I have always remembered the day we had a psychologist speak in one of my acting classes. She told me that as you get older, you should hold onto the things that made you happy as a child. She told us that if bubble baths were the things that cheered you up when you were five, you should use that as therapy for the trials you face in life. I know, it sounds very wishy-washy. However, she was right. I knew it immediately, mostly because I couldn’t think of my adventures as a child without smiling. I was a tree swinger. I spent so much of my time outdoors, and I was completely mystified by the beauty of it. I would sit on the branches of this maple tree down the road, and I would imagine that I was floating on leaves.
This is the first thought that came to my mind when I thought of the way I would handle the tragic news of cancer. I assume that upon receiving my serious prognosis I would do everything in my power to stay motivated and happy, tree climbing included. Not only would I research all of my options, I would recognize that the only way to go through life, and out of it, is wearing a smile. It would be incredibly easy to shut other out and give up hope. I say this because I’ve seen what despair can do to someone’s life. In fact, one of my best friends has an untreatable fatal disease. She was recently diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, along with her two sisters. The main thing that I have gathered from their family is that it is easy to feel alone in your struggle and to feel like no one could possibly understand. This is true for human nature in general. We all face trials, we all face darkness. But we have to claim the burden of finding our own light.
When I was five, my light was tree climbing, and perhaps that will always be a source of nostalgia, but as I have grown up, my passion and my light is being on stage. If I had one more day to live, I would spend it performing. My favorite moment is the moment right before you step on stage. You are standing alone in the dark, body shivering with excitement, and you hear this buzz coming from the audience, and you feel their energy seeping in from all sides of the curtain. The hushed whispers are reminding you that expectation and anticipation exist all around you. Anything could happen. People have nightmares of this moment for a good reason. However, this is where I thrive, it is the moment where I feel most alive.
After reading the story of Rhio O’Connor, I can only imagine that he had a struggle to find his light. Regardless of what his light was, it kept him strong enough to keep him engaged in the fight, in the hope that there was a chance to find another option besides chemotherapy treatments. I have never attempted to challenge my medical doctors, and I cannot comprehend how difficult it would be to do that whilst pursuing research on a topic that reminds you of your ever-looming death. I truly commend that kind of bravery. Also, being able to keep your morale up after you’ve looked over cases that confirm how little progress has been made, would be perhaps the biggest challenge of all. I wonder what he held onto to keep him happy. Was it family, friends, the race to a cure? Or was it something that he was so passionate about, that he wanted to stay on earth to experience if only once more?
Dorothy Thompson once wrote, “Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.” This reminds me of what our lives should embody and what I believe Rhio O’Connor represents. We should seize moments to fight for ourselves, no matter how scary life can be. We should pursue the passions that make life worth fighting for. We should remember how fragile our lives are by remembering our childhood. And we should cling to the hope that by trying hard enough we really can change the world.