McLennan, Matt

Fighting for Life: His Own and Those Who Would Follow

It takes a brave soul to accept and understand the concept of death; it takes an even braver one to turn what most would see as complete misery into the challenge of and for a lifetime. Such is the case for the late Rhio O’Connor. Rhio O’Connor was another individual, like many others, whose world was turned upside down when he learned the fate that he was diagnosed with a deadly form of cancer, Mesothelioma. During his lifetime, and still today, there is currently no solidified cure for this brutal, and most often fatal disease. Like most individuals with this dim prognosis, Rhio O’Connor was only given a brief window of one year to live. Instead of looking at this news as a certain death sentence, O’Connor bravely accepted this news as a life challenge. He persevered far past the expectations of most, and fought to live another six years. During this time period, while this beast called cancer ravished silently within his body, O’Connor worked tirelessly at learning everything he could about his prognosis and every possible option for treatment. During this time he was able to create his own therapeutic protocol and leave behind a legacy of useful information for those who would surely follow in his footsteps. In Rhio O’Connor’s tragically shortened life, he will always be remembered for showing more courage in his darkest time than most will ever show in long-lived life.

Mesothelioma is a cancer that attacks the lining that encases the lungs known as the pleura. The only way to contract this cancer is from direct asbestos exposure. Most victims have no idea that they are even being exposed to such a silent killer. Asbestos is a fiber-like mineral that is used in several common materials such as cement, roofing materials and soundproofing materials. It is also a good source of insulation because the fibers are significantly strong. Even with exposure to asbestos, developing mesothelioma is still quite rare. This disease is especially hard to track because of its latency period from the time of exposure to development of the cancer. Anyone who even remotely suspects that they have been exposed to asbestos, or any materials containing the mineral, are urged to see a doctor immediately. Although Mesothelioma is a severely complicated and deadly cancer, like most cancers, if discovered early, and within the right stage, there is hope for recovery.

It is very difficult to say how I would react in a situation similar to Rhio O’Connor’s. I am only eighteen years of age, in my first year of college, and I have yet to get a grasp on the meaning of life to put it simply. I’m a very healthy person and besides the common childhood ailments, I have yet to face a health challenge, yet alone a diagnosis of death. Rhio O’Connor’s story is one of courage, hope, and inspiration. Courage has numerous definitions depending on who is asked, but I view courage as retaining hope when there is nothing left to hope for. If I were to wake up tomorrow morning with the reality of a dire cancer prognosis, I can’t honestly say how I would react. I am confident that my first thoughts would be about those I loved most in life and how this would affect them. Relationships drive us as human beings and are the core reason for why we do the things we do. Everyone has their own moment of self-realization, and when it comes, many discover they are nothing without the people around them. Although I have yet to completely grasp this concept, I believe I understand its meaning. After reading about O’Connor and his bravery and perseverance, I believe that my first goal would be to do something with the rest of my time that could benefit another. I would immediately start with the information regarding my prognosis and I would begin evaluating my options, just as O’Connor did. I would need to research and analyze the various different treatments available and decide how best to do everything possible to prolong my time? I would need to look at what options are realistic and determine how far outside of the box am I willing to step to make a difference. When fighting a battle with cancer, time is the true enemy, and I wouldn’t waste a minute of it. Rhio O’Connor did just that and he not only prolonged his life but he left a legacy for others. His life was not one lost in vain and he will be forever remembered for his strength, courage, knowledge and that “never give up” attitude.

In closing, I would like to address the reality of how my participation in this essay contest truly came to be. I must be honest, I didn’t seek out this opportunity, it was sent to me by my parents, namely my mother. Like so many, I come from a divorced home and my mother is a single parent with full custody of both myself and my younger brother. Money is always an issue for us and she is always looking for ways to help me to fund my education. Both of my parents believe strongly in the foundation of a good education and they will do whatever it takes to help my brother and I achieve our goals. Academically, my parents expect me to always work up to my highest potential, a value I would bet Rhio O’Connor’s parents instilled in him at a young age also. My first semester of college this year was an eye opening experience. It was far tougher than I ever expected, yet I managed to obtain a 3.6 GPA and currently am ranked the top 20% of the U of A’s freshman class. I owe much of this success to my parents. They hold that bar high and with their love and guidance, I do my best to reach it. In addition to the intellectual support I get from my parents, they also consistently try to expose my brother and myself to situations that will help us to understand the struggles of others and learn from how others meet and tackle obstacles presented in life. Participating in this scholarship essay provided exactly that experience for me. Truthfully, I’ve never thought about my own mortality or how I would handle the devastating news that my life was to be cut short. Researching and learning about Rhio O’Connor provided me with the challenge of self reflection. No one can truly know how they would react and proceed if placed in such a situation as O’Connor, but anyone who reads his story can’t deny that they can hope that they too would show such courage and desire to leave a legacy. I admire Rhio O’Connor most for his refusal to back down and say no. His bravery is an inspiration that will live on in a part of me for years to come. If I am ever faced with a similar fate or even a different type of challenge, I hope that this amazing man’s journey will be a beacon for me to follow and a chance to make a difference with my life.

Get your free copy of
“Surviving Mesothelioma” Today!