Trautvetter, Chelsea | Surviving Mesothelioma

Trautvetter, Chelsea

Time: “the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole” (New Oxford American Dictionary). Time is present in our everyday lives, and maybe it is because of this that we often forget how truly precious it is. Sometimes we fail to remember how fragile a human life is, and no one really ever thinks about how much time we are given.

But for someone like James Rhio O’Connor, time meant everything. In 2001, O’Connor was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, which is the most common form of mesothelioma. This cancer forms in mesothelial cells, which make up the membranes that surround many of the body’s organs. In O’Connor’s case, having pleural mesothelioma, the cancer was developing in the lining around his lungs, and he was notified that he would be faced with death in less than a year. O’Connor was told that the cancer was not possible to remove, and that surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation would not be of much help to him. O’Connor rejected this message from the doctors, and took finding a cure into his own hands.

A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Henry B. Eyring, made the simple, yet profound comment that, “Time passes at a fixed rate and we can’t store it. You can just decide what to do with it – or not to do with it.” This is something that O’Connor knew, and something that he acted upon. Even though the doctors predicted O’Connor to live for only a few more months, this did not stop him. O’Connor immediately started researching and studying the cancer that plagued his body, and yearned to find a cure. Through his extensive research and changes that he made in his daily life, O’Connor lived for seven and a half more years. Throughout this time, he was able to educate himself more thoroughly on his illness, leading to him developing his own therapy for a disease that was known to be incurable. In addition to extending his life and educating himself, he also was able to write a book about his life with pleural mesothelioma and the research that he did, calling this publication, “They Said Months, I Chose Years: A Mesothelioma Survivor’s Story.”

So what does O’Connors story have to do with us? What are we going to take from this one man’s life? The answer is: everything. Cancer patients or not, everyone can be inspired and learn from O’Connor’s life, and what he did with the time that he was given. Personally, O’Connor’s life has provided me with hope, a value of education, and an appreciation for time.

Hope in all things is essential, which is something that O’Connor has definitely been an example of. He had hope to live; hope to be healthy; hope to find a cure. And because he had this hope, and was determined to achieve these things, he accomplished them. This same principle can be applied into our every day lives. Being a college student, we may hope for learning, for success, for happiness; and just as O’Connor, we can turn our hopes into realities if we truly shoot for these goals.

Learning is so important in all aspects. Of course education is essential in helping to obtain jobs, but it is worth so much more than just an income. In O’Connor’s case, it saved his life. We must always be learning so that we can constantly be progressing. We never know when we will be faced with a situation that will require us to know certain subjects. That is why we must be educated in not only our intended field of study, but to learn as much as we can. One example of this comes from a story from Russell M. Nelson, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Being a cardiothoracic surgeon, Nelson is a very learned man – it is through his knowledge of both the heart, the body, and many other aspects in life, that he was able to come up with various new methods to perform and enhance the medical field, making many important advances. O’Connor may not have been a heart surgeon, but he has done the same thing as Nelson; he has valued education and through extensive research and learning has made a difference in not only his own life, but the lives of others.

Everyday people are given the unfortunate news that their time is dwindling. But through O’Connor’s story, we can all learn that no one on this earth will ever know how much time they truly have. How much time that is appointed to us is not a decision that we, or others, can make or control. O’Connor proved this by continuing his life, and having hope for his future. This is something we should all apply to our lives, whether it is the same situation as O’Connor or not. We will never know the time alloted to us, but we should always live life to the fullest because mortality is short. With this realization in mind, we must try to conquer and accomplish all of the things that we wish to do.

These three aspects, hope, education, and time, are all things that have inspired me through O’Connor’s story. I have never been faced with a life threatening situation, but if I ever am, I would hopefully emulate O’Connor and the life that he lived. I would continue to have hope for my future, for a cure, for health, and for happiness. I would educate myself on my illness in every way possible, as well as in other things. And finally, I would value my time. I would not give up and let the time pass me by; instead I would take every second for granted and try to make the most of the time that I have been blessed with. Thankfully, O’Connor has served as a model for the rest of the world; if we are ever faced with this challenge and we are capable, we can follow the same steps as he. Personally, I would immediately start researching my illness, the tests that have been run, treatments, if any, and all other aspects that have been studied for my specific diagnosis. With this knowledge, I would then try to find cures and things that I could apply to my life that would increase my health and speed my recovery. In this situation, all you can do is learn and try. If there are no cures, and chemo, radiation, and surgery are not very beneficial options, then learning and trying different things is the only option left. It is only through this that a possible cure could be found. During this time of research and learning, I would rely heavily on my family, and those who are dealing with the same sickness, as well as those who are educated in this aliment to aid me with my studies. With the help of these people, along with my own determination, hope, and education, I could conceivably find the information that I would need to improve my health and welfare or even cure my illness.

O’Connor has proved to be a huge example. Through his life, we can all learn to never give up hope, to educate ourselves always, and to never take time for granted. In our day to day lives, we must keep these things in mind and live our lives to the fullest. O’Connor is a huge example to me, especially as I am currently enrolled in Brigham Young University – Idaho; this story inspires me to learn all that I can and appreciate every piece of information that I gain. This knowledge could benefit me all throughout my life, and just as O’Connor proved, it could even save my life or the lives of those around me. So if we take anything from O’Connor’s life, let it be to never lose hope, to educate ourselves in all things, and to appreciate every second of time that we are given.

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