“Thinking Outside The Box”

Less than a year ago, a man whom I consider a modern day hero and a true inspiration to many more to come, passed away on July 11, 2009. This man was diagnosed with the rare cancer, pleural mesothelioma, at the age of 61 years old. He was given one year to live, but where many would have lost hope and found their lives crumbled to pieces, he held his head up high and faced death straight in the eye. After furiously and extensively researching his disease, or Mr. Meso as he called it, James “Rhio” O’Connor successfully outlived his prognosis for 7 ½ years, through his self-developed treatment plan.

According to Cancer Monthly’s informative website, www.survivingmesothelioma.com, mesothelioma is defined as a “rare form of cancer in which malignant (cancerous) cells are found in the mesothelium, a protective sac that covers most of the body’s internal organs.” Some of the symptoms include shortness of breath, painful breathing, painful coughing, and chest pain, unusual lumps of tissue under the skin, on your chest, unexplained weight loss, and dry cough. Additionally, according to Cancer Monthly, “working with asbestos is the major risk factor for mesothelioma.” Rhio’s mesothelioma was caused by early childhood exposure to asbestos.

Rhio’s life story as he lived with cancer is profoundly inspiring to me because his emphasis on “thinking outside the box” can be applied to so many other situations in life besides this one. He took it to the extreme and went beyond what anyone could have expected of him. The facts had shown that he would have one year to live, but he surprisingly proved them wrong through nothing but hard work and dedication to himself and his life.

If I were every diagnosed with a dire cancer prognosis; to be completely honest I would have no idea as to what my options would be. Of course, if I chose to do chemo, radiation, or surgery, it would be outstandingly expensive. Furthermore, if I chose one of those treatments, it would be painful for my body and will have little to no chance of success. Getting the proper treatment, even with nutrition and therapy, would cost a lot of money.

However, I do commend James “Rhio” O’Connor for his success. He discovered an alternative treatment that worked for him and possibly for others as well. Nevertheless, without a doubt, my approach to facing this problem would be different from that of Rhio’s.

My first step would be to have a deep conversation with my family and loved ones. Not only would they provide me with plenty of emotional support, but might provide me with good insights. If I was diagnosed with mesothelioma tomorrow, of course it would affect my family, but it would also get me to reflect on my entire life so far and how I have lived all my experiences.

Not only would I speak with medical professionals, but I would also seek the help of various treatment centers that specialize in conducting research in this type of cancer. Speaking with them can provide me with the necessary knowledge to compare the numerous alternatives for combating and living with mesothelioma. The treatment that I choose would then be specialized for me depending on the extent I am willing to push myself in dealing with the hazardous life that comes with cancer. The bottom line is this, when it comes to facing an incurable disease, or at least a similar event, it all comes down to the person’s level of mentality. Obviously, there are some people who will not simply accept their fate and wait patiently while death comes knocking on their door. Those types of people are courageous and incredibly outstanding by tackling such fearful odds. For this same reason, James “Rhio” O’Connor is exceptionally admirable to many and is one of those heroes present in our everyday lives.

Nevertheless, I would take Rhio’s approach into account by researching several treatment centers through websites, doctors, and previous patients. However, I must declare that my approach would be more philosophical and religious than scientific. My concern would be to focus on redeeming my sins and analyze how meaningful my life has been until now. Knowing that I might die tomorrow will inevitably make me see the world in a completely different way.

I want to appreciate what I have and the people who are involved in my life. I will learn to be thankful for what I have and can help me turn my life around even if it is just for a brief moment.

By: Parada, Denise

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