Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that affects the mesothelium, a sac that lines the body’s cavities. Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos found in industrial and household containments. Asbestos, a naturally occurring element, is extremely toxic to the body. Some people who were only exposure to it for a short time are diagnosed with mesothelioma years later. Some symptoms of mesothelioma are shortness of breath, dry persistent cough, fatigue, fever, swelling or lumps in the abdomen, and pain under the rib cage. Traditionally mesothelioma is treated by radiation, chemotherapy, and/or surgery. Oncologists set treatments specific to individuals; it is dependent upon the stage of cancer as well as other factors. But as in the case of James O’Conner sometimes the patient knows what is best for them.
James “Rhio” O’Conner, who this essay is dedicated to, was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in 2001. He was given less than one year to live. Months of intense research and determination led O’Conner to develop his own treatment. This consisted of about hundred supplements and meditation. In 2008 O’Conner published his book, “They Said Months, I Chose Years: A Mesothelioma Survivor’s Story”, near seven years after first being diagnosed. James O’Conner lived with this deadly cancer for more than seven years, unheard of with patients who are diagnosed with mesothelioma. James “Rhio” O’Conner’s story is one of survival rather that of adversity.
I am inspired by James O’Conner’s story. His perseverance and courage is something that should not be taken lightly. It is amazing how he faced such hardship head on and actually did something to take control of his life. The fact that he was willing to do everything in his power to make sure that his life was extended pass his grim prognosis date is very motivating. His determination and drive to fight his cancer until the very end is, what I believe prolonged his life. It is safe to say he had his cancer; the cancer did not have him. Meaning that he was in control of his life and he was not going to let Mesothelioma take control over him. His bravery is seen in the way he took charge, researching his illness and finding fertile methods to treat his cancer. O’Conner definitely changed the common belief about mesothelioma. He defied science by showing that this cancer is not as deadly as once thought. I believe this will result in more research done in cancers deemed incurable including mesothelioma. I will carry O’Conner’s story with me throughout my life. He has taught me to never give up under any circumstances. It inspires me to be proactive not only health wise but in my education and eventually my career. Also I learned that only you can determine your future because you are the only one who can determine what is good for you. As someone working towards a career as a doctor, I learn that it is very important to listen to the patients. As they might be able to teach me something that traditional medicine can not. O’Conner was very brave and he gives me hope if I were ever unfortunately diagnosed with cancer.
It is hard to say what I would do if I was diagnosed with cancer, especially if it was terminal like mesothelioma. I would definitely be in a state of shock for a couple of weeks, terrified of what was in store for me. Discussing treatments that could delay the progression of the cancer with my doctor would be my next step. I would definitely meet with several oncologists and other clinicians to discuss treatments before settling on one. I would take the approach of O’Conner but with a few modifications. I would combine traditional medicine such as acupuncture and herbalism and holistic medicine with traditional treatments such as chemo, radiation, and/or surgery. Also it is important to get a second opinion. One’s life should not be placed in the hands of one person. It’s important to be hundred percent sure that you receive the correct diagnosis. Once certain I would begin researching this condition. I would visit more than one oncologist and ask which treatments have been proven to slow down the progression of this cancer or possibly put it in remission. I would attend support groups to learn ways to live with this diagnosis. Ask other patients what treatments have helped them and how to live better physically, emotionally, and spiritually. If there are not support groups I would create one in my community for people with all types of cancers. Being diagnosed with cancer is overwhelming and should not be faced alone. I would go to libraries to research this illness. I would want to know everything about this illness. My objective would be to expand my knowledge so that I am not only an educated patient but also in control of my own destiny. I would be wearily of the internet because anyone can put information on a website without it being factual.
James “Rhio” O’Conner’s story is very inspirational. I am amazed how he handled his diagnosis. The approach he took is unheard of and definitely prolonged his life. Although he did pass away in 2009, the fact that he lived for more than seven years after his diagnosis has changed the original belief that mesothelioma is incurable. If I was placed in a situation such as “Rhio” I would definitely follow his regimen but I would include traditional therapies like chemo. What I have deducted from his story is that one should be proactive in their life because only you know what is best for yourself.
By: Thompson, Marae