Stephens, Brooklyn – Surviving Mesothelioma

Stephens, Brooklyn

The War Worth Fighting

Cancer is a word that pervades our nation and brings with it a connotation of sickness, despair, and heartache. Each of us have been hit by it, either in our own households or through a friend, but how much do we really know about cancer and how can each of us individually prepared to deal with it if it comes our way?

For some people cancer is a battle that seems insurmountable and for others it is another battle that is conquerable. One man who chose to take on cancer full force was James “Rhio” O’Connor. Rhio O’Conner was diagnosed with mesothelioma and told that he only had a year to live his life. This type of cancer called mesothelioma develops on the protective lining of the organs such as the lungs and the heart and is extremely difficult to treat. This rare form of cancer leaves those affected feeling hopeless and on descending timeline of life. Doctors said that O’Conner was to enjoy the last bit of his life, let the clock run out and then just let go of this world and life itself. He chose to go against the grain of medical and societal norms. He researched and found answers and with those answers found hope in a tragic situation and paved the way for others to do the same.

Imagine you were given the prognosis that you had only one year to live, would you fight? I would fight. I would fight for the days I get to spend with the ones I love. I would fight to give hope and courage to others. I would fight to touch one more life and see one more smile.

If given a diagnosis for cancer I know for a fact that my world would seem to be crashing down. My mind would race in circles of thoughts about family, friends, purpose, meaning, treatment and the list would go on and go. The pain of the fight in contrast to the brutality of the disease itself would be a barrier I would have to cross. I would know that the road of treatment would be full of sleepless nights, lengthy hospital visits, delirium from medication, but ultimately a chance at life.

The pain and difficulty that those with cancer experience if they choose to counter it with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation is something that I cannot begin to fathom but something that I would be willing to face. As someone who has seen my mom take on Stage III colon cancer that spread into her lymph nodes these thoughts of ‘What would I do?’ are not foreign to me, in fact they are in my mind daily. I saw as she made the choice to have surgery on her colon and then have radiation and then go through the strongest chemotherapy that was available and the choices that she made were made with courage and love. The choices she made gave me my mom back and gave her life back though her body was taken as close to death as I could ever imagine her spirits were always full of optimism and faith that the light was around the corner. Because I have seen her search for answers and look for the best cancer treatment available I know that I would follow in her footsteps no matter how difficult because there is hope and my mom has given me that ability to see it.

I have been given this lot in life, this brain to use and these resources to take advantage of and I would use them to the best of my ability to find answers. I have been blessed to be at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and in an area full of some of the best research hospitals on this side of the United States. The quality institutions would be the primary focus of my core research in alternative therapies if I was given a prognosis that was ‘incurable’. UNC and Duke Hospitals have proven to be committed to patients and furthering medicine both through medical technologies and clinical trials as well as a focus on sharing the stories of others and having a thoroughly optimistic view on the future of cancer treatments.

Though medicine and therapy have not found the answer to fully cure cancer I believe that people have the power to overcome cancer through positivity and continued courage. There are so many stories like O’Conner’s that serve as a catalyst for more research and for continued fights against the disease. Miracles happen and prayers effect change, but we must do our part in researching new and innovative ways overcome cancer and never sit back and become complacent in the methods we have now.

People like Rhio O’Conner and my mom inspire me and will continue to inspire future generations to never settle for a diagnosis and a set of days that their life should amount to, but to make this world brighter by believing in something greater than themselves. Knowing that our purpose is not to go along for the ride, but rather to grab hold of the reins and take the full journey of a lifetime. Each and every person deserves a chance at life and a chance to take their lives back. Be inspired. Empower others and let them know this is a war worth fighting and a battle that we can win.

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