I applaud Mr. Rhio O’Connor for leaving no stone unturned in his quest for survival from the deadly form of cancer called Mesothelioma. In researching this cancer, I found out that it is primarily caused by exposure to asbestos. It is very alarming to know that asbestos is found in thousands of different products and so many people are exposed to it so many times in their lives. I chose not to put myself in Mr. O’Connor’s situation, but instead to write about the life changing experience that my adult son has undergone in the last two years.
In the summer of 2008, my son was diagnosed with a (Ependymoma) tumor in his spine. While it is not as serious as the diagnoses of Mr. O’Connor, it was scary none the less. The tumor was removed and it was benign. Before his surgery, not knowing if the tumor would be benign or malignant, I began to research the Ependymoma. What I found out was that this tumor is usually found in the brain and very seldom in the spine and the number of spinal cord ependymoma’s is very small. Most of the time it is found in children and adults under the age of 25, my son is in his 40’s. Most of the patients who had the tumor, had it removed and were up and walking within a short time frame. My son was not one of the “up and walking”. The result of his surgery left him a C5 quadriplegic paralyzed from the waist down. His wife, not being able to adjust to his injury, left him and took their three children also. I stepped in to be his primary caregiver and to help him with his expenses as he is now on a limited income. Because I also have a full-time job, I had to make the difficult decision to put my pursuit of a degree on hold. With my help and guidance, my son is now on the road to recovery. While he is not yet divorced, he is able to see his children on the weekends.
While he is able to move his arms, hands and legs somewhat, he cannot sit up or stand. He was going to physical therapy for about a year after his surgery when his health insurance decided that he had reached his plateau and would not be able to progress further. I was not satisfied with their decision and after much research; I found a place in Massachusetts that works primarily with people who have spinal cord injury’s to help them get to a place in their life where they can function on their own. The place is called Journey Forward (www.journey-forward.com). Unfortunately, Journey Forward is not equipped to offer any kind of health insurance and each individual is required to pay out of pocket. That did not stop me in my pursuit to have him be part of their program. I had held a very successful fundraiser to help him purchase his own wheelchair van and the money that was left over was put towards his going to Journey Forward. In addition, I became his paid part time Patient Care Assistant. The salary that I make from being his PCA goes towards his recovery.
Choosing to put the pursuit of my BS in Psychology on hold during the summer of 2008, I was overwhelmed and was not sure if I wanted to continue to pursue my degree to help counsel others. I decided to seek counseling to help me sort out the best way to achieve the goals that I wanted to accomplish. I told my counselor about my plans and after we met several times, she agreed that I was on the right path with my thoughts. I told her that I even had the opportunity to be a sounding board for my co-workers. They have even asked me for advice and I am happy to know that some of the advice I had given has helped them!
After I achieve my BS in Psychology, I hope to further my education by achieving a Master in Art Therapy. I love the idea of using the creative process of artistic self-expression to resolve conflicts and problems. It is now time for me to challenge myself and accomplish the task of continuing my education.