Rhio O’Connor was a strong, and very intelligent man, who did not give up. He had been diagnosed with mesothelioma, a pernicious cancer usually caused from asbestos exposure. When I read his story, tears came to my eyes, realizing his valiant effort to fight for life. He was amazingly, able to live years longer than expected. His ability to research, and be proactive are an inspiration to me personally, because I had a similar experience. I myself, was diagnosed with cancer. For my essay, I am going to share my story. Like Rhio O’Connor, I fought cancer through perseverance, research, and a love of life.
It all began in 2007 when I was diagnosed with cancer. Hodgkin’s lymphoma, stage 3b. My lungs were full of fluid, which had to be drained, and I was dying. The cancer was in my lymph nodes in my neck, underarms, lungs, and groin. My doctor said I had a chance to beat it, but that he wouldn’t make any promises. Because it was so advanced, it would be difficult to fight.
My biggest concern was for my three children. Their father gave up parental rights when they were young, and I was their only parent. I knew that if I died, they would be orphans, and the thought broke my heart.
My oncologist of course, suggested we start chemo right away. So without hesitation, we scheduled it. A few hours after my first infusion, my lungs instantly filled with fluid. After draining the fluid for the second time in a week, the doctor did a sonogram and realized that my periodical sac around my heart had nearly a liter of fluid around it. After a lengthy stay in the hospital and having my lungs drained 5 times and my heart drained via surgery, I was finally able to go home for a few days before getting chemo again. I ended up having chemo a total of 8 times, and each time was filled with complications, trips to the emergency room and week long hospital stays. I was so discouraged. Although the tumors were mostly gone, I felt that my body was dying.
I had been scheduled for 16 chemo treatments, but after my 8th treatment, my heart was struggling; my pulse was 140 lying down. I was down to 85 pounds and was deathly ill. The doctors believed that they needed to remove my spleen. I was experiencing severe pain in my knees, legs and ankles, which kept me on morphine. Needless to say, I didn’t believe that I would survive another chemo treatment.
I went home from the hospital, not able to walk, not able to eat, and barely able to whisper. I still had a tumor and a mass in my lungs, but it was at this point that I made a decision.
This was the most important decision I would ever make. More than anything in the world, I wanted to live, and be with my children. The hospital stays and the drugs and chemo had made it impossible for me to spend any time at all with them. I knew if I kept doing the chemo I would die.
I reasoned that if I quit chemo, and the cancer came back, that I would at least have 6 months to spend with my kids, and that would give me some time to plan for their future without me. However I decided that in the meantime, I would try every alternative cancer treatment that I could possibly think of…because I would do anything, absolutely anything to live long enough to see my children grow up.
After much research, I put together a routine, that I believed would work best for my body. The first thing I did was a two week juice cleanse, to rid my body of the toxic chemicals from the chemo. Then I began juicing fresh vegetables and fruits, especially carrots. I began eating vegan and mostly organic. I also made sure to get fresh air, sunshine, and exercise daily. I was so determined to get well, that I changed my thinking and behavior patterns to avoid stress and to become a positive thinker. I also took supplements like tumeric, garlic, wheatgrass juice and spirulina, which helped my body heal and gain strength.
I began jogging around the block 4 weeks after stopping chemo, and continued running each day. I felt great, but I was terrified to go back to the doctor. However, I felt that it was important to know what was happening to the tumors that had still been present when I left the cancer hospital. I had been on my rigorous alternative treatment for 6 months and felt so wonderful and healthy, I couldn’t imagine that cancer was still in my body, but I was very nervous. I got a full physical, including blood work and a full body CAT scan, and to my absolute joy, I was deemed “cancer free!”
I don’t feel that I made the wrong decision in having chemo in the first place, I believe that it got rid of most of my tumors. I believe firmly that there is a place for modern medicine and alternative medicine, and that hand in hand, the best results can be found.
I only wish that Rhio O’Connor was here to speak with. I would value hearing more about his story and sharing mine. His story is an inspiration, and a confirmation that we have much more control of our lives than we believe we do, if we are willing to apply ourselves and be proactive. I believe that in the face of circumstances that appear insurmountable, determination, a positive attitude and a strong will can conquer all.
Because of my experience, I am trying to make the most of every day I am given, to expand my education, improve my career, and the lives of my children. Life is a beautiful gift.