Take A Moment

Take a Moment

Take a moment; imagine being told that you have cancer and you only have a year to live. A year to enjoy your family. A year to make plans for your own funeral. Really…let that sink in. How would you react? Devastation would more than likely be the first reaction you would have, maybe even hopelessness and fear. Being told that you only have a year to live can really devastate one; however there are some that believe there is always hope. Hope and determination is what kept James Rhio O’Connor fighting and living past his deadly one year to live prognosis.

James Rhio O’Connor was diagnosed with Mesothelioma in October of 2001. He was 61. Pleural Mesothelioma is a cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs. This is a cancer that develops primarily due to the inhalation of asbestos. “Genetics, smoking, and exposure to the simian virus (which contaminated some older polio vaccines) may predispose some people to develop mesothelioma when exposed to asbestos.”(Pleural Mesothelioma) Asbestos was the cause of Rhio’s cancer. Although this cancer is sometimes operable, Rhio’s was not. Unfortunately, the tumor was positioned too near his spine and chemotherapy would not help lengthen his life. Chemotherapy is so taxing on the body that it would only have reduced his quality of life. Since the prognosis was inevitably death, chemotherapy was not an option.

Although he was told that he would live no more than a year, Rhio fought and outlived that prognosis by several years. He fought long and hard to do the best he could to beat his prognosis. Rhio made some significant life changes to survive as long as he could. He did a lot of research on the cancer while working with professional clinicians. Taking several supplements, changing his diet, and remaining disciplined allowed him to survive this cancer until July 11, 2009. When he passed, Rhio was 69 years old. He was not going to waste the one year that he was given on wallowing in self-pity. This would have wasted too much time. During these years, he found time to write an inspirational life book. In his book, “They Said Months, I Chose Years: A Mesothelioma Survivor’s Story,” he discussed his choices in changing his life to live.

It takes a brave and determined soul to conquer something as significant as cancer. I can’t say that I would do the same as Rhio did. I would not know how I would react. I would love to say that I would be just as strong and determined, however who is to say how you would react unless you are faced with something of this magnitude head on? I am facing some trying times in my own family dynamics, but it is not cancer. I am facing something that is life altering; Autism. My daughter was diagnosed six years ago. I went through the five steps of grievance as if someone had passed away. Once I went through all of these steps and reached acceptance, the fight began. I have learned that every single day is a new day. Every single day is an opportunity. Every single day is a learning experience. Every single day is a battle. Every single day is a blessing.

Although cancer and Autism are two different things, they are both battles. They are battles to be won. In reading how hard Rhio worked to beat his cancer, I know that I can relate to the struggle. I am sure that the pain he felt is nothing like what I experience in Autism, but I have the understanding of the fight he had in him to conquer Mesothelioma. He refused to accept his prognosis of only a year to live just as I refuse to accept non-progression for my daughter. In all things you are attempting to conquer, educating yourself is the key to overcoming. Not only do I educate myself, I have dedicated my life to Autism. I changed my career to focus on Autism. I work in an Autism program in a local school district. My goal is to work with families of Autism to help them work towards a goal of acceptance and progression. I have the utmost respect for James Rhio O’Connor for not giving in or giving up and taking the initiative to educate himself and fight every day. It is an encouraging story that I can take to heart and use as a stimulation and encouragement to keep the faith in my own struggles.

Having faith, educating yourself, and looking to whomever you can for support is what helped James Rhio O’Connor prove doctors wrong. We can all learn from his perseverance! Rhio’s story is one that should be shared across the world. When one is faced with a diagnosis such as cancer, hearing his story can give hope to the bleakest of souls. I know that in learning of his choice in the positive in the diagnosis has encouraged me to push forward.


“Mesothelioma Survivors.” Surviving Mesothelioma: A Patient’s Guide. Cancer Monthly Inc. 2009
Web. Feb. 2010. https://survivingmesothelioma.com/rhiooconnor.cfm

“Pleural Mesothelioma.com” The Leading Resource for Mesothelioma. Feb. 11, 2010. Web. Feb 21,

By: Spradley, Susanne Y.

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