Weidmann, Joshua – Surviving Mesothelioma

Weidmann, Joshua

To Live To Nineteen

This is the thought I would have after being told I had a year to live:

A mom just loves burying her dead son. The best part is looking at his dead cold body keeled over, pale and broken like a rag doll. Just like reliving a childhood memory for Mommy. She slept with a rag doll as a kid. The doll’s name was Joel, Mom made it herself. She made me too. Joel and I are a perfect pair; both made by mom, both slept with mom, both of us were thrown out prematurely. Mom would love having her baby die.

Joel’s life expectancy was predictably short from the beginning. My Opa (Mother’s father) was firmly against childhood doll use. He was convinced if doll use was emphasized his daughter would intuit that dependence was a most necessary means of living. Dependency was something Opa knew not to rely on. He had depended on his father for the love and affection and security that he sorely needed. The first time my Great Grandfather remembered his son’s birthday, Opa was turning twenty one. The old man‘s gift was a shirt that fell apart after one wear. Opa cared too much for his daughter to have her fall victim to the same cheap shirt scam that he did. It took only a week before Joel was thrown in the trash.

My life has never had a predicable expiration date, though my parents have always assumed and prayed for me to live long. Having me grow up in New York City probably wasn’t the best decision if they were truly looking for their prayers to be answered. Noise pollution, air pollution, and light pollution are all things I have been exposed to because of the location of my upbringing. A consequence of choosing Purchase College as the school I attend is daily asbestos exposure, due to construction. Despite the decisions my parents and I have made, my doctor’s most recent routine physical has assured me that I am healthy and expected to live through the foreseeable future. Of course many men, just like me, had planned on, but were sadly unable to live into the foreseeable future. One such man was the courageous James “Rhio” O’Connor, who, just like me, was exposed to asbestos at a young age. Unlike me as of yet, at age sixty one, O’Connor was diagnosed with mesothelioma, one of the most deadly forms of cancer. After being told that his mesothelium (The outer protective layer of one’s internal organs) was filled with malignant cells, O’Connor was told he had a year to live. He had a life with wife and a family, there was no time to die. With everything to loose, O’Connor suddenly faced the doctors prescribed assurance of a fast approaching tomb.

There is a reason James O’Connor was nicknamed “Rhio.” He was as strong willed as the Mississippi, no one could tell him when he was going to die. Through tireless effort, O’Connor managed to live six and a half years longer than he was told. If there was one thing “Rhio” would not do, it was let some disease get the best of him. Living is what life was all about for O’Connor.

Family is what life is about for me. Friends and relatives make this world worth while. James O’Connor would’ve agreed with this. Family is the very reason he needed to live. Family is the very reason I would be okay with dying. My family has made my life full and if asbestos exposure kills me early, I will know on my dying bed that this life was complete. Family completes all life no matter how long or short.

I fear that my mother might see differently. Viewing her son as a decomposing corpse certainly does not make a mother feel that she did her job. Especially my mother, who at times can be one of the most self critical people on the planet. In her mind it would be clear that she did not do her job raising me.

The most important thing I could do with a year to live would be showing Mom how great a mother she is. She showed me love, commitment, patience and acceptance, more positive concepts than many are shown in one hundred years of life. I would joke with her constantly, “all that was left would have been filler anyways thanks to the bang up job you did.” Just because I would be buried underground at nineteen does not mean that I would not have had my life long fair share. It was my privilege for her to help give me such a complete life.

Convincing my Mom that she had given me a full life would be telling her how independent she had helped me to become. By doing that, I would be true both to my Opa and my Mom. Mom did NOT raise a rag doll. She raised a real person. And who knows, while I’m working on that message, I may develop the mysterious strength that “Rhio” had — and live six and a half years longer than expected.

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