Schiska, Barbara – Surviving Mesothelioma

Schiska, Barbara

I became interested in mesothelioma a few years ago when my stepson was exposed to asbestos during the remodeling of a building where he worked. He was in his thirties at the time with small children. To date, he has not experienced any symptoms that would lead him to think mesothelioma has developed. Yet, he feels that exposure created a time-bomb over his head – one that may or may not go off in the future. It is a hard burden to bear, not knowing if or when that bomb will go off.

Exposure to asbestos is the number one cause of mesothelioma. At the web site https://survivingmesothelioma.comone can read the materials that often contain asbestos. It is rather frightening to think that the bulk of the population, especially us baby-boomers, have been exposed at some time in our lives to something that in many ways actually made our lives better. Yet, the risks far outweigh the conveniences that asbestos brought to the American way of life. We would most likely be shocked to discover how frequently we have been exposed to asbestos as not only is it found in building materials but in any kind of manufacturing that required heat resistance.

Because of the general population’s exposure to asbestos, it is important to educate people on how to watch for symptoms that mesothelioma may cause. At any time that one experiences difficulty in breathing or chest pain, they need to be examined by a physician, explaining that exposure to asbestos has occurred in the past. While this particular cancer is still rarer than other kinds of cancers, it cannot be ignored in diagnostic tests for someone experiencing symptoms.

Treatment for the disease should be vigorous and timely. Conventional methods such as radiation and chemotherapy have proved to extend the life of the patient if the cancer is caught early enough. However, some less traditional methods of treatment have proved successful as well. Someone who took a more holistic view of mesothelioma was James “Rhio” O’Conner who, when diagnosed with this cancer, took an active role in his own treatment. Instead of sitting back and waiting to die, Mr. O’Conner jumped in the process with both feet by doing research, consulting with doctors and examining the disease from every vantage point. He was relentless in his pursuit of finding the right treatment for his disease. His diligence paid off by far outliving the original diagnosis of living one year. He lived more than six years. While surely the medical advice and treatments were keys to his success, Mr. O’Conner’s hopeful and determined resolute nature played a bigger part in his courage to battle this disease.

Indeed, Mr. O’Conner’s story is one of success. He did something that many of us should do in all facets of our lives which is having an active role in our own personal health care. It is paramount for patients with any life altering disease to do all the research possible, and view all treatment options with circumspect vision. The medical profession is supposed to adhere to the mantra of “Do No Harm,” yet, sometimes even the most standard and basic treatments can have serious side effects.

While the internet can be a helpful tool in medical research, one must beware of those selling a quick and easy cure. It is most likely a scam. We must do as Mr. O’Conner did and use discernment in the self-education on our disease. I can relate to Mr. O’Conner’s dilemma in that my own husband battles rheumatoid arthritis. It is important to really understand how a disease works and what treatments are available. There is no perfect fit for most people battling a serious disease. All things have consequences. What is especially admirable about Mr. O’Conner’s approach is that he was willing to face those consequences of his choices. This is indeed a model for all of us in a struggle with health issues.

Should I be faced with the shocking and disheartening news that Mr. O’Conner had to face, I would hope that I would meet the challenge with the same kind of courage and resolution. Not only was Mr. O’Conner searching for answers for himself, he sought to find viable solutions for those who would in the future face the same situation. Ultimately, that is what we should all do as human beings: leave a legacy of courage and hope. Mr. O’Conner’s life was an example to all people who face seemingly impossible obstacles – live with hope! Live with strength! Live!

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