Purdy, Kaitlyn – Surviving Mesothelioma

Purdy, Kaitlyn

Tackling Life’s Obstacles

I could imagine sitting in the cold waiting room feeling my hands perspire and my heart pound like a jackhammer. James “Rhio” O’Connor was told he would live only one more year, and that his body was dying from a cancer called Mesothelioma. This particular cancer chooses not only to dwell in an organ or tissue that can be easily removed, but to creep through the body and infect the mesothelium, the protective layering of internal organs. Generally this would be the lining of the lungs or stomach, but can spread to other organs as well. Mesothelioma is known to have a poor prognosis, but when Rhio O’Connor was told he would only live one more year, he adamantly decided he would live longer. He lived not only for one year, but outlived what the doctors had said by six years.

The overwhelming fear of learning your life will be taken from you is unimaginable to me. Rhio was held at gunpoint by a merciless cancer as the doctors stood by–offering solutions that would barely offer him more time. Although it must have been hard, O’Connor courageously set out to do what oncologists didn’t think possible—live longer.

Usually cancer is treated by one of three methods: surgery, radiation and chemo. All three of these methods offer hope in prolonging life, but really not one guarantees. In addition, all three take a tremendous toll on your body and require large amounts of time in the hospital for recovery and treatment. O’Connor refused to spend his last year devoting his time to his death, so instead he began a quest to find alternative treatments. He searched the library for books that could provide information on cancer and available remedies. He spent hours researching mesothelioma and spoke to doctors, researchers, patients. There is a synonym for the word relentless—undying. And that was exactly what he set out to be.

If I had one year to live, I don’t know how I would live it. So many people, including myself might take what the doctor has to say as a fact. Doctors know what they’re talking about, and their prognosis is usually fairly accurate. Rhio O’Connor didn’t take what they had to say as fact. In all his research he discovered and created his own “therapeutic protocol” to treat his cancer. His doctors assisted, and he pushed far beyond what seemed possible. Rhio O’Connor has inspired me with his encouraging “glass-half-full” attitude. He ran straight into his problem and saw there was no way around it. Did he give up? Most certainly not! He explored and although there was no way around it, he found ways over it, under it, and through it. He educated himself and didn’t let cancer win the battle easily.

We can apply what he has done to more than just cancer. To make a change in our world we need to start tackling problems like James “Rhio” O’Connor did. We need to conduct our own research and not believe all limitations can inhibit us. I know now that if I was in his position, I would quickly go to the internet and library to find information on my cancer and available treatments. I would call specialists and make appointments to ask them about the effectiveness of different approaches. Like O’Connor, I would not immediately resort to chemo, radiation or surgery.

“Astragalusis” an example of a more holistic approach that would not just treat my cancer, but my entire body—after all, it has been said that cancer does not just affect the one organ or tissue, but affects the body of the entire person, and to truly treat cancer, you must treat the person and be sure they are of optimum health. According to www.survivingmesothelioma.com, Astragalus membranaceus is a plant that has been used in Chinese medicine for “thousands of years to replenish a person’s vital energy.” In 2002 studies showed that “Astragalusis injection supplemented with chemotherapy could inhibit the development of tumor, decrease the toxic-adverse effect of chemotherapy, elevate the immune function of organism and improve the quality of life in patients.”

I feel like James “Rhio” O’Connor and I could have been good friends with our similar knacks for problem-solving, research and persistence. I truly wish I had met this inspiring man. Even if I never develop cancer, the pattern in which he dealt with the hurdles and walls cancer put up before him is pattern that I hope to repeat in my own life with the obstacles I will face and I encourage you to do the same. Next time you face something that may seem impossible, remember how James “Rhio” O’Connor outlived his prognosis with his determination and positive spirit.

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