Nelson, Kailey – Surviving Mesothelioma

Nelson, Kailey

Concede or Conquer?

“I’m sorry, this won’t be easy to hear, but you have a disease called Mesothelioma and you have less than a year to live. I suggest you take it easy, enjoy the rest of life and try to spend as much time as possible with family and friends.” Imagine for a moment that it is a beautiful, sunny, picture-perfect summer afternoon and you just heard these shocking words spoken from your doctor’s mouth. That would be a hard statement to hear, and an even harder one to believe. What would you do? What could you possibly do? It would seem utterly hopeless. Unfortunately, over 2,000 people in the United States each year alone are faced with this seemingly impossible question. When the unthinkable happens, they must make one of the hardest decisions of their life; what will they do with the little time they have left? Will they try to enjoy and cherish the time with friends and family? Will they travel around the world for a better second opinion? Or will they refuse to accept the diagnosis, and research the disease for themselves; trying to find a better method of treatment or a different prognosis than the one they have been given? Many will choose the first or second option, perhaps because they feel as though they do not have sufficient scientific knowledge to explore the alternatives themselves. However, among these 2000 cases of Mesothelioma in the United States a year, there are always a few brave and intelligent people who do not take their prognosis as the final answer and search for a better way.

Rhio O’Connor was one of these fighters who fought for a better answer. He would not accept the fact that he would have less than a year to live when he received the news that he had Mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a deadly cancer that infects the cells of the mesothelium. The mesothelium is a membrane that lines the many body cavities. Mesothelioma causes these cells to divide uncontrollably and become abnormal. Once the mesothelium calls have been infected, they can severely harm surrounding tissues and organs. These cancerous cells can also spread from their origin and infect other parts of the body. Exposure to and working with asbestos is a major risk factor for mesothelioma and it commonly begins in the pleura (the body cavity that surrounds the lungs) or the peritoneum (the membrane that lines the abdominal cavity). Mesothelioma is more common in men than in women and studies show that there has been little to no increase in the rate of survival with traditional treatments over 27 years.

Even though O’Connor was the recipient of this terrible prognosis, he did not let this disease control his life. He decided to take a path less traveled and passionately research his own cancer. He wanted to be able to be involved with the decisions about his health and wanted to be educated in the different treatments that existed. It was through this extraordinary work and effort that O’Connor put into researching his condition that he was able to live for several years beyond his original expected lifetime.

Being faced with a prognosis that gave me less than a year to live, it would be so easy for me to just concede. I could spend what little time I had left with my friends and family and live a comfortable life. However, being a science major, Rhio O’Connor’s story has greatly inspired me. I would also want to spend time researching and studying as Rhio did in the hopes that I would be able to prolong my life and find an alternate solution. While all this work researching other options and trying to find a better treatment may not end up being successful, I would not be able to let myself give up before probing the situation myself.

Besides for my great interest in science, another asset that I would use to my advantage would be my network in the science world. There are so intelligent people in the sciences who are constantly working on new treatments or who have innovative ideas. All of these people would be great assets to me. They would be informed ears that I could brainstorm with and discuss alternative options. Also, they may be connected to someone else who is working on new research related to mesothelioma or a project that could potentially help with mesothelioma research. With this incredible network available to me, I know that I would make the best use of it as possible before making any decisions.

Mesothelioma infects over 2000 people in the United States alone every year. If I ever happened to be one of these 2000 cases, I would want to explore many possible options and decide what would be the best solution along with the doctors. I would also use the network within the science field to help with this. While this is an extremely hard situation to consider, I think that it is a good idea to ponder questions like this sometimes. These tough situations make you look inside yourself to discover what kind of person you truly are and help you understand how you analyze problems.

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