“If I Could Just Spread My Wings, I Know That I Can Fly.”

“If I could just spread my wings, I know that I can fly.” These are words from the song “I Believe I Can Fly”, sang by R. Kelly. Many take these words lightly and tend to forget that one can achieve anything they set their mind to if they take the necessary steps that bring them closer to their goal; however, this is a quote that I find to be not only motivating, but very powerful. The notion spelled out these words is one that I fashion my life by and is a notion embodied by a man named James “Rhio” O’Connor.

James “Rhio” O’Connor or J.R. O’Connor was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in October, 2001 at the age of sixty one. Pleural mesothelioma is a cancer that affects the production of mesothelium in the lining of the lungs, causing pressure on one’s lungs, and obstructing normal breathing. The life expectancy for a person with such cancer is very limited and in the case of J.R. O’Connor, was limited to less than a year. In O’Connor’s case, due to the location of his cancer, –near his spine—surgery was made impossible, and radiation and chemotherapy would not have had any significant benefit in his standard of living or his life expectancy. At this point, one would lose faith and yield to the disease; however, J.R. O’Connor used this news to fuel his quest to find alternatives measures that would restore his health. He began working with professional clinicians, and was able to devise a regimen of more a hundred supplements, a changed diet, the practice of mind-body medicine, and self-discipline. With this regimen, and extreme determination and resolve, O’Connor was able to live seven more years, and was able to conquer a disease labeled “incurable”.

If I were faced with the same challenges J.R. O’Connor was faced with prior to discovering his story, I might have lost hope and succumbed to my plight; however, after becoming privy to his struggles and the way he surmounted them, I can say that if I was placed in his situation, I would have taken the same steps he took. Because I do not believe that medicine is the only cure for ailments, I would have taken the supplements that he took and would have practiced mind-body medicine, and lastly, I would have been steadfast to my faith and would have prayed incessantly.

I have even, already begun to take initiative in researching about alternative means of approaching, and either curing or alleviating many illnesses and J.R. O’Connor’s story inspires me to continue. I have begun researching psychological problems in children, and how they can be dealt with in a natural or alternative way. I aspire to become a pediatric psychiatrist; however, since I do believe in synthetic medication, it would be very hypocritical of me to administer it to children. This is why I aim to establish a practice in which medication would be the last resort, after exhausting all other forms of achieving well being – including homeopathic methods and natural supplement and cures. I believe that my aspirations are similar to J.R. O’Connor’s survivor story, because after being given the option of chemotherapy and radiation –neither of which would have significantly improved his life span or standard of living – he sought to find alternative ways to cure his “incurable” cancer. To J.R. O’Connor, chemotherapy and radiation were his last resorts, and instead of settling, he fought to discover other methods to restore his health.

Upon finding this scholarship, I began doing further research about J.R. O’Connor, and I have been immensely inspired by his struggles, the obstacles he overcame, and his perseverance despite the perception of others. For a person to still maintain faith, even after being presented with such devastating news as cancer is a very admirable trait that I hope to possess one day. The way J.R. O’Connor lived the last seven years of his life is the way I try to live mine now. I try to persevere and always try to seek out other routes to achieve my goal, even though many have told me no other route exists. J.R. O’Connor is a paradigm for success. His determination and perseverance to be “well” are exemplary, and resulted in him achieving the unforeseen and “impossible”. J.R. O’Connor teaches, through his story, that anything is achievable, and with his mentality I know that I also can achieve whatever aspirations that I have.

By: Nweke, Ifunanyachukwu

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