James “Rhio” O’Connor was diagnosed with mesothelioma, an incurable cancer in which he was given only one year to live. O’Connor was brave and active in his health care. His vigorous research prolonged his life and taught others to not just depend on what one doctor offers. We have a responsibility to ourselves to take an active role in our healthcare.
After reading about O’Connor’s amazing efforts and results in a cancer that was deemed with limited life expectancy, it made me think what I would do if I was in the same situation. Cancer is a word that strikes fear into many when heard but it takes strength, strategy, and a passionate search for answers and options. With this prognosis in mind, I will discuss the planned steps, approach to my research, how an informed decision concerning treatment would be reached, the decision on alternate therapies, and resources for my research.
A diagnosis of an incurable cancer would disorient and frighten anyone initially. My thoughts would later turn to what are the steps am I going to take. I would first begin by mapping out a list of questions that I would have. Questions such as what are the stages of my cancer, what will I be experiencing, and who are the best known doctors to help my case of cancer. Questions about treatment such as if I have an incurable cancer then what therapies are available to prolong my life without harsh side effects and would I want to go through surgery or instead save the money towards medications. Along with questions that everyone must consider such as do I care about quantity of years or quality, how much would my therapy cost me if I predicted to only live a year, does insurance cover me, how long would I be expected to be independent before being bed stricken, how will it impact my job and how long can I work, and how would my diagnosis affect my family. Writing down my list of questions would help to ease my mind and direct me.
I would then arrange the questions into six categories. The categories being research who to see, what will happen, treatment concerns, financial concerns, those that will be affected, and preparations that would need to be made. When addressing my categories of questions I would consider which treatment modalities are most effective, alternative therapies available such as homeopathies, side effects of medications, nutritional therapy, read what patients with a similar diagnosis have done, the cost of treatment, which doctors and hospitals have had the most success, and research treatment modalities offered outside of the U.S.
As a cancer patient, other things to consider is how my energy level will be affected and that I would need to plan my activities accordingly, avoid others who are ill so as to not affect my health, place an importance on physical fitness to counter the effects of the disease, and make a will. I must also take the time to contemplate, outside of my health, what I want to accomplish before I die. After taking all of these points into account, I will prioritize what needs to be accomplished.
When making an informed decision with my doctor I would rely on the research that I have conducted. The avenues I would approach my research would be through the internet, phone calls to different hospitals for staff with successful experience with similar cancer patients, blogs for input from other cancer patients, asking friends and family who have or is experiencing cancer, and book research. Always, before making a final decision with my doctor over treatment, I would discuss the research knowledge I have attained, discuss the options available, and understand and agree upon the treatment plan.
Sadly, in the United States many of the treatment courses rely solely on Western medicine and routine therapies. Eastern medicine offers a different approach which might be beneficial to consider. Eastern medicine likes to consider alternative therapies, such as homeopathic remedies. These often have fewer side effects and have natural ingredients. This difference in medicinal viewpoints affirms that research into global therapies for cancer patients can be advantageous. I would certainly consider all of my options when it came to my treatment plan.
A cancer prognosis such as O’ Connor’s is disheartening but his strength, determination, and support gained from his knowledge gave him a miraculous achievement that will inspire many to come. I discussed the approach I would take if I were to hear that I had the same diagnosis, the methods of research I would use, how I would make sure I was informed with my decisions, and what I thought of alternative therapies. I discussed what I would have done through an intellectual approach but I know that in reality much more would be involved, such as the emotional and spiritual impact. I personally believe that God has control over my life and makes the ultimate decision whether I would be healed or not, if I were diagnosed with cancer. As a part of my support system I would have friends and family pray for me. Terminal cancer is a bitter and unjustifiable diagnosis but through a good support system and following the path of O’Connor we can all be strong informed advocates for ourselves.
By: Nowery, Megan