James O’Connor was a man who though strongly of education, and it was this quality that would help when he was faced with a fatal finding in October of 2001. He was diagnosed with Pleural Mesothelioma, a rare cancer that is found in the layer of cells lining organs (mesothelium) (Early, 2010). The only recognized cause is exposure to asbestos, though smoking has often been considered a factor as well. It most commonly occurs in the lining of the lung (Pleural), but also can occur in the adrenal cavity (Peritoneal) or heart (Pericardial) and in advanced cases will spread to other organs (Early, 2010). He was told he had a year to live. Instead of accepting the doctor’s suggestion of simply ordering his affairs and letting the cancer run its course, O’Connor put all of his time into research. This translated into tireless reading in libraries, speaking with several specialists and other patients. By doing this, O’Connor learned of lesser-known therapies, how they worked and what their consequences may be (it had been determined in his case that surgery and chemotherapy, more traditional options, would not be effective). By exercising the extra effort, O’Connor, along with his chosen team of doctors developed a regimen that enabled him to live beyond his given prognosis. This involved taking 100 supplements daily, changing his diet and maintaining discipline. Before dying in 2009, O’Connor wrote a book detailing additional and alternative methods he discovered for managing health while dealing with cancer. These methods had helped him live an additional six years.
If faced with the same circumstances, O’Connor’s approach is one that I would emulate, with one exception. With the quick advancing of the technology, information is more readily available to anyone (even more available than in 2001 and the years following his diagnosis). While I may still use the library, my focus would be on internet research. I would take advantage of this endless information reservoir by making connections with experts and others who are in similar situations. Along with O’Connor, several other people living with mesothelioma have published books which I would read for advice. Before meeting with these experts, I would also be able to learn the process of possible treatments, whether traditional, alternative or experimental and which of these (whether individually or in combination) treatments would be attemptable and effective. When meeting with a specialist, I would then be educated to the point of understanding which option would be best for my condition. I would also be able to discuss what the advantages or consequences to each treatment (in some cases, one treatment can make another impossible to try after). As a conventional measure, I would aggressively pursue the most effective combination of radiation, chemotherapy and surgery as related to my condition. To have a more comfortable and improved life quality, I would also actively pursue alternative treatments, from the more readily available Vitamin C to exotic options such as the vine Cats Claw of South America or the Mistletoe and Bacteria treatment Iscador fom Germany. Other intriguing options include Ukrain, named for its country of origin, Ozone therapy, the use of Chemotherapy drugs such as Alimta and Cispiatin. I would also want to include treatment to improve life quality, such as massage or acupuncture and physical activity such as meditation and yoga. Beyond these actions that would be out of the norm, I believe keeping a relatively normal and stable daily life would also be essential to survival. If one cannot think of anything but cancer their quality of life is greatly diminished by poor mental and emotional health despite their stable physical health.
James O’Connor is an inspiration to anyone living with cancer, but especially those with mesothelioma. He inspires me to put all my effort into what is most important and most vital to keep me healthy and happy. It also shows me that a person can keep going no matter how dire the situation. O’Connor showed a level of dedication and drove himself to find a treatment to increase his life and others who face the same obstacle. His battle with Mesothelioma goes beyond teaching those with mesothelioma that their lives aren’t over. It shows us all that anything is possible as long as you have the right attitude, try your hardest and seek all the possible options. His story inspires me to try my hardest in everyday of my life. This action, as it served for O’Connor, may eventually help me extend my life beyond a prognosis.
1. www.surviving mesothelioma.com
2. Copyright 2010 by James F. Early