It’s happened again. I found yet another lump in my chest. That makes three all together. My mom called Dr. Walker today; he wants to see me tomorrow. I can tell he thinks something’s wrong; otherwise he wouldn’t have wanted to see me so soon. Mom wants me to get some rest. My appointment is early tomorrow, and I just hope I will be able to digest all that goes on. I lay my head down on my cold down pillow; surrounding myself in total darkness I shut my eyes.
“Mary, wake up, honey, we have to go.” I wake up and realize it’s real. I hadn’t been dreaming. I feel my chest where the lumps are, still there. I get into my clothes and brush my teeth. “Mom, I’m ready,” I say, not really wanting to go.
“Ok, where are the keys,” she asks as I get them out of my purse and hand them to her. We get into the car and drive off to Dr. Walker’s office. As we pull up I see the office; it’s a quaint little building, made of red brick, a one-story. I walk up to the door and open the regal French doors. Inside, the beige colored walls and dim lighting almost soothed me as I sat down on one of the black leather couches in the waiting room with my mom right next to me. “Mary Norton,” the nurse calls out. I get up with my mom and follow her to the back room where they get my vitals. “Ok you can go back out now and the doctor will call you shortly.” I walk back out and sit on the same black couch. It’s only been a few minutes but it feels like it’s been a few hours. “Mary Norton,” Dr. Walker repeats in the same monotone that the nurse had used. I get up and walk towards him; my mom right behind me. As I’m in the back, I suddenly feel a chill roll down my spine, and I shiver. “Go ahead and have a seat right in here, Mary. I’ll be right with you guys.” I wait with my mom, trying to focus on anything but the reason I’m here in the first place. Next thing I know Dr. Walker comes in with a file in hand. “Ok, we have the results from your biopsy Mary. I’m sorry to say that they came back positive for mesothelioma.”
“What? What exactly is mesothelioma,” I ask, I’m terrified at this point. I have no idea what mesothelioma is!
“Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer. It starts in the tissue and later spreads to the lining of the organs. That lining is called mesothelium.” He explains to me.
“No, you’re kidding right? I can’t have mesothelioma! It’s cancer! I can’t have cancer! I can’t,” I say, not believing anything he is saying.
“I wish I was Mary. I really do. I know this is very difficult to deal with. I’m going to give you and your mom a minute to talk to each other, just call when you’re ready,” Dr. Walker said. I look over at my mom, who’s in tears; we hug each other tightly, and the tears start pouring out of my eyes. We sit there for a good while in a warm embrace, “We better call Daddy and let him know, Mom.”
“Your right. Do you want to tell him or do you want me to,” my mom asked.
“You tell him. I don’t think I could do it,” I told her, trying to grasp everything that was happening. She called my dad and told him the results. All I heard was silence on the other end. “Are they sure,” he asked my mom.
“Yes, they did the biopsy.” I could tell she was going to break down again because her eyes were tearing up. “Mom, let me talk to him,” I told her. As I took the phone I took a few deep breathes. “Hello, Daddy,”
“Hi, baby. How are you feeling,” he asked me so calmly and in such a soothing voice.
“I guess ok. I just can’t believe it. Can you?”
“No, no I can’t. But we’ll get through it. I promise,” he said so reassuringly. As soon as we hang up, Dr. Walker walks in. We go over what I can do, different treatment options, and how long I have to live. “I want to tell you about someone Mary, who also had mesothelioma. His name was James “Rhio” O’Connor.”
“Okay, what about him? Why are you telling me about him,” I asked almost annoyed.
“Well he was given only a year to live, but outlived the prognosis by more than six years.”
“How did he do that?” Gee, I thought, maybe there was a chance for me too. If I could outlive my prognosis, I would be so happy.
“Well he did a lot of research, talking to many doctors, and even other patients, to see how they coped, what worked best for them. If anyone knows firsthand the trials and tribulations of cancer, it’s the patients. I can give you some other doctors to contact if you would like, I know some specialists who can help you tremendously.”
I am so grateful that my doctor told me about James O’Connor. Having mesothelioma, you don’t feel there is much hope. It’s hard to see the good in things, when you just see the end and know that it is coming a lot sooner for you than for most people. When I found out about James O’Connor and how he outlived his prognosis, it gave me a sense of hope. The work and the research were exhausting, the countless hours I spent on the computer, the phone, in the library, were all worth it. From the beginning, I was very hesitant to even mention chemotherapy; the thought alone just terrified me. I looked for different treatment possibilities and talked to several cancer patients including several family members who currently had or had had it and asked for their experiences. I decided to look at all of my options, instead of just chemotherapy, options like radiation, surgery, biological therapy, and hormonal therapy. Knowing that it was possible to outlive your cancer prognosis, especially by six years, was enough inspiration for anyone I feel, to get up and do something. While some days are harder than others, I know my chances at longer life are greater if I get up and help myself than if I just lie in bed. I can proudly say I have outlived my one year prognosis; I am now going on two years! Every day I learn a little more about what I can do, what works for my body and what doesn’t work. Whatever time I do have left I want to spend as comfortable and pain-free as possible. I enjoy my friend’s and family’s company, I live each day as if it were my last. I appreciate more things that many of us just take for granted, because I never know which day will be my last.