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Cancer is a deadly and scary disease that can very easily take a person’s life. About half a million people died from cancer in 2009. It affects so many innocent people’s lives. Rhio O’Connor was diagnosed with a very serious and deadly cancer called mesothelioma and wasn’t supposed to live longer than a year. But he actually lived six more years because he did his research and worked so hard to do as many treatments and things as he could. Mesothelioma is a type of cancer in which the skin that protects most of the internal organs of the body separates or breaks and damages the organs that it is supposed to protect. Over 2,000 people are affected by this scary disease, and more information can be found at https://survivingmesothelioma.com/basics.cfm.

I can relate to Rhio extremely well because I too, was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease and have worked hard to increase my life span. When I was born, I was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF), a genetic disease. It affects my lungs and digestive system. Cystic fibrosis used to not be a very well-known disease, but that has definitely changed because more and more people are born with CF. The life expectancy for a person with CF when I was born was 17. The doctor told my parents I probably wouldn’t live to graduate from high school, but I proved them wrong. Immediately after I was born I had to have a surgery to reconstruct my digestive system. In simple terms, my digestive system wasn’t wired correctly so they had to fix it. But that was just the beginning of my family’s journey and my lifelong battle. As soon as I was old enough to understand my disease, I took control and did everything I could to live as long as I wanted to. I did all my treatments I was supposed to do and never missed a dose of medicine. I also took all of my antibiotics and pills I needed to stay healthy. And whenever the doctors thought it was necessary, I went to the hospital for surgery. As soon as I understood all of the aspects of my disease I became very determined to help find a cure for CF. My mother and I did numerous CF fundraisers and even talked with my doctor about what they were doing to find a cure. She told me they were getting so much accomplished because of all of the donations and hard work. That just made me even more determined. In November of 2009, I got up in front of my entire high school and told them my story. I explained all of the painful things I had been through and the challenges I had to overcome to be here today. There was not a dry eye in the crowd as I told my story because many of them knew me personally and understood how hard my life has been. I asked them to help me raise money for CF and I ended up raising about $6,000 just from my school and community to go to the CF Foundation. Just since I was born, the life expectancy has gone from 17 to 29 because of so many new medicines they have came out with and all the research and money that was done. I am very lucky to have so many people impacted by the disease that want to help.

If my doctors told me I only had a year to live, like they told O’Connor, I would definitely take action, just like he did. It’s hard to know exactly what I would do, but I know that I wouldn’t want to stand for it. And I know my family and friends would be right by my side the entire time. They would help me and encourage me whenever I wanted to give up. I would definitely weigh my options and see every cancer doctor I could to get their opinion. Of course, I would do my research and learn everything I could about the diagnosis as well. I would probably try most of the treatments and see which worked best for me. But if a doctor firmly believed in a type of surgery, I would try that. I wouldn’t want to just experiment with my life though, I would want to know all the benefits and side effects of each treatment or surgery before I tried it. I would just have to do as much research as I could and trust my instincts. Most of this stuff I have done or am doing right now with my cystic fibrosis.

Rhio’s story inspires me so much. Just for the fact that he cared and he wanted to make a difference. Those are two things that a ton of people in that situation wouldn’t have done. He did so much to live a longer life and put so much work into his health. I honestly don’t know how he did it. It definitely inspires me to do the same and continue to work hard to take care of my body. I’m motivated by him and always will remember his story.

By: Whearty, Megan

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