The Will to Live
The story of James Rhio O’Connor is inspiring and extraordinary. He outlived a one year diagnosis by six and a half years. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in October of 2001 (Cancer Monthly). This disease is caused by asbestos exposure which is common in mines (Environmental Protection Agency). An unfortunate receiver of mesothelioma usually suffers from shortness of breath, persistent dry coughs, fatigue, night sweats, fever, pain under the rib cages, swelling and weight loss (Mesothelioma). The cancer was too close to his spine to perform surgery and chemotherapy would only prolong his life a short while. It would also wear on his body too much for him to do anything during the chemotherapy. Rhio’s oncologist suggested that Rhio start thinking of getting his affairs in order, spending time with his loved ones and joining hospice care soon after.
Rhio did not give the suggestion a second thought. Instead, he studied and practiced habits that would make him stronger. He began taking one hundred supplements a day, eating healthily and practicing mind-body medicine.
He died on July 11, 2009 at the age of sixty nine (Cancer Monthly). Rhio was courageous in his fight against cancer and few would have put up as much of a fight as he did. I only have an idea of what I would do if I were in Rhio’s shoes. The only way I could really know what I would do is if I was a cancer patient myself.
I could not imagine being told I only had a year to live. I am sure it would be devastating and it would force me to look at life in a whole new way. The fears that keep me from saying my thoughts and what I mean would wash away. I would explain to my family and friends how much I love them and care for them and I would spend precious time with each and every one of them. I know I would do things I love as much as possible like riding horses, going to the park with my dog and laughing with my fiancé. I swore to myself I would marry the one I love the most someday, so it would be done. The wedding would be beautiful and the honeymoon would be an unforgettable experience in Jamaica.
I am a “get up and do things” type of person, so going through chemotherapy would not be an option for me. Especially if I were a case like Rhio’s. I crave the ability to run and play and ride far too much. I know chemo would impair my abilities to do that and the thought drives me to insanity. Even though a treatment would prolong my life, more than likely it would wear down my body and do more harm than good. I don’t want a life like that because it does not seem like living to me. I need excitement and challenge in my life to be me and I cannot have any of it living in a hospital bed. That would feel like death hanging over my head waiting on me to give up in the fight.
I know fear of death would draw me to research on my disease. I have learned to always seek a second opinion and if necessary, a third or more. Books, I feel, are the most reliable sources of information. I love reading in the first place so reading every development on mesothelioma would be no problem. Knowing health is always a factor in survival, books on health and diets would soon enter my library. Exercise would no doubt be high on my list of daily things to do. I would make it a priority to visit all the top doctors to get their opinion on my situation. I am not a social person, so I would probably talk with a limited number of people for help. I see myself getting my information from reading books, magazines and web sites.
Nevertheless, I would more than likely pick one doctor that I would go back to for more advice. There is another possibility that I would get over my shyness and timid personality and talk to every doctor I hear of. Like I said, no one knows what would happen unless they are living it.
Hearing Rhio’s story encourages me to look around and think about what I really want to do with my life. At any moment my life could be cut short or simply cut off. I realize I cannot live forever, even though it seems like I will at the moment. The thought of death scares me as it does most, but I need to take what I have in life right now. Many people should stop worrying about the future so much and see what is going on around them at that moment. If you do not stop every once in a while, life will pass by and not even care about you noticing it.
Mesothelioma. 17 April 2009. 2 February 2010.
Environmental Protection Agency. 9 November 2009. 2 February 2010.
Cancer Monthly. Surviving mesothelioma. 2005. 2 February 2010. <https://survivingmesothelioma.com/rhiooconnor.cfm>