Positive Influence

“I’m sorry, I have some bad news. The CT scan indicates what appears to be mesothelioma. It’s a rare type of cancer that occurs in the tissues lining the body’s internal organs. Unfortunately, the cure rate is not very hopeful. I suggest preparing yourself and letting your family and friends know. I give it one year at max.”

Are you sure? What could have caused it? How can I have cancer? My first reactions would be ones of shock, denial, blame, confusion, fear, and despair as I reflect on my lifestyle and question the future.

I really do not have a guarantee of a healthy life. Life is fragile. I cannot waste time.

I would pray to God for healing but also for courage and strength. If I must go through this, if I will learn something through this trial, if I can impact someone else, then help me to persevere. I have no control. Ultimately, it is up to God.

My doctor would present treatment options to me. First, I could undergo surgery to remove the cancer but it is a high-risk procedure. Chemotherapy then uses drugs to kill cancer cells in the mesothelium directly without destroying healthy cells. Alternatively, radiation therapy uses high energy rays to kill cancer cells in a specified area of the body. Combination therapy, a combination of the former two, has the highest promise but is the most grueling. There would only be a small chance of improvement and the process would be exhaustive. Even if successful, most people experience a recurrence of cancer. If I was interested, there is also an alternative treatment plan involving new target drugs. Still, a cure is not guaranteed. There would be time for me to make a decision but it would need to be soon.

While my family and friends obtain helpful information relating to the sickness, I would go about researching on my own. I would read testimonies of patients who have had mesothelioma and what treatment options worked for them. One story in particular would stick out to me.

In October 2001, James “Rhio” O’Connor was diagnosed with mesothelioma, years after contact with asbestos fibers. Like most patients with mesthelioma, his treatment options were limited. He would have a year to live. However, rather than succumbing to the disease, Rhio designed his own plan that granted him years, not months. With the help of professional clinicians, he devised a plan that consisted of more than 100 daily supplements, a nutritious diet, and mind-body medicine. His discipline and determination helped him fight for his life for another seven years.

Rhio’s refusal to allow his disease to decide the course of his life would inspire me to not let a daunting prognosis defeat me. His resolution that he was not going to allow his disease to consume him counteracted the disease’s stronghold. His story would inform me that despite the seemingly hopelessness of my situation, I need to keep fighting. My battle is going to be daily and it is not going to be easy but I cannot just sit by waiting to die.

Other accounts of surviving mesothelioma patients, found on www.survivingmesothelioma.com, would confirm that not taking action because I only had one last year is feeble. With limited thinking and passive defeat, I would indeed have one year or less to live. But attitude and the strength of the human spirit makes a difference. Such a resource would prevent me from getting discouraged from the lack of options for patients with mesothelioma.

To start the combat, instead of entering chemotherapy or radiation, I would peruse the extensive collection of journals and publications that I have access to at the University of California. As a student on the Berkeley campus, I would read published records from the Public Library and request information at the UCSF Medical Center. I would follow medical journals online and in print of advancing research in the field. As a volunteer at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, I would contact physicians who have had experience with cancer patients and who have with knowledge about alternative medicine.

My lifestyle would be under strict management. My diet would consist of organic fruit and vegetables, fresh fish, and low sugar and fats. I would exercise by playing sports outdoors.

Most importantly, I would surround myself with people. My family and friends would support me through the lowest valleys and keep me accountable. I would want to deepen my relationships and place much more importance on them. Any bitterness I had against people would quickly dissolve away. I would want to tell other people to make decisions wisely because daily choices go a long way.

Although I can only imagine what it would be like, I will never know the true feeling of hearing such a prognosis as Rhio did. Nevertheless, this one man’s story has made ripples of positive influence on otherwise fruitless lives.

By: Park, Dayoung

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