James “Rhio” O’Connor is an inspiration to us all, both the healthy and all the cancer patients and survivors. It is because of James “Rhio” O’Connor that hope can be restored. Yes, people with Leukemia and Breast Cancer may not be fighting the exact same type of Cancer, but at the end of the day, it is all the same disease that can and for some have taken their life and that of their loved ones.
I commend “Rhio” for being able to take a leap of faith and try to find the cure for his incurable Mesothelioma. After thinking long and hard about how I would react in the same situation, I have never been one to give up easily on anything and definitely wouldn’t start even if I were diagnosed having one year left to live. I think being able to technically treat your disease on your own terms, in your own way is completely and very empowering. Being able to add years to your life and knowing you had a hand in possibly saving someone else’s life with your research down the road, is absolutely remarkable.
My husband survived Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia, which is a rare subtype of Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. There had been some research on APL, but being it was such a rare type, my husband and I didn’t have many options at the moment, he had to take the chemotherapy offered, whether we agreed with it or not, my husband’s life was on the line. He needed treatment and would die within a couple weeks if we did nothing. It was a difficult to make decisions on a moment’s notice. I wish I did have the time to research what other options were available at the time of my husband’s diagnosis, and now we will have to see years down the line exactly how the chemotherapy will affect his long term health. As of now, my husband has been in remission since 2007, but when he was delivered the diagnosis he wanted to survive and chose to be part of a study to help by becoming part of the answer and solution for people with APL. My husband like James “Rhio” is a hero, but for different reasons. My husband is a hero for choosing to put his life on the line and endure endless bone marrow biopsies for the sake of future science and research.
“Rhio” was a hero as he opted to find a way to live with his disease on his own timetable and in his own way. He made choices that are not easy and knowing he was dealing with an incurable disease had already set the bar, but he persevered and didn’t give up in the darkest of hours, he made a difference by relying and trusting his own inner faith to survive and be an example. “Rhio” didn’t feel there was only one option, by staying within the parameters of the hospital and letting the doctors have the final say. James “Rhio” O’Connor gives us hope for stepping out in faith and trying something different than following the routine protocol, he was able to extend his life well beyond his original diagnosis of a year and the fact that he was able to make what was left of his life count the way he wanted it to, he didn’t succumb to the disease he made it his mission. He is an example we should all follow when confronted with a rare and incurable disease, not to give up and find the medicine, or treatments that will best serve our disease and us. Especially those in their darkest days, will be able to reflect that strangely familiar glimmer of hope, which can forever shine brightly, they will forever remember “Rhio”.
I know if I am ever diagnosed with any type of cancer I will think of those whom I consider a hero in their own right. I will think of my husband, I will think of James “Rhio” O’Connor and I will remember the strength it took to fight, survive and how he lived his life with dignity, and on his own terms. I think to be blessed with the courage it takes to fight a deadly disease speaks volume about one’s character. James Rhio O’Connor was a fighter and his passion and conviction were conveyed by the test and trials he endured during his last years of his life. His disease was unfortunate, but people will remember James “Rhio” O’Connor for his ability to beat the odds and his strength to persevere will triumph above all. His relentless spirit to find a cure for Mesothelioma will leave an imprint forever in the minds and hearts of those who knew and loved him and those who are yet to learn about him. James “Rhio” O’Connor will forever be remembered.