Meso” and survive. He totally changed his life and his lifestyle and succeeded to live yet another year after another for a total of eight years past his diagnosis date, October 2001. Mr. O’Conner died in July, 2009.

His doctors told him upon diagnosis that surgery was not possible due to the location of the tumor near his spine. They told him radiation would not work on his cancer. They advised chemotherapy was his only real choice, yet not a really significant one in that his quality of life would be diminished and it would only slightly increase his longevity. Told to get his affairs in order and take his wife on a cruise only to return to a life of chemo, he chose to change his lifestyle. Through months and years of endless research for alternative medical approaches, medicines, and conferring with researchers, numerous oncologists, physicians, nurses, et al – Mr. O’Connor changed his approach to living. He chose a positive outlook. He began eating organic foods, grains, rice, nuts; he started taking massive doses of vitamins and supplements; he drank fresh fruit juices and took ‘ozone’ therapy understanding that cancer cells cannot survive without oxygen. During these arduous years of surviving mesothelioma, Rhio wrote a book, “They Said Months, I Chose Years: A Survivor’s Story.” He tells of how he changed his life and the decisions he made and why. He speaks of a higher power and his drive to extend his life.

As stated, having read much about Rhio O’Conner and his deadly cancer, I have thought. I have thought at length, at different times, in intervals driving down the road, watching TV, interrupted thoughts during study and homework. I have pondered much about such a prognosis and how I would react. I have agreed with many others on how, given such dire news, they would approach such a disease. I have considered how I would tell my family and friends or if I even would.

I am struck with the thought that I’ve heard all my life – ‘for every thing, there is a season: a time to be born and a time to die.’ I have thought of my strong belief in God and how my relationship with him would be tested ever so if given such life changing news. But I do believe that God and only God determines when we are born; when we die. I believe that given all the medical advances, all the cutting edge technology, the latest equipment and the most brilliant of minds, that ultimately when God decides each of us will die – we die. So it is with this belief that I take probably a different perspective from Mr. O’Connor and others I read on how they would approach such a ‘death sentence’.

I strongly believe in medicine and when sick, seeking the professional expertise of a qualified and capable physician, hospital, and course of medical treatment. Too, when it affects my family or me, I not only want but expect the best possible medical care. Within this vein, I am thankful I live in America, where we have the best medical care available and the freedom to select the type of care we want. If given such a prognosis, I would want the best. I would listen to my physician. I would get a second opinion, then a third. I would assess the information given and decide, possibly with my family, what best course to take.

But, in making such a decision, I would not, I don’t believe, disclose myself to the fact that God is in control and he, alone, will decide the time – both the day and the hour of my demise. So, I guess I’m saying that given my desire to live coupled with the will to survive, that which all living creatures inherently have, I feel I would know the limit and extent of any exhaustive medical treatment and arduous life changing approach. Sometimes, we find in life, we just have to accept the consequences. I don’t think that means ‘giving up’ but rather a true and realistic approach to all things living. We are born, we grow, we live, we die. That is a fact; a reality. We can really do little to change that. Granted, we in this country do have the medical technology to save lives, extend life, and provide quality medical and hospice care. Yet, in the end, a terminal prognosis is just that, terminal. I do accept that God does miracles – miracles of his choosing and his way. Sometimes he may just ‘change his mind’ and decide to let someone live longer than he had originally planned. Or, he heard the prayers of so many family and friends and it touched his heart and he was moved to extend the life of a person.

All in all, I’m saying that when I feel my time is close to an end and my physicians and/or medical team all advise that there is little left medically to do to save my life, then I want to choose to accept that all life ends. I want to cry and cry I would, alot. I would weep uncontrollably for days, perhaps weeks. But then I hope I could pull myself together and spend what time left with my family and friends, laughing, crying, remembering good times and bad; savoring the life given me. I don’t think my life will be extraordinary, just a normal one with the hopes and dreams like everyone else, praying that I will have the good sense to live a moral, decent life. For that life, during the time I had left, I would hope that I would thank God for giving me life and the experiences I’ve had in it. I would hope that he, knowing my physical and emotional pain, would lessen my burden in some way, making it easier to bear. I pray that he will, when that time does come, allow me to ease from this life without strife and agony, but just to quietly and tenderly ease away – leaving my family with the memory of me just going to sleep in God’s tender care.

I admire Mr. O’Connor’s avid search and drive to find all he could about “Mr. Meso” and force himself to live differently. I appreciate drive, tenacity, and focus. After all, his tenacity provided him with a few more years and provided the rest of us with more hope for a cure. But, I believe, for me, there would be another way. I believe, as much as I want to live as long as I possibly can, and knowing I would seek out the medical care I referenced above, I would realize, realistically, that my time of life was coming to an end, and hope that I would prepare for that end. I hope that I would be able to get my affairs in order, say my goodbyes, and then finally one last long look at the life I’ve led, with all the good and the bad, the laughter and tears, the dreams and the realities, and see the privilege given me. I would see a woman, reared in the South, in this great country we know as America, given the dream of a ‘middle class life’ and knowing given many alternatives that I had been given a beautiful gift; one that only God can give. I would know that to be less than truly grateful would be an insult to my Maker.

I want to think I would be humble and thankful enough, knowing the end was somewhere nigh, to bow my head and one last time in this life give my thanks to my God for a life worth living, a life worth loving and a life cherished with bits and pieces and parts and parcels of God’s creation.

That is my hope. That is what I want to believe is how I would handle such a dire prognosis. But, I am too much of a realist to know that we cannot truly say how or what we would do given certain circumstances. We only think we know. We only come to truly know ourselves after we have met the problems and tasks given us. Then we see what we do. I pray I am given years to learn that part of myself to find out just what I would do. This I do know now – another Rhio O’Connor I would not be.

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