Webster, Samantha – Surviving Mesothelioma

Webster, Samantha

Life is a gift; life is a precious gift that so many of us take for granted. While going about the task of day to day living, day to day breathing, caring, loving, playing, most of us do not think about how our lives could drastically change, or even end, in a split second. Most of us take advantage of our lives, as if we had one hundred years to live. Instead of taking our lives for granted, we should take advantage of the opportunity to live an influential life that is worthy of praise, a life worth fighting for.

James “Rhio” O’Connor lived the last seven and a half years of his life with braveness, determination, and a will to survive. Despite everything doctors told him, he was determined to live his life to the fullest. Because of this, I believe he has influenced and inspired many people who may have been ready to give up all hope of surviving. Mr. O’Connor must have been a strong-willed individual who loved with all of his heart and fought with all of his strength. It takes an unbelievable person to outlive a dire prognosis, especially because he was only given one year to live.

I am thankful to say that my body has never been contaminated with the poisonous disease that takes the lives of so many people in our world today: cancer. I have, however, had the unfortunate displeasure of watching its symptoms and feeling the affect that it has on one’s family. When I was seven years old, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she was not given a good prognosis. Unlike James “Rhio” O’Connor, my mother chose to endure six months of chemotherapy. She also participated in other unconventional methods that she believed would help her prognosis. Similar to Mr. O’Connor, she survived. My mom has been cancer –free for eleven years. Because of my mother’s diagnosis, I am now in the high-risk category for breast cancer. In some ways, this is a positive situation for me to be in because I will more closely watch what I put into my body, and most importantly, doctors will begin screening me for cancer at the age of twenty-five. In other ways, it is very frightening. I have sometimes thought about how I would feel if I were to be diagnosed with cancer; I have always come to the same conclusion. I would feel shocked, saddened and most definitely scared, but I can say with conviction that I would fight for my life and exhaust every option possible, just like my mom did and just like James “Rhio” O’Connor did.

The biggest difference between my mom’s illness and James “Rhio” O’Connor’s was the type of cancer with which they were diagnosed. He was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos that develops in the lining of the lungs. Because of the long latency period, which is the time between exposure to a disease-causing chemical or substance and the onslaught of symptoms from the disease, it is a cancer that is considered “impossible to cure.” Mr. O’Connor, however, beat the odds. I have never known anyone with this disease, but I can imagine how hard it would to beat those odds. ‘Honor’ and ‘admiration’ are words that can scarcely describe the feelings I have towards James “Rhio” O’Connor and all people who beat probabilities and prognoses by deciding to live their lives to the fullest.

At nineteen years of age, it is unfathomable for me to think that I, or anyone I know, could develop cancer. It is such a terrible disease and something that I hope to never have to endure. However, if I am ever diagnosed, I will do everything in my power to stay alive. Being given a dire prognosis would influence my decision on what treatment options I would choose. I would find out what types of treatments were available and any lifestyle changes that I would have to make to help prolong my life.

Chemotherapy alone, in some cases, can cure a cancer patient, or at least keep the cancer from spreading and metastasizing to other parts of the body. Chemotherapy can make one feel so sick that one feels like they are dying, even if that is not the case. It can make one feel discouraged, lacking any hope for survival. In essence, chemo will almost drain the life out of you, while having the end result of saving your life. I know this because I had to witness it. I had to watch my mom vomit all the time and lose her hair, and even though the chemo was fighting the cancer on the inside of her body, on the outside it just seemed like she was becoming worse with every passing day. If I was told I only had one year to live, like James “Rhio” O’Connor was told, I would not choose the option of chemotherapy. My quality of life would become much more important to me than just prolonging it.

Thankfully, chemotherapy is not the only option available, and if given a dire prognosis, I would weigh and research every option available to me before making an informed decision. I would visit many different doctors to get their opinions and would also decide which team of doctors would be best for me and my treatment plan. Upon receiving opinions from these doctors, I would thoroughly research anything and everything that they suggested to me. I would conduct research online and in recent medical books, as well as interview different cancer survivors. I would exhaust all of my options until I found the best treatments for me, ones that would improve my quality of life, as well as prolong it. I would do all of this, only after going to my mom for her opinion and advice.

One of the lessons I’ve learned from my mom is that attitude is everything. I know this to be true, especially in trying times. If I were to be unfortunate enough to have to go through any kind of cancer treatment, I would always keep this knowledge in the front of my mind. If I were to ever lose hope or the determination to live, there would be no point in prolonging my life at all. I would constantly remind myself of the reasons for fighting so hard for my life. I would want to live because I love my family; I want to be successful; I want to get married; I want to have children.

If I were to be diagnosed with terminal cancer, I would live by the examples set forth by James “Rhio” O’Connor and by my mother. Life is short and each day is a blessing. When faced with death, I want to be able to look back and proudly say that I did everything in my power to survive and make my life count for something. Life is a gift; life is a precious gift that so many of us take for granted. Death is inevitable; what matters is what we do with our lives until then.

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