Voorhees, Brittany | Surviving Mesothelioma

Voorhees, Brittany

Meeting Life’s Challange

Life is a wonderful, mysterious and unpredictable adventure, full of a variety of challenges and rewards. The rewards can present themselves in the form of the birth of your child, the joy of family and friends as well as the range of personal or professional experiences that come your way. Life’s challenges can come upon you in unexpected forms and numbers. Sometimes these challenging events are brought on by our own actions. However, all too frequently these events are brought upon us by chance, where we are the unexpected recipient of an event that could alter the core of who we are. Such was the case for James “Rhio” O’Connor.

Mr. O’Connor faced the ultimate challenge, the fight for his life. He was diagnosed with Mesothelioma, a fatal form of cancer, and was forced to embark on a personal journey to fight the disease and both live and experience life to its fullest. Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer which brings with it a survival prognosis of one year after being diagnosed. The disease is believed to be brought on by exposure to asbestos, either directly or indirectly and may not become apparent for 20 to 30 years after exposure. This is based on studies that show that approximately 80% of those infected either worked in an asbestos related occupation or lived with someone that did. Though the incidence of the disease is growing, today between 2000 and 3000 cases are diagnosed annually. This represents about 2% of all cancers reported each year. There are five forms of Mesotherlioma; one is non-malignant while the other four are not. These four varieties are Pleural, Peritoneal, Pericardial and Testicular, which is the rarest form of all and can spread throughout the body. The disease affects the Mesothelium, which is the protective membrane (sac) that surrounds the abdominal internal organs. The cells within the sac divide uncontrollably and fill the abdominal cavity with fluid resulting in chest pains and coughing.

After extensive research conducted by Mr. O’Connor, he decided to forego the traditional medical treatment of chemotherapy and surgery, to embark on a self guided holistic based approach. He elected to take control of his situation and his life and followed a path that ultimately extended his wonderful life’s journey for seven years beyond medical expectations.

Mr. O’Connor epitomizes the tenacity, strength and courage that I hope I would display if ever I was to receive a call with similar traumatic news. After a period of working through the stages of grief, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, I would want to take control of my situation and fully understand what I was dealing with. To better understand the disease, I would solicit information not only from my doctor, but other doctors in other facilities. It would be important for me to understand the traditional modalities available to treat the problem, what research is currently being conducted and what alternatives may be available. In fighting any significant illness, it is critical to have and maintain a positive and proactive mind set. It is my belief that the mind-body relationship plays a substantial role in health and well being. The positive effects of a strong mental approach to an illness will be essential to help combat the disease. I would look for medical images that show the disease and outline how it works and affects the body so I could use visualization techniques to show by body working internally to combat the disease process. In conjunction with this, I believe that diet and nutrition can play a vital role in fighting disease. Chemistry exists throughout our environment and is generally beneficial to the crops and foods that we eat and the environment. However, when the body has been compromised, regulating the intake of various chemicals could provide a necessary benefit to the body. So I would follow a regimen of strict dietary control and investigate organic foods as an option. In spite of our best efforts, stress and depression would be part of life. Both of these situations can further compromise the body’s ability to deal with disease and trauma. I would implement a regular schedule of mediation to assist in the relieving of the stress and depression and permit my body to react more effectively with the situation.

As a treatment plan, I would discount no approach. It would important to look at every option with an open frame of mind and research everything. One will not know what is effective or have a positive impact on you unless you read, discuss and apply those approaches that I believe will work for me. That is another reason why a positive support system of family, friends and professionals are involved and dedicated to working with you towards to ultimate goal of winning those challenges that confront us.

Mr. O’Connor’s fight is an inspiration to everyone that faces the challenges of life, be they medical, physical or emotional. His fight demonstrated the need and benefits of understanding the extent of the challenges faced, partnering with others to obtain information becoming an active participant in the treatment plan and never giving up. We can all benefit by the example that he provided.

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