James “Rhio” O’Connor was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Instead of giving up and letting the disease take control of his life he fought back. He went out and researched every possible treatment and extended his life by six years. Learning about his story has really made me think about what I would do if I were put in a similar situation.
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer which is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos. It occurs in the lining of the lungs, abdominal cavity, the heart or the sac that surrounds the heart. Mesothelioma is very hard to diagnose because it has many of the same symptoms as countless other diseases. It does not appear until twenty to fifty years after the initial exposure to asbestos occurred. Possible treatments include chemotherapy, radiation therapy or sometimes surgery. However, these treatment options almost always ends with a poor prognosis. If I were to be diagnosed with mesothelioma I would start off by spending a week or so simply dealing with this information. I am sure it is not easy hearing that you are going to die and if I want to fight for my life I need to process this information and be in the best possible state of mind. I would then make an effort to spend as much time as possible with my friends and family. A basic support system is extremely important to me. I would not be where I am today without my family constantly supporting me and showing me that they care. It would also help remind me what it is that I am fighting for in the first place.
I would then find the best doctors and nurses I could afford in the area. Even though I would like to have the absolute best I would much rather stay close to home. If my condition takes a turn for the worse I do not want to be in a hospital halfway across the world separated from the people I love.
I would then start with the basic treatments; chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. If these still had little affect on my condition I would then go on to research other possible options. I am currently a nursing student so I have easy access to many journal articles on the latest research that has been done. There was an article published just a week ago about the very promising affects of high doses of ascorbic acid on inducing cell death in mesothelioma. Even though no human clinical trials have been conducted I would be open to possibly being the first with my doctor’s approval.
There are also many other forms of treatment that may improve my overall condition. I would continue to exercise as much as possible and eat healthy. Attending daily therapy sessions also has its benefits. I have always believed that when you are in a better mood your overall health improves. Group therapy will help me meet other people going through the same struggle I am going through. I need to remember that I am not alone in this battle. The other group members may even have some advice on other possible treatment options or ways to deal with the symptoms of the disease.
When I feel I have done everything possible then I will end the search. There does come a time when you need to just give up and make the most of the life you have left. Even though I do believe in fighting until the end, I do not want to spend my last few months blowing through my life’s savings only to find that nothing worked. I want to stop and focus on what it was I was fighting for in the first place and I would like to do this before the cancer has completely taken over my body.
James “Rhio” O’Connor’s story has already made a difference in my life. He has taught me that no matter what anyone says to you it’s always possible to fight for what you believe in and prove them wrong. As a nursing student I was already able to apply this perspective on life while working in the hospital. I had a patient who has already had three strokes and was unable to walk. My instructor informed me of this and told me that she would most likely stay in her bed and sleep the entire shift. When I walked into her room she was awake and we immediately hit it off. She was laughing with me and seemed to be full of life. I asked her if it would be ok if we tried to walk a few steps. She was uneasy, but trusted me and agreed to try. Even though she was only able to take two steps before having to sit down, that was two more than she has done in a few months. I have never seen anyone have a bigger smile than she did at that moment. She believed in herself again. We set up an appointment with a physical therapist and she is now determined to walk again. If I had just given up on her like all of her nurses and doctors had then she would have had no chance of ever walking again.
No one knows you better than yourself. James “Rhio” O’Connor has taught me to believe in myself despite what other people may say. He has taught me that anything is possible as long as I do not give up and I continue to fight for myself until the end.