Schieber, Johnathan | Surviving Mesothelioma

Schieber, Johnathan

To Attack a Cancer

“I have so much to do! And there’s so little time!” thinks Johnny Gunther in his memoir Death Be Not Proud when he finally accepts he has a brain tumor. My grandmother shared this same sentiment this summer when she discovered she had a brain tumor, and I am confident most people diagnosed with a terminal disease feel this lack of time to complete life. Rhio O’Connor, when diagnosed with mesothelioma, and given a year to live, grabbed life with knowledge and gusto. Because of these two things, he outlived his prognosis for six years.

I think the first step in dealing with cancer, whether it be O’Connor’s cancer of the organ membranes or Gunther’s brain tumor, is to tell your family. Because Gunther was still a teenager, his family was initially shocked. In the case of my grandmother, the family was surprised because she had shown no previous symptoms. This distress was quickly replaced with an urgent need to take action. Gunther and my family began collecting information about the cancer and its traditional treatments. I would want to know what to expect before it happened and to understand all of my options. Becoming an informed patient would help me ask the doctors for more intelligent, meaningful information regarding my treatment. Talking to other people who have beaten cancer would also be helpful. I also think it would be very important to be honest with my family members through the entire process. Ultimately, I believe many people beat cancer because they have a positive attitude and strong faith in God. This must prevail through all stages.

My personal experience with cancer stops here because my grandmother is still successfully being treated with chemotherapy and radiation. She has shown no new tumor development. This point is where Gunther’s experience seems to parallel that of O’Connor’s. Gunther initially pursued traditional treatment and maintained a positive attitude. He continued attending school and was determined to make it to college. O’Connor seems to have had a similar determination. He pursued treatment, continually explored all of his options, and lived life to the fullest. With Gunther, however, he exhausted the traditional methods. They found one doctor who recommended a new treatment that involved a very controlled diet. The Gunthers, in their desire for life, agreed to pursue the diet. It did seem to prolong his life for a while, but Gunther finally succumbed to the tumor. I would be more than willing to use one of these alternative methods.

The challenge seems to be in finding the methods. The Internet is, of course, a wealth of information. It would be my initial research method. Speaking to other people with the same cancer would also be a source of information I would respect. Ultimately, however, I would depend on my doctor. I would take the information I found from these other sources and ask for his/her opinion. It would be very important to me to find a doctor with whom I was comfortable. Some doctors are definitely more willing to spend the consultation time with their patients, and I would want a doctor who had time for me. I would also want a progressive physician who was willing to pursue all methods of treatment, one who would not give up, because I would face the disease like a challenge, a challenge that I was determined to win.

I firmly believe that these alternative treatments are important to cancer survivors. Although O’Connor finally lost his battle with mesothelioma, the fact that he was willing to use alternative methods and these methods helped prolong his life may be of help to the next patient facing this diagnosis. Two thousand patients in the United States each year face this diagnosis. The belief that I could help future patients by willingly embracing experimental treatments would bolster me through this stage.

Mark Twain once said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you do.” Planning to beat the cancer, I would adopt this philosophy. Like Gunther, I would continue to pursue my life’s dreams. Like O’Connor and Gunther, I would research my options and pursue experimental methods that attacked my unique situation. Ultimately, I would maintain a positive attitude and a strong faith. Hopefully, in twenty years, I would be looking back with joy at the decisions I had made.

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