The Fight For Life

“The Fight for Life”

My name is Watson Brent Melville, Jr. and I attend the University of Houston Central campus as a Pre-Pharmacy student. After reading the experience of James “Rhio” O’Connor and how in the face of death he was able to persevere, I was deeply affected and encouraged. He received a diagnosis of Mesothelioma, a serious life threatening form of cancer. I researched the disease and discovered its common causes and the life expectancy of its victims.

Definition & Causes

According to the American Cancer Society, in 2008, approximately 2500 new cases of Mesothelioma were reported. Though it is considered a rare form of cancer, it has made a negative impact on many victims and their families. Because the disease often advances before symptoms appear, it can be hard to treat. The disease affects men over age 60 more than any other group. Mesothelioma is predominantly caused by exposure to asbestos, according to Eastbourne Today, in their article entitled, “Woman’s death from asbestos”. There are three main types of Mesothelioma that include epithelioid, sarcomatoid (fibrous) and mixed (biphasic). Many victims were exposed in their workplace as a result of asbestos which was used in insulation, and in other things like floor tiles, door gaskets, roofing, patching compounds, and more.

In this disease, “malignant cells develop in the mesothelioma, a protective lining that covers most of the body’s internal organs. Its most common site is the pleura (outer lining of the lungs and internal chest wall), but it may also occur in the peritoneum (the lining of the abdominal cavity), the heart, the pericardium (a sac that surrounds the heart) or tunica virginals”(WebMD). Asbestos is a set of six naturally occurring silicate minerals exploited commercially for their desirable physical properties.


Scientists have also discovered that washing the clothes of someone who works around asbestos increases the risk of development of Mesothelioma. There is no connection between smoking and mesothelioma. Symptoms include shortness of breath and weight loss. Further tests such as ct scans and chest x-rays are used to diagnose the disease.


The most successful treatment is a combination of conventional therapies with radiation or chemotherapy which has a success rate of 74.6 percent. However, this percentage decreases depending on the stage of the disease. Other treatments which are not as effective include surgery and immunotherapy.

“The Courageous O’Connor Battle”

James O’Connor was diagnosed with mesothelioma at the age of 61. He was given a year to live and the doctor recommended him to take his wife on a stress free cruise and start treatment when he came back. Disapproving of the idea of a vacation, O’Connor decided to start fighting the disease. He was determined to survive this cancer. Working with professional clinicians, he formulated a regimen of over 100 supplements a day, changed his diet, practiced mind-body medicine, and relied on his own discipline to see him through the difficult times ahead. He extended his life by 7 and a half more years. He even wrote a book about his experiences.

“My Plan of Action”

I am inspired by the reaction Mr. O’Connor took to the doctors’ view of how much time he had left to live through his sickness. His actions prove that hard work and determination help miracles come to pass. Because he decided to fight the prognosis rather than taking a vacation and preparing to die, he lived six years beyond the doctors’ expectation!

If I received a prognosis similar to Mr. O’Connor, my first reaction would be prayer. Prayer and meditation are calming things and I believe that maintaining a balanced mind helps the body’s healing process. Then, consulting cancer specialists for treatment would be essential. If my health was otherwise good aside from the cancer, I would consider surgery or procedures to relieve the fluid from my lungs or abdomen if it were present there. Next, I would research natural and effective complementary treatments options such as peppermint tea for nausea, meditation to relieve stress, vitamin supplements to improve nutrition, acupuncture and massage therapy to relieve pain.

Furthermore, I would assess my eating habits. Like O’Connor, I believe that poor diet is one common factor shared by many diseases. This is why even now I live a vegetarian lifestyle and would find new ways to continue eating healthy. I would consider transforming to a vegan lifestyle with absolutely no animal products. I would also consult with other patients to find out what worked for them. I believe answers can come from unexpected places.

Furthermore, community education and family are two important things to me. Discovering new ways to give back to the community and spend time with my family would be important to me. I would aspire to start a foundation raising awareness on Mesothelioma, informing patients of the latest treatments and providing financial assistance to families in times of grief and bereavement for burial costs and other needs on a case by case basis.

Though I have not known anyone personally that experienced this particular type of disease, Cancer and other diseases have touched my life in a dramatic way and inspired me to study Pharmacy in college. Last year I lost my mother suddenly and unexpectedly to stroke. A year before that on April 18th 2008, my dearly beloved uncle lost his battle against cancer. It was a shock to my family. I always heard about cancer, but I never thought it would hit home like it did. That wasn’t the first time that cancer hit close to me. I had an outgoing, funny and loving friend. She lit up any room that she entered. She too had cancer. She passed away at the young age of 15. Cancer and disease have attacked my life more times than I would like. Yet, sickness can happen to anyone.

In conclusion, receiving a prognosis as Mr. O’Connor did may be startling at first, yet I would fight to live. I would remain optimistic and encourage others affected by this illness as victims or family members. Having done all that I could do, my faith in God would help me reach my destiny. The rest would be up to my Creator, the one and only God.

By: Melville, Watson Brent, Jr

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