Beating the Odds
Receiving a diagnosis of cancer must be an overwhelming and surreal experience, especially if it is a cancer that is considered later stage, hard to treat, or with low survival odds. Cancer doesn’t discriminate: young or old, black or white, male or female, wealthy or poor; even famous actors like Patrick Swayze, who succumbed to pancreatic cancer last year, are at risk. Most families have experience with dealing with relatives or close friends who have fought or are currently fighting a battle with cancer. I have first-hand experience with that myself as my paternal grandmother fought and won a battle with a rare form of cancer few others have survived and is still living 15 years later and considered completely cured. She, like Mr. O’Connor, share a common bond forged out of having journeyed into the depths of hell and come back a victor. I could tell her remarkable miraculous story, but the object of this essay is to share my views and opinions on how I would gain knowledge and find my own inspiration to fight cancer.
Cancer remains a deadly disease that claims hundreds of thousands of lives each year. Just the word “cancer” strikes fear in our hearts like few other words do. Although progress is being made every year toward finding a cure, we are still a long way away from wiping it out like we did other diseases such as polio. I think if I were to receive that dreadful diagnosis in my lifetime, I would develop a many-pronged plan of attack including research and ideas exchange, multiple doctor consultations, holistic medicine, mental strengthening, conventional treatments, diet and exercise and aggressive in- and out-patient treatments.
The first step when facing and waging a battle for your life has to be knowledge-based. How to you fight a deadly enemy without learning about it? You really can’t and I wouldn’t leave it up to just my doctors alone. A cancer patient needs to be as a sponge in soaking up anything and everything he or she can about his or her disease and how to fight it. I have the good fortune to be born into the world at a time where there is more information available at your fingertips than ever before. I live in a world without global boundaries; where I can not only examine what is being done in the U.S. as far as the latest cancer research and treatments, but what is being done world-wide. My first step would be to learn everything I can about my specific form of cancer and what’s being tried currently to treat it. I would also look into progressive hospitals such as St. Jude’s, Johns Hopkins and The Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Of course, I would rely on my doctors to advise me, but I would seek out specialists in my area. If the best available specialists were in other states or even countries, I would not hesitate to seek treatment there, even if it meant moving myself or with my family. I know my family would make that sacrifice and I would find it hard to face something like this without the support of my family. I would consult with as many doctors as necessary to evaluate recommended courses of treatment that have met with success.
Another aspect I believe to be very important is the exchange of ideas through blogs and websites among doctors, researchers, cancer patients and their family members. Websites among the medical community as well as those for the public exchange such as Cancer Monthly offer invaluable information to those fighting cancer and their families. Associations such as The American Lung Association and campaigns like Breast Cancer Awareness with their pink ribbons are of importance as well with a well of information available and their efforts to raise public awareness and provide funding for research. I would not hesitate to tap all of these resources and gain as much knowledge as possible.
Mr. O’Connor, although not a doctor, learned what he needed to for truly “informed consent”. Any cancer patient owes it to himself or herself to strive for this level of participation in their own treatment. In the end, the course of treatment comes down to me. It’s my life and my choice. You can’t leave it totally up to other people and you must be proactive and progressive in your ideology.
I would start with the “normal” courses of treatment including surgery, radiation and chemotherapy; however, I would not object to experimental treatments and trials. I think you have to be brave and aggressive: after all, your life is on the line and there’s no time for cowardice or weakness. Another emotion you have to fight is denial. There’s no time to avoid or deny: time is of the essence in a battle with cancer.
While going through chemo and other tough treatments, you will be physical compromised so it is of utmost importance to do as much mental and physical strengthening programs while you are in-between treatments and take full advantage of the times when you are physically able.
I believe in a progressive approach to holistic healing that involves mind, body and spirit. Probably the most important factor is mindset. There’s no doubt that both my grandmother and Mr. O’Connor shared a positive and determined outlook in facing their battle with cancer. You have to be positive. You have to believe deep down in your soul that you win and that you will be cured. A positive attitude can help you deal with the physical pain and turmoil that cause people to feel defeated and depressed. With cancer patients, hope is everything. Giving up is NOT an option.
Other factors that play into this scenario include developing a holistic approach to treatment involving things like diet and exercise, yoga and other relaxation and meditation techniques to get you in the right frame of mind. Another aspect of this would be seeking more naturalistic herbs, roots and vitamin supplements that have an ancient history of success. Before modern medicine arrived, our ancestors developed a wealth of knowledge about natural plants that have healing properties. This would be another focus of my ongoing research.
I believe the keys to beating cancer lie in gathering knowledge, making informed choices, having a positive outlook and mindset, trying aggressive conventional and non-conventional treatments, using natural and holistic health approaches, and treating the whole person: mind, body and spirit. I believe that is what Mr. O’Connor discovered in his personal journey and his courage and example is what I would follow if I were ever faced with this very difficult life-altering event.