Hope, Intelligence, Strength

The essay is in loving memory of Rhio O’ Connor and my grandfather John Busse who both passed away from cancer. In October of 2001, Rhio O’ Connor at the age of sixty one was diagnosed with the deadly pleural mesothelioma and given only one year to live. His cancer was caused by his exposure to asbestos early on in his life. Unfortunately, Rhio’s cancer was inoperable due to the location of the tumor located near his spine. Rhio’s oncologist suggested that he get his “affairs” in order, however, Rhio was determined to have so much more of his life. Rhio took the information from medical professionals and made a choice. His choice was to live. Rhio used his determination, a strong belief in faith, confidence in knowledge and his unmatched tenacity to extend his life another 7 ½ more years. J. R. O’ Connor took his diagnosis of pleural mesothelioma and created a legacy for those diagnosed to provide hope for you and your families to live and survive.

To understand Rhio’s tremendous contribution, you have to understand what pleural mesothelioma, www.survivingmesothelioma.com, is and the exposure to asbestos. Mesothelioma is almost exclusively caused by exposure to asbestos and can take many years to develop from the initial exposure. The term asbestos actually refers to six minerals that are mined: chrysotile, tremolite, amosite, anthophyllite, crocidolite, and actinolite. Asbestos is essentially found everywhere—in the ground, in the air, and in thousands of products in our living and working environments. It is one of the most effective insulators known, and many building products use asbestos for its heat, flame, and friction-resistant properties. Asbestos is found in our homes, schools, libraries, theaters, municipal buildings, and more. Many constructions, mining and other workers were directly exposed to this deadly product. What was even worse is that the fiber was sight unseen and actually brought home to family members and loved ones. Some of the symptoms of mesothelioma are trouble breathing, pain under the rib cage, pain or swelling in the abdomen, lumps in the abdomen and weight loss for no reason.

Rhio’s unbelievable determination is a tribute to life and his strength in spirit. If I was faced with this kind of diagnosis I would hope that I would reach every avenue of knowledge and utilize my skills to obtain the best care for me. So much information on the subjects of cancer can be found in your local libraries, speaking with Doctors and researching facility specializing in your specific cancer. I would use the internet. The internet provides strong information regarding mesotheliom, the symptoms and many treatments but I would not stop there. I would also use my friends and their contacts to find out about any of their experiences in fighting the disease. Your friends and word of mouth is a great resource. Rhio developed his own regimen of treatment to extend his life. In his book under the name J.R. O’ Connor, They Said Months, I Chose Years: A Mesothelioma Survivor’s Story, he describes his vitamin and supplement regimens. He also developed a special diet to assist in the battle. I believe your diet is the link to the battle. This has worked for many treatments for diseases ranging from diabetes to fighting breast cancer.

Early detection of this disease is of the utmost importance. It is critically important to understand any symptoms and be in tune with your body. For mesothelioma, there are three types of standard treatments – surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Rhio choose to look beyond those treatments. Like Rhio, I would look at the factors of the cancer first in determining the treatments I would try. I would look at the stage of the cancer, if it has traveled to other parts of the body and how advanced is the cancer. Also consider your physical health at the time of the diagnosis to understand your strength for any kind of treatment.

Alternative types of treatment are available and like Rhio, I would investigate and work with others to bring those treatments not only for my benefit but to further advance treatment for others. Currently they have made strong advances in Biologic therapy which takes the patients own immune system to fight the cancer. Additional alternative methods also include Acupuncture, Antineoplaston Therapy Gene Therapy, Herbs, Homeopathy, Immuno-Augmentation Therapy, Photodynamic Therapy, Therapeutic massage, and Ozone therapy. Further definitions of a few of the newer treatments are included. Immuno-Augmentation Therapy (IAT), also called immuno-augmentative or immuno-augmentive therapy, is a cancer treatment aimed at restoring the immune system with injections of a mixture of blood factors. This theory was formulated by Dr. Lawrence Burton in the 1950s. Antineoplaston Therapy, according to Dr. Burzynski, Antineoplastons are components of a biochemical defense system that controls cancer without destroying normal cells Antineoplastons act as molecular switches, which turn off life processes in abnormal cells and force them to die through apoptosis (programmed death of a cell). While they trigger the death of cancer cells, they do not inhibit normal cell growth. They specifically target cancer cells without harming healthy cells. Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) is the treatment that uses drugs, called photosensitizing agents, along with light to kill cancer cells. The drugs only work after they have been activated or “turned on” by certain kinds of light. PDT is also called photoradiation therapy, phototherapy, or photochemotherapy.

Many patients are shocked with a life-changing diagnosis like mesothelioma cancer. Rhio O’Connor had the strength and the presences of mind to take a step back, be calm and consider his options. Everyone needs to understand that you are your own best advocate. Rhio took stock in his body, looked at the available options for treatment and went beyond the normal protocol and used his intelligence and persistency to investigate treatments out of the box. I believe if I was faced with this cancer I would do the same. Rhio chose to not only research and find the best treatments, vitamins and foods that worked for his body. He chose to share that information with everyone. Hopefully, by providing his unique book he gave legislation and others in the medical field pause to consider that alternative treatments need funding so that the quality of life for patients can improve. Rhio believed he could make a difference in his quality of life and, by publishing his book; he has left a legacy for others in hope, intelligence, strength and the will to live the best life possible.

By: Stickle, Samantha

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