Sisson, Wanda – Surviving Mesothelioma

Sisson, Wanda

A Diagnosis of Cancer

Every year millions of people find reasons to delay a trip to their doctor for a check-up. It is inconvenient to find time in a busy schedule just to hear the doctor say that you need to lose a few pounds, it really is time to quit smoking, or the aches and pains keeping you up at night are just a part of aging. No one wants to spend time sitting in a doctor’s waiting room and pay to hear they are too fat, too wheezy, or just plain old. But what happens when the doctor doesn’t give the usual lecture about your eating habits, instead he or she tells you that you have cancer? Will you sit there looking at your doctor in denial, declare that this cannot be happening to you, cry, scream, or fight? Choose to fight. Cancer does not have to be the end. People with cancer are arming themselves with knowledge and outliving their prognosis, sometimes by years.

Diagnosed with mesothelioma , James “Rhio” O’Connor chose to fight. Mesothelioma occurs when malignant cells grow in the mesothelium which covers body cavities. Generally, death comes to mesothelioma patients quickly. O’Connor refused to accept the prognosis of one year. Instead, he spent time researching, studying, questioning doctors and patients, and outliving his prognosis by several years. O’Connor is not the only example of a fighter that I have.

16 years ago, I received news that my Grandmother had ovarian cancer. She was scheduled for surgery, which would be followed by chemotherapy. She was 80 years old, and they didn’t have much hope. After Grandma’s surgery, Mom called to tell me that they could not get all the cancer, and my Grandma had one to two years to live. Mom moved from Montana to Washington to care for my Grandma during, what was supposed to be, her last few years. Grandma had chemo, lost her hair, and made regular trips to the doctor for check-ups. Time passed and her doctor did not have a reason why my Grandma was still alive.

Then my Dad was diagnosed with bladder cancer. His doctors told him that his surgery was a success and they got all the cancer. He opted to pass on chemotherapy. When his cancer surfaced again, he had the chemo and lost his hair. What I remember most clearly about those years are my talks with my Dad. He would tell me about all the new research they were doing for cancer, how treatments were always getting better. I would ask how he was feeling and he would respond, “I’m not dead yet, there is still time for them to find a cure.” Dad finally lost his battle with cancer, but before he did, he was able to see his daughter, my older sister, survive thyroid cancer.

A good friend of mine is a breast cancer survivor. Another friend just started her battle with cervical cancer. My future son-in-law is a cancer survivor. As for my Grandma, almost two years ago she was diagnosed with lung cancer. It is not an offshoot of the ovarian cancer, it is a primary cancer. She was, once again, given one to two years to live. In August 2010, my Grandma will be 97 and I find her simply amazing. At her last check-up, her doctor said that her lungs sound like those of a twenty-year old. He does not know why she is doing so well. Personally, I think it is because she is so ornery.

Cancer is no longer a word spoken in hushed tones in my world, it is an everyday occurrence. At this point, if my doctor were to tell me that I have cancer, I would think, ‘I guess it’s my turn’ and I would ask, ‘what’s the plan?’ What I have learned by talking with friends and family who received a diagnosis of cancer is that a positive attitude is essential.

The first thing I would do, is turn to my sister and my Grandma for advice. I would research the cancer I was diagnosed with, beginning by searching the internet. I would read as many books and articles about alternative treatments for cancer as I could. When my sister talked with me about her cancer, she would talk to me about nutrition. Taking her advice, I am eating healthier. While eating healthy will not necessarily keep cancer at bay, it can help. I would research alternative treatments. In short, I would do whatever I could to survive the cancer for as long as possible.

Receiving a diagnosis of cancer is scary, but it does not have to be a death sentence. James O’Connor, my Grandmother, and many others have shown that by taking responsibility of your own health, researching your cancer and learning what you can, and adapting your lifestyle, you can outlive a dire prognosis.

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