Russell, Shanelle – Surviving Mesothelioma

Russell, Shanelle

A Fight For All Of the Above

I cannot imagine, cannot fathom, and cannot comprehend what mesothelioma could do to an individual physically or mentally. Moreover, I could not visualize the effects it could have on the loved ones who stood by James Rhio O’Connor when he went through the arduous and courageous journey of battling the life robbing cancer. Researching mesothelioma, one can find a dozen different symptoms, let alone treatments involved with the cancer. It was not a quick journey through the internet world to even gain a simple understanding of the cancer, thus one has to wonder how could someone with the rare cancer tackle such an overwhelming and mysterious obstacle that ensures death? Doing light research on the cancer, I would not have thought to find something that would attach me to Rhio’s story or disease, but I was quickly proven wrong, for I had found many of the listed symptoms of mesothelioma to match those of my own mother who has been suffering with an unknown illness for over two years. I was immediately enveloped in the horrific and daunting conscious state of fear that a loved one, my mother could possibly have this rare life stealing cancer that Rhio had. Although, it is improbable my mother would coincidentally have this atypical cancer, reading Rhio’s story did not make me question what I would do if I had the unfortunate circumstance of having mesothelioma or a similar serious disease, but what I would do if my own mother, after getting screened, would learn that the answer to her two year long medical debate was mesothelioma?

Panic, fear, confusion, and a fall into the emotional abyss of loss are the natural responses to such life altering news; the contemplation of receiving such news alone can bring someone to tears, to question what life would be like without one’s loved one on earth? Life becomes an altered reality; ones personal traditional way of going through life is turned on its head. However, by rule of self-preservation, one has to adapt to the newly acquired scenery, adjusting to the countless doctor visits, to the dozen different medications, to the experimental treatments, to the chemo, to the surgery, and to the expiration date the doctor gives which gleams like an ever-present silent reaper. Moreover, one has to adjust to the constant fear, doubt and frustration with the rising pile of complex questions that block everyone’s path back to peace. One has to adjust. It is not a choice, and there are no possible decisions, but the one decision to fight to stay alive. I would fight and make sure my mother fought if she had this cancer and if we were placed in the alternate reality where every day was a fight and yet a blessing.

Knowledge is the answer to most questions on earth, and like Rhio, who spent days learning everything about his condition and the many options to attempt to treat it, I would force myself to focus my energy on research instead of getting lost in a stupor of hopelessness. I would learn everything there was to learn about the cancer; for example that mesothelioma is primarily caused by the inhalation of asbestos and that secondary exposure can lead to mesothelioma; that symptoms can show twenty to fifty years after being exposed to asbestos; that 10 percent of patients have a five year relative survival rate, and 40 percent have a year relative survival rate. Because ten thousand cases are reported worldwide, and approximately two thousand to three thousand new cases are reported annually in America, I would follow Rhio’s example and contact several patients for guidance. Fighting to gain information and solutions is a fight to save the person who helps make him who he is. It is a fight to maintain order in one’s life, it is a fight to hold on to one’s happiness, and it’s a fight to hold on to life.

Based on accumulated knowledge, I would keep an open mind about the various treatment options. I would move my mother to her home continent of Europe and meet with Robert Winter MD in England to receive professional guidance from one of the best mesothelioma experts worldwide. Instead of going through the conventional treatment process of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, I would insist my mother opt to try the technique, offered at the University Clinic in Frankfurt. The experimental treatment offered by the University Clinic involves injecting the chemotherapy drugs directly into the tumor through a catheter tube, a method typically used for treating liver cancer. With its sixty percent success rate, there would be a great chance for the cancer to go into remission. Along with the chemoembolisation, I would have my mother go on an adjacent holistic treatment plan including aromatherapy, naturopathy, yoga, acupuncture, meditation and herbal nutritional supplements. Moreover, she would have a doctor specialized in traditional Chinese medicine to organize her holistic treatment plan. The holistic treatment plan would be as important as the chemoembolisation treatment since physical health and mental well being are dependent of each other. The holistic treatment would hopefully enforce a sense of peace, control, and organic wholeness to combat the tide of weakness, drugs and hospitals that come with medical treatment. Moreover, it would encourage my mother to keep a positive attitude toward the situation, thus bolstering her fight for life.

Mesothelioma should not just be a concern for those grasped by its talons, it holds as a symbol of the many possible unfortunate circumstances that threaten a man’s existence. What should one do? What can one do? Man should ask himself these questions, not forgetting that life is a barrowed gift, a package of experiences, where the doors of life will one day close. Rhio’s story is a mirror that one should look into, to reflect the wonders of the world and humanity that should not be taken for granted. Whether in the form of rare cancer such as mesothelioma, heart disease, clinical depression or even immaculate health, Rhio’s story holds a significant universal truth, that man is mortal, and that life is something to appreciate, and to fight for. Fight for life, fight for happiness, fight for love, fight for wholeness, and fight for another day to experience all of the above.

Balance in life is what begets order, peace and happiness in any situation and obstacle. An acceptance of the possibility of death is necessary along with the faith in the possibility of life. Man’s ability to cure should be welcomed as well as nature’s ability to cure. Man’s ability to die should be recognized as well as his ability to survive. Although mortality is an inevitable truth for all human beings, the world presents so many possibilities to live a long and fulfilling life of laughs, love, and adventures. Everyone must fight for life and for happiness; some just need to fight harder. The fight, the struggle, the pain is what makes the love, the smiles and the excitement in life seem grander, the fight that much more worth going through, the reasons made evermore clear why to hold onto the infinite benefits of life. Mesothelioma is a fight, among a vast number of diverse fights that exist for mankind. As difficult, as frustrating, as hopeless the fight may seem, it is a fight that deserves some sweat, tears and two steady fists up in the air ready to take a jab.

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