In our lives there are events or circumstances, whether amazing or tragic that seem immense in the moment, but fade from our memories over time. Then there are the moments that actually matter in the overall stories of our lives. Births, deaths, weddings and graduations are some of the things that are woven into us like patches into quilt. For some of us, though, a devastating diagnosis for ourselves or a loved one can become part of our story; a story that may now have a premature final chapter.
James “Rhio” O’Connor was diagnosed with pleural Mesothelioma in 2001 and given several months to live. In the stories of our lives, these are the events that entire chapters are dedicated to. These are the events that change the course of not only our stories, but our closest family and friends as well. Unwilling to give in to the grim prognosis that lay before him, Mr. O’Connor decided to pioneer his own path to health and well being that afforded him seven years instead of the mere months he was offered.
Mesothelioma is a very rare form of cancer that is primarily found in the thin layer of cells that line the body’s internal organs (Mesothelioma.com). Mesothelioma is usually caused by exposure to asbestos, although smoking can cause it as well. Mesothelioma is divided into three categories: the most common is pleural mesothelioma and occurs in the lining of the lungs. Next is peritoneal mesothelioma which occurs in the lining of the abdominal cavity, and finally pericardial mesothelioma which affects the lining of the heart (Mesothelioma.com).
I can relate to the feeling of desperation that comes with a scary diagnosis. Although my diagnosis was in no way life threatening, I had an operation that officially diagnosed me with endometriosis when I was 18. I was essentially handed a life sentence of chronic pain and infertility. After several years of copious amounts of pain pills, both prescription and over the counter, and even a six month round of an IV drug that threw my 18 year old body into a state of medically induced menopause, I had come to the end of my rope. Like Mr. O’Connor, I knew in my heart that I had options and it was my job to find them.
A friend of mine had suggested that I meet with her chiropractor because he had helped her with her endometriosis. I decided to meet with her chiropractor, Dr. Ling and I also started to see a massage therapist the worked for him. Taking the risk to seek treatment outside of the medical box that I was used to paid off immensely. Within the span of a couple of months my pain has lessened and my quality of life had improved. Where I sought out “alternative medicine”, Mr. O’Connor turned to his diet to heal him. He said that he was inspired by Hippocrates’ quote, “let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food”. He adopted a healthy diet of mostly organic fruits and vegetables and took over 100 dietary supplements to aid in his healing.
Although I compare my endometriosis pain and treatment to the situation that Mr. O’Connor was in, I realize that there really is no comparison; I was not confronted with my own mortality. I cannot relate to the devastation he and his family must have felt. If I were in his shoes, I would turn first to Dr. Ling and Carey, my massage therapist who work to find the emotional root of the physical ailment. I would talk with them about creating a battle plan; a plan of attack, if you will. I think my regimen would include yoga 2-3 times a week, and a rigorous meditation schedule to begin. I believe there is a very strong mind body connection and making sure I am mentally and spiritually strong will help my body prepare for the battle of its life. Although I heavily rely on Eastern medicine philosophies, I never discount western medicine as a whole. Having gone through what I went through in the beginning of my diagnosis, I know now that what the doctors suggest is just that: a suggestion; an opinion. It is my job as the patient to be my own advocate and research the treatments that have been suggested to me. I would imagine that in the end I would settle upon a course of treatment that combined my chiropractor, my massage therapist, meditation, nutrition, and conventional cancer treatments such as chemo or radiation to combat my disease. I think that the more strategies one tries, the better chance they have of finding what works for them. In the long run what workes for one patient may or may not work for the next patient.
I am inspired by Mr. O’Connor’s audacity to know he could save his own life. I have known people who hear the word “cancer” and give up, when in actuality there are ways to extend your life. Mr. O’Connor is a perfect example of the value and importance of being the author of your life story and not letting life write it for you.