James “Rhio” O’Connor was a brave, optimistic, and determined man that battled mesothelioma. At age 61 He was given one year to live and outlived his prognosis by more than 6 years; longer than imagined. Mesothelioma is a tumor on the lining of the lung and chest cavity or the lining of the abdomen caused by long-term exposure to asbestos. He faced the reality of his illness and was definitely motivated to know what he was facing. Rhio spent hours researching in libraries and speaking with countless doctors, researchers, and other patients affected with this deadly disease this is how he sustained life. Mr. O’Connor learned everything he could about mesothelioma in order to combat it.
Rhio’s tenacity and perseverance to defeat mesothelioma is and should be very inspiring to anyone faced with this or other forms of tribulations. His formula for lengthening his life involved over 100 supplements a day, he changed his diet, practiced mind-body medicine, and lead a positive, disciplined life for the next six and a half years. I feel for him and can’t imagine facing the same difficulties he did.
If I were faced with the same challenges that Rhio faced, like a dire cancer prognosis, I would organize myself as quickly as possible with steps. This sounds easier said than done, but from the sounds of it James followed a similar pattern. I have modeled most of my steps on the formula that he used to keep his life going as long as possible.
Step number one would be to remain focused, disciplined, maintain hope and be realistically optimistic. In order to battle cancer I would need to take organization seriously and try to keep my composure so I could start working on solutions. Now, immediately find a support system. Family, friends, and other patients with the same diagnosis are recommended. These people are there for emotional and physical support when I or anyone else would need it. Help grocery shopping, driving to doctor appointments, and other needs is how our friends and family could support.
The first step to the rigorous educational process of informing oneself is finding doctors and hospitals that specialize in a specific cancer. According to a U.S. News & World Report article, the University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston is the best. This hospital has been ranked number one for the last three years.
The National Cancer Institute, The American Association for Cancer Research, and The American Cancer Society are great places to start one’s research on cancer education. These sites are beneficial for learning the basics about what to expect and where to begin the fight.
Once a hospital and specialist have been found it would be imperative to have a host of questions for the doctor as one would obviously do. First, ask if it is O.K. to tape record the conversation with the physician. Doctor’s are busy and the diagnosed individual may be emotionally unstable making it hard to listen and understand everything the physician said. This is why tape recording the visit is beneficial. Next, I would ask to have a second opinion at a different hospital. While recording the conversation I would ask the him/her how many patients has he/she treated with this exact same cancer, age range, which treatments were used, and if there are any patients alive that I would be able to speak with them.
Now, it comes to treatment options. There are many options to go over and an exuberant amount of questions about each treatment option. I would definitely go all options with the specialist based on the type cancer I had.
The Cancer Treatment Center of America is a fantastic website that is of educational value for an individual wanting to research options for treatments.
Research I would conduct would utilize various websites, libraries, doctors, and patient survivors on what treatments they have used. My library at school, Missouri Western State University, has an enormous collection of books on cancer in its various forms. They have everything from conventional cancer treatments to complementary treatments or alternative options. Simply typing ‘Cancer’ into the search engine provided various valuable researching options.
If the unfortunate did happen to me, like the norm I would utilize chemotherapy and radiation as my primary options since these treatments are almost a given now days, for a good reason—they can yield good results. A recent study conducted by cancer specialists at Jefferson Medical College have found that treating patients with both chemotherapy and radiation, in the beginning of treatment, help patients live longer, though the side affects are worse. But, I would still incorporate all of the complementary treatments.
Once a treatment options has been established I would ask them about side effects. What should I expect? Has anyone died from the treatments, but not the cancer? I would also ask if the FDA approves the drugs, because many cancer drugs, allegedly, are not approved by the FDA these referred to as “off-label”. Each treatment option is going to have different side effects. Whichever treats the diagnosed cancer the best should be used but side effects warnings would be considered If chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery were not an option then I would look beyond and ask about any clinical trials and/or complementary treatment that are options for this particular cancer. If clinical trials were not an options my form of cancer treatment would rely heavily on the complementary treatments like: acupuncture, nutrition, naturopathic medicine, exercise, and mind/body medicine like: yoga, meditation, guided imagery, etc.
I would definitely research and utilize approaches like: herbs, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, peptides, or other natural non-toxic supplements to attack cancer. There is a wonderful book by Dr. Linus Pauling called Cancer and Vitamin C, and how vitamin C can yield excellent results. Like Rhio O’Connor, who ingested over a 100 supplements a day, I would use a variety to aid my survival too like: Ukrain, Iscador, Vitamin C, Ozone Therapy, Astraglus, and Cat’s Claw. All of these supplements, allegedly, increase one’s immune system making it easier to fight off infection and bacteria. Anything that we can do to defeat cancer should be done!
Eating nutritionally fortified foods is one good way to fight off cancer and other diseases as a preventative measure. According to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America website it says eating healthy supports our immune function, rebuilds body tissue, decreases infection risks, improves strength and increases energy, increases tolerance for treatments, helps the recuperation process, and improves ones quality of life with all of these being beneficial for individuals living with cancer. If I had cancer I would eat organic fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, soy, legumes, and organic non-farmed fish with no mercury. My body would need more “fuel” than normal because it is trying to repair itself after chemotherapy/radiation therapy and other forms of cancer treatments unless I wasn’t utilizing said treatments. According to the National Cancer Institute, about a third of all cancer deaths are related to malnutrition. So, the last thing I would want to do is not eat nutritionally well-balanced foods rich in phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals.
I would ask my doctor about survival rate information. Does it come from a peer-reviewed, published medical journal? This type of research can be found at Cancer Monthly, http://www.cancermonthly.com. Cancer Monthly has information on cancer news, clinical trials, a community of individuals with or had cancer, alternative and integrative approaches, and lastly survival rates and side effects of the latest cancer treatments
Finally, the last question to ask my doctor is a rather provocative one. Ask if he/she has any financial or research interest in one’s treatment he/she has recommended. Ask if a drug company is paying him/her when one is prescribed certain drugs and ask if he or she is consulting for the company. It is a good idea to know this information in order to make the penultimate choice in treating cancer.
The point of this essay is for us to understand cancer (the way Rhio did), research it, and if we have the misfortune of being diagnosed we are one step ahead to defeat it. ‘Mr. Meso’ does inspire hope. Start getting screened once a year, this is recommended for most types of cancer by individuals as young as 30’s (i.e., skin, thyroid, oral, lymph nodes, testes, ovaries, etc.) and is mandatory for people in their 40’s and 50’s. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Understand Rhio and his struggles with mesothelioma. Go about it the same way he did in an organized, educational, and determined process but now is the time to react. Lets take care of ourselves now in order to prevent it later.
By: Mott, Dustin D.