Being asked a question that requires me to put myself in James “Rhio” O’Connor’s shoes, I realize I have big shoes to fill. When diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer that invades the protective tissue of internal organs, James took a noble stand, one that made him stand tall and strong for six years since his diagnonsis. Mesothelioma is a rare form of lung cancer and most people who are diagnosed with this cancer have no more than one year to live. Receiving such shocking and dreadful news, James O’Connor was driven to take on a new life style and with thorough research and determined strength, he outlived his cancer by six years. His success story has left an imprint in the world and with the inspiration and admiration he has left me, I too intend to leave my own imprints. In order to truly understand what James has experienced and to elevate myself onto his level of sheer strength and dedication, I must approach this essay as if I have been just told that mesothelioma cancer has spread into my body, and it will only be a year before cancer will take my life… I will refer to my rigorous battle with cancer as a game rather than a fight. Fighting implies that one will win and one should fail. I refuse to let an ounce of failure enter my mind. So rather, I propose a new route – a game in which my mind can create its own battlefield where I shall prevail as the one and only victor.
And so the games begin. I will make sure to do research about my cancerous opponent. From books and online sources to medical opinions and experimental trials, I will use every resource available to me. I understand the complexities of the human body and how remarkably it functions to sustain life. I also know how rapidly and heedlessly cancer works to destroy it. But what if I can keep up the pace? I know my cancer came to me at a surprise but I can still catch up. It is time to strategize. Before any big game comes preparation and what better way to prepare than to run? Running is my way of coping, not just to work out the physicality of myself, but rather to build up the mentality that I know I need for what is to come.
Through my eighteen years of running life’s course, I have never come across a hill as steep and as terrifying as this one. However, I am not running around this hill – I am running right towards it. Researching my cancer is just my warm up. As for what kind of treatment options I will consider, I would first have to go with Alimta, a new chemotherapy treatment. Because Alimta can only be used on mesothelioma patients that have not yet received treatment, this treatment would be my initial choice on my path to self recovery. According to the University of Chicago Cancer Research Center, Alimta is said to be “the largest clinical trial ever tested” for mesothelioma cancer. If my body does not respond to Alimta treatment, I will then change my course to another direction where I will participate in a clinical trial. Factoring in all the risks involved and the outcomes possible, I will choose the clinical trial that pertains best to what my body needs. I will also make sure that the clinical trial is a Phase III clinical trial so that the results would be helpful at a wider scale for cancer patients, not just limiting to those with mesothelioma. I must have the willingness to try new treatments to maintain courage, endurance, and strength for these are the elements that will keep me running at a good pace. These will be the tracks that aid my journey above the hill.
The shot has fired. I am running. I’ve maintained healthy nutrition so I know I have the energy. I have the best treatment options available to me therefore I know where I am going. I see my opponent not much further ahead. I feel strong at first but the cancer is running at a more rapid pace. My lungs begin to feel weak. I want to slow down a little. I start slowing down. My chest feels heavy and the air feels tight. I hear something. Is that just my heavy breathing? I hear it again. I slightly turn my head to the right. There they are. My family, my friends and the team of doctors that helped me through. They are cheering for me from the sidelines. Don’t give up. Don’t give up.
For all those who are suffering from cancer, I encourage you to run. Run as fast as you can and when you think you are getting tired, look for your cheerleaders. Look for the reasons to keep on running. Claude Bernard once said “Art is I, Science is we.” Science is a universally accepted discipline but art is what we make of it. James O’Connor transformed his endeavor with cancer into his own art by living up to his belief of “thinking outside the box” and beating sciences’ prognosis by six years. James teaches us all not to limit ourselves – we should expand our minds to its furthest horizon. As for me, this was all a prep before the big game. Now it is up to God to determine where my finish line will be. It is not a guarantee. But I know what I am up against. I am ready.
By: Makhzoum, Nour