Win, Jenn – Surviving Mesothelioma

Win, Jenn

As a natural human habit, my mind wonders off with questions of what if, what if I won a million dollars, would I share with anybody or be selfish? What if my basketball skills match up with Kobe Bryant, would I make it to the NBA right after high school? One day, another what if question came to mind when I was sitting in the theaters to watch the movie My Sister’s Keeper about a girl diagnosed with leukemia. The thought of cancer ran through my mind and the question of what if I was diagnosed with cancer, how would my life play out?

I took this into consideration and visualized how I would spend my life if I had cancer. I would have three hundred and sixty-five days to live, and I would have to make every second count. I came to the conclusion that I would want to spend my last moments making chocolate bite-sized cake balls, not just any cake ball, but my great grandmother’s secret recipe that has everyone craving them every Christmas. Baking is one of my favorite hobbies, and Bobby Flay is a chef I admire from my television set at home every Wednesday night at seven.

He has a show called Throwdown with Bobby Flay, and he would surprise local bakers or chefs to challenge him in a baking or cooking competition. During my last year to live, I would not wait for Bobby Flay to come to Dallas, Texas, but fly out to challenge him to a chocolate cake ball baking competition. To answer my own what if question with the way my life would play out, the challenge would be a piece of cake for me, and the judges pick me as winner over well-known chef Bobby Flay. When the competition is over, Bobby Flay would offer me a job as his partner to tour the United States to find more food challenges. If I had cancer, I would make every moment count by cooking along side my favorite chef.

A couple weeks later, I had another what if moment when I came across another cancer story except instead of throwing in the towel, he fought back. I read an inspiring article about a man who outlived his prognosis of cancer by six years through his perseverance of fighting the odds. His doctors told him he only had one year to live. Most people would take the doctor’s recommendation to go out and have fun, just as I would have, but James Rhio O’Connor figured otherwise. O’Connor was actually diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma and made the choice to fight back and prove his physicians wrong.

Pleural mesothelioma is a cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs making breathing difficult and chest pains excruciating. Lung cancer patients have three options: surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Surgery was out of the question because the location of the tumor lay too close to his spine which may cause him to die even sooner. Chemotherapy would not change his quality of life significantly so why put himself through the uncomfortable side effects. O’Connor’s physicians advised him to take his wife on a lovely cruise, but he had other plans. James spent hours and hours doing in depth research about his cancer, talked to multiple doctors, and adjusted a new lifestyle based on information he gathered to outlive his prognosis. He changed his eating habits, found new hobbies that would not strain his breathing, and got to spend six extra years with his wife.

Now, what if I was diagnosed with cancer and had one year to live? I would still want to challenge Bobby Flay and beat him, but I would make every attempt to live longer than just fifty-two weeks. After reading about James Rhio O’Connor and how he took his cancer in to his own hands and did everything he could to survive longer, it made me realize that with enough motivation and perseverance, I could conquer anything. It is rare to hear a story about someone, as dedicated and strong as O’Connor, to outlive a one year prognosis by six years. If I had cancer, I would still make chocolate bite-sized cake balls, but never take a one year prognosis lightly as I would have before.

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