Determination, Knowledge, Inexorable Spirit

My name is Linda Vargas and I am writing this essay the James “Rhio” O’Connor memorial scholarship fund. Sponsored by Cancer Monthly, a website that offers information about different types of cancer, treatment options and more. This essay deals with placing oneself in the shoes of James “Rhio” O’Connor, who was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma caused by his exposure to asbestos when he was younger. His prognosis was less that a year to live. Surgery was not an option because of the position of the tumor near his spine and chemotherapy would decrease his quality of life and not significantly improve his length of life. Rhio did not give up he was determined to survive his cancer. Working with professional clinicians, he formulated a regimen of over 100 supplements a day, changed his diet, practiced mind-body medicine, and relied on his own discipline to see him through his most difficult times. Rhio survived for more than 6 years through his determination, knowledge, inexorable spirit, belief in something greater than himself, and the ability to make tough choices- qualities that spell success in any endeavor. Rhio passed away on July 11, 2009. He was 69 years old.

The story about Rhio’s life is an inspiration to me, when I was 16 years I had my first pap smear, and I was told that my pap smear was abnormal and that I could have HPV and Cervical Cancer. When I heard those words I felt like my life was over and yet there were so much more things that I wanted to do. I wanted to graduate school, go to college and have a family. But that was no longer going to be and option for me. The doctor told me that I had to wait three months and get another pap smear to double check to make sure. I didn’t know what to say or do; I called my mom and told her what the doctor had said. She was as shocked as I was, The following three months I spent my time thinking about what I was going to do if the next pap smear was to come out positive for HPV and Cervical Cancer, many questions passed through my mind. What if it was too late for treatment, would I still go to school or would I just go home and spend time the time that they gave me with my friends and family? I didn’t know what to think or do, and I wasn’t even sure if I had cancer or not. I was so relieved when the doctor told me that my second pap smear came out normal and I did not have HPV or Cervical Cancer to me those where words of freedom. I can only imagine what “Rhio” felt when his doctor told him he had cancer, there must have over a million thought and questions going through his head. But he had a more positive outlook then I did, and he did everything and anything he could to outlive his prognosis. Now I am 20 years old and I have been told that I have really bad acid reflux and if I do not take care of it then I could get thyroid cancer. So now I have to take Prilosec for the rest of my life to help control the acid. I also have a strict diet that I am supposed to follow but sometimes I forget, but I know that if I don’t follow the diet and take the pills like I am supposed to I can get thyroid cancer. One of my aunt’s had thyroid cancer and she had to get surgery and she almost died when she got her surgery, but luckily we still have her with us today. Even as I look back I still wonder what would of happened if I would have had cancer, I now I pay more attention to my health to help prevent myself from getting thyroid cancer.

I know that if I would of had cancer I would have been constantly doing research about cervical cancer and looking for ways to prolong my life, I would start with typical treatments for cervical cancer but I would also explore unconventional treatments. I would start doing my research by talking to various doctor, and online, but I would not just rely on my own research. I would definitely look to my family for support and opinions on what to do, because my family means everything to me. I would make sure that I was exploring all of the various treatments that where recommended by doctors. I would also look to get more information from other patient’s experiences. Finding out what treatment and how they worked with others would help me make my own decision. In the American society, cancer is the disease most feared by the majority of people majority of people within the U.S. Cancer has been known and described throughout history. James “Rhio” O’Connor is an inspiration to me. He shows that if a person has caner and has a more positive outlook on life they have a higher chance of outliving their prognosis, because with a positive outlook you will never give up.

By: Vargas, Linda

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