O'Connell, Megan | Surviving Mesothelioma

O’Connell, Megan

Throughout life, I have experienced many people with cancer who are extremely close to me. The two people who are the most influential, inspiring role models in my life, my mother and father, have cancer. My mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer when I was in fourth grade and it was extremely stressful on my family. During this time, my sister and I were very young and did not quite understand why our mother was so ill. We watched, horrorstruck, as our mother’s hair shed, and yet she never grew weak or weary. Our mother is an exceptionally determined person, who continuously strives for what she wants and never gives up on her kids or dreams. After several rounds of chemotherapy and surgery, Geraldine O’Connell healed well. At the seven year mark, she considered herself a survivor but also a changed woman. Cancer taught Geraldine to truly never give up on what you believe in and that “the best things in life, are not things at all.” Geraldine continues to stay active in the fight against cancer, supporting those who are going through it and participating in Relay for Life each year.

This past year during the week of my high school graduation, my father, Richard O’Connell was diagnosed with stage three lung cancer. Although Richard is still coping with cancer, he has Geraldine as his inspirational coach and spouse. Not only did Richard receive many opinions from various doctors, but he also made a trip to Sloan-Kettering over Christmas break to further future options. Richard continues to go about his day to day routine going to work, church, and attending his daughter’s soccer games. He continuously puts enthusiasm and effort in all that he does and aspires to live a long, full, meaningful life. Richard also enforces prayer life in our family, saying the St. Ann prayer for the sick every night. This prayer is extremely active in my life, and gives me a hopeful, bright future with my dad to look forward to.

Discovering the Rhio O’Connor Scholarship Contest really got me to think about how many people are affected by cancer. Every year, I participate in Relay for Life with the Beta Club at my high school and this year, as a college student, I will be participating with The University of Georgia. I can see the courage in all of the survivors at Relay for Life, and the determination Rhio O’Connor exemplified by being a seven year survivor of mesothelioma is incredible. Mesothelioma is a deadly, incurable cancerous disease that occurs from the defensive lining that covers many of the body’s intestinal organs. O’Connor definitely resembles characteristics of a true leader, by taking the initiative to research mesothelioma and look for possible cures. If I was diagnosed a mesothelioma, I feel that I would first inform my family members of this issue. It is important for me to inform my family when there is something wrong. My first step would be to decide what potentially needs to be done to become a cancer survivor. I would need to research the type of cancer diagnosed with, find out what doctors are the most suitable, and consult many physicians by making the proper appointments. Although this can be a tedious process, it is one that is necessary for adequate results.

There are several essential steps I would need to take to make an informed decision when choosing a treatment. I would have an organized binder containing all of the information I need to be successful when researching. The binder would include different doctor contacts, various surgery opportunities I researched, radiation components, and different chemotherapy options. I would also research various herbal remedies that might ease some of the pain I might be receiving in my lungs, internal organs or anywhere else in my body. As a cancer patient, I would look for other real life people with cases similar to mine and hear about how they are treating their cancer. This would not only give me someone to relate to, but also someone I can depend on to stick with me. Another key component in my studies and research would be to locate my family history and see if cancer is common in my genetics or is hereditary. People with the same genes can sometimes respond similarly to medications and treatments so I would want to know if there have been any chemotherapy or radiation treatments in my family, as well as cancer in general.

If chemo, radiation, and surgery had little to offer I definitely would try to look beyond my illness and instead spend my time trying to research ways to cure it. I would also find time to complete lifelong dreams, or spend time with my family, because being happy with your family is one of the most important things on Earth. As far as the cancer, I would face the elephant in the room just like Randy Pausch did. Randy stated, “The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough” (Randy Pausch).

Finally, to make an informed decision, I would use various resources including cancer books, cancer researchers, and past results of that type of cancer. I would start journaling with other people that have cancer. My journals would establish specific routes for possible survival, asking myself what is the safest, most productive, and fastest way of curing this particular form of cancer? Above all, I would pray continuously, because prayer is one of the most powerful things in my personal life. I would draw my strength from the love of my family and I would not give up. I truly deserve this scholarship because I have been around people who have dealt with the effects of cancer and I am willing to make a difference. Day by day, I will discover that the little things in life truly are the best, and the best things in life are not things of all.

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