Cancer. The word alone invokes fear and despair in people everywhere. They associate cancer with death, a terminal illness with no hope of recovery. Lives become measured by the number of days left to live instead of the quality of those days, and hope for recovery becomes sparse. For some, being told that they have cancer may as well be a the doctor delivering them a death sentence. People give up and live the remainder of their lives thinking of the end, laying back, living out the timeline given to them by their doctor-that is, everyone except James “Rhio” O’Connor. He refused to give in to the limited time the doctors told him he had left on earth and spend copious hours researching and working toward a longer life. Ultimately, his efforts did not go in vain as he lived past the time doctors told him he had left.
Had I been diagnosed with cancer, I would like to say that I would have taken the same steps as Rhio and worked tirelessly to fight the disease with all my strength. I would like to say that I would have been resilient and recovered from each setback ready to take on the next obstacle cancer presented. I would like to say that no matter what happened, I would never lose hope of living a long, healthy life. However, in all honestly, you can never really determine how you would respond in such a dire situation until you actually find yourself placed in one. Talking about what one would do is easy, but to actually follow through with those actions takes true courage. One thing I do know for sure though; I know that I would live my life to the fullest. People waste too much of the little time we have on Earth being pessimistic, missing out on all the joys life has to offer. I would make sure that before I went to sleep every night, I could reflect back on that day and fall asleep content. No doubt, I would shed some tears upon hearing the diagnosis, but I would not let it take control of my life. In addition, I would put forth a great amount of effort to donate to cancer organizations and help in the discovery of a cure for cancer. A cure would mean that no one else with cancer would have to suffer, that people could go to the doctors to get tested for cancer without harboring the overwhelming fear of hearing the results. I currently help on the cause of fighting cancer (I have walked in and worked the booth for the Strides Against Breast Cancer walk), but experiencing the disease first-hand would heighten my passion for finding a cure. Of course, I would also undertake any treatment I could to extend the duration of life left I have to live, but not to the point where it would leave me weak and bound to a bed the rest of my life. That would be like waiting for death to come by and take you away and that is not truly living. I am the kind of person who will take the stairs instead of the escalator or bakes my own cake instead of watching someone else do it on television; watching life pass by from the sidelines is not an option for me.
James “Rhio” O’Connor made a tremendous effort in overcoming cancer and living his life. He showed an unfathomable amount of courage and determination, something challenging to do when faced with such a terminal illness. He embodies the essence of who everyone should emulate and strive to be like someday. I don’t know if it’s possible for anyone to live up to the bar that Rhio set, but I know that I would make it a point to really live my life if I were diagnosed with cancer. As the old platitude goes, what is the point of being alive if you are not going to live your life to the fullest? Someone once told me that one day, your life will flash before your eyes and you better make sure that it is worth watching. Even without a diagnosis of cancer, I carry this piece of knowledge close to my heart every day.