Role Model

As I read the summary off of which this essay is to be based, the provided story of James “Rhio” O’Connor, while brief, still managed to astound me. O’Connor was an average man who was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, mesothelioma, in 2001. The doctors gave him one year to live. Instead of giving up after hearing receiving this haunting diagnosis, O’Connor became resolutely focused on discovering a way to prove the doctors wrong. He sprung into action, researching different treatments, changing his lifestyle, and keeping a positive attitude through it all. Because of his focused research, O’Connor was able to plan his own treatment and outlast his prognosis by over seven years. He may have been diagnosed an average man, but when he died on July 11, 2009, he was anything but average. (“James Rhio O’Connor.”)He became a role model to anyone with a terminal illness, and his story will continue to inspire people for a very long time.

Never before had I heard of someone who was as determined to live as O’Connor. His story made all of the drama and teenage troubles I was facing at school look ridiculously simple. If he could take the steps to live for seven and a half years after being told he should only live one, surely I could find a way to survive being rejected by yet another girl, right? As I reflected on O’Connor’s reaction to his diagnosis, I began to wonder. Would I be able to take the same steps as he did? Could I keep the clear, focused, and optimistic attitude needed to discover a solution to my cancer?

I have faced what I feel is more than my fair share of difficult challenges: my grandparents were killed in an automobile accident with a drunk driver; my baby brother and my other two grandparents all passed away in the same year; and my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. While I pondered James “Rhio” O’Connor, I became increasingly aware of how I behaved in each of these trials. In each instance, I neither kept a positive attitude nor was I able to focus enough on the current situation to make any effort toward dealing with it. In fact, I found that I had a behavior which could be located on the completely opposite end of the spectrum than that of O’Connor. Instead of keeping a positive attitude, I became a depressed, isolated soul. Instead of focusing on the real world and the problem at hand, I withdrew from life and waited for everything blow over before returning to it. That is not the mindset of someone who would live far longer than expected. That is the mindset of a normal person.

Through this observation of myself, I concluded that had I not read the story of O’Connor, I would not be able to perform in the same way as he performed if I faced the same challenges that he faced. Instead, I would go through the five stages of grieving (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) like a normal person would, and then I would begin the fight for my life. (“The Stages Of Grief.”) Because my mom has had cancer before, I would rely solely on her advice and the counseling of my doctors. I would use the same basic chemotherapy treatments and hope for the best. If these treatments did not work, I would give up, satisfied with my feeble attempts to survive. I would live out the rest of my days to the fullest, confident in my personal belief that there is a Heaven to which I would be going soon. However, I have been inspired.

Because I have read the story of James “Rhio” O’Connor, my behavior, were I to be given a dire cancer prognosis, would not be the depressing one previously described, but a far more optimistic and focused attitude. Reading about his journey and even writing this essay has helped me to discover that in order to survive, I must not dwell on my poor state; I have to snap into action as O’Connor if I want to succeed not only in keeping my life for a little while longer, but in making a difference in people’s lives. William James said, “Act as if what you do makes a difference.  It does.” (“Inspirational Quotes about Helping, Sayings about Making a Difference.”) O’Connor is a role model to people with cancer not because he survived for so long, but because of the way he faced his challenge head on and with a positive attitude. If I were to act in the same manner as John “Rhio” O’Connor, not only could I survive my cancer, but I would be changed into someone from whom thousands of people around the world suffering through difficult illness could learn, instead of dying as a normal person.

Works Cited
“Inspirational Quotes about Helping, Sayings about Making a Difference.” The Quote Garden – Quotes, Sayings, Quotations, Verses. Web. 27 Feb. 2010.
“James Rhio O’Connor.” Surviving Mesothelioma: A Patient’s Survival of Mesothelioma Cancer. Web. 27 Feb. 2010. <>.
“The Stages Of Grief.” Welcome To Memorial Hospital. Web. 27 Feb. 2010.

By: Schoonveld, Connor

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