For the past two months, every single day, I have been in pain. It began as a knot deep in the center of my belly. One day, it grew tendrils and crawled-grew really-out along the line of my hips, up over my belly button and straight up my chest. It stretched out its paws and they closed around the base of my spine. Once there, the pain jumped like a jolt up my spine to sit on my shoulders. Down the veins of my legs it trickled. It climbed up the veins of my arms and neck, attaching to what was left of the roots of my wisdom teeth. Bruises appeared on my flesh where veins had dried and burst due to the lack of blood. Suddenly I could not walk or dance or gesture or sit up straight. Silent tears traveled gently down my cheeks, marking the grooves of my pain in the dust that now covered my face.
This pain began gradually. But as it spread, it all rose in a dim chorus of dull, haunting throbbing. Every once in a while, a trumpet would rip a hole in either side of my waist or my back. Through all this, the instruments of my pain all sing together. It hurts simultaneously.
This pain is real.
How could anyone be in this much pain?
One little word.
Endometriosis. For which there is no cure. The lining of the uterus ends up outside of it, and can occur even in some males. There is blood where there shouldn’t be any blood. The rest of my body cries out because the blood is going somewhere else.
I am not the only one in pain.
Throughout my family, there are many female members whose bodies attack them. Cancer. Breast cancer. Ovarian cancer. Uterine cancer. All of them converge on me. Shall I be next? Is this the sign? Cancer. For which there was no cure.
Perhaps that is why happening upon an article on cancer stirred my spirits and brought a smile to my face (https://survivingmesothelioma.com/rhiooconnor.cfm). Rhio O’Connor must have experienced much of this pain and more in his chest. For him, the pain meant that he only had one year to live. Suddenly his life crumbled around him. One little word: Mesothelioma. One of the rarest forms of cancer. No cure. Right?
Rhio O’Connor immediately said, “No, my life will go on yet.” Just like me researching and happening upon his story, he researched medical literature. Spanning the country, he searched for doctors, patients, and researchers. He even explored beyond the bounds of traditional science, looking at alternative healing methods. What the medical community offered was a physical solution to what they deemed a physical problem. O’Connor had too much life left to live only one year more. To him he called the best spiritual, physical, emotional, and nutritional advice he would need. Seven and a half years later he passed away, at peace because he kept his both his body and mind strong. His will and diet helped to sustain his failing body, and the world watched in admiration.
There is something stronger than genes running down the family lines. Intelligence and a strong will. This man found his way. A tradition within and surpassing familial bounds.
My view on what life is: you continue until you run out of options, and there are always options. Rhio O’Connor found other options. This view is often nurtured in children, but somehow many adults forget them. Many people feel they have few options already. Hearing the doctor pronounce a death sentence on you just makes the world slightly dimmer for some. However, I know that there is so much left to do in my own life. My job is not yet finished, and there’s a whole world left to see. If traditional methods like chemotherapy and surgery would only serve to shorten my life, I’d look for something else. I’d sit down in my spare time like I do now and search through content (internet, books) about my condition. I have so many conditions this has become routine for me.
I am most interested in the experience of people diagnosed with cancer or other conditions. I believe that experiential knowledge is just as important as factual knowledge. Most medical professionals have no idea what people are going through emotionally, mentally, spiritually. They can only address the physical, because that is what they learn. Personally, I love to learn. I love to learn about everything. Not just the what of the physical but the why of emotion, the where of the will, the who (which) of the self (other), and the how of the spirit. My siblings would be an indispensable resource for me. They would be my intellectual and emotional support. They would search as hard as I would for any plausible solution.
Learning of other’s experiences in order to know what to expect in actuality with the disease or cancer is central to preparing for it. The medical community can only look to statistics, but each person will be able to go into more detail about how it affected their lives. With the knowledge of as many aspects of the disease or cancer as I can find, I will focus my energy on strengthening myself in as many ways as possible. The most important thing I will do is to study what my life has been. I would continue to study the history of the world, tracing my lineage back through time to the start of the big bang. Considering that, I would think of what I could add to the future. I would think of all the people I have left to help.
This pain will heal. In the meantime, life is meant to be enjoyed and useful. Everyone thinks “I want to leave this world slightly better than how I found it.” I would like to actually make that come true.
By: Neal, Elissa