“Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.” Jimmy V spoke these words at the ESPY awards in 1993, about six months before he died. The story of James “Rhio” O’Connor reminded of Jimmy V’s quote, and how he, too, never gave up while fighting his cancer. The doctors told O’Connor it was time to get everything in order, and to take a nice vacation with his wife. But O’Connor refused to lie down and let the cancer take him. He worked with doctors, specialists and did a large amount of research on his own. He had approximately 100 supplements a day, changed his diet and used mind-body medicine. He lived seven and a half years longer than his original diagnosis of one year, and wrote about living with Mesothelioma. O’ Connor was able to find other ways to extend his life beyond the regular chemotherapy, radiation and surgeries.
O’ Connor was diagnosed with Pleural Mesothelioma. This is the most common form of Mesothelioma, it is found in the lining of the lung known as the pleura. Surgery is considered to be too risky, depending on where the tumor is located and how large of a tumor it is. The reason the cancer can sometimes be hard to detect, is the subtle symptoms it has. Mesothelioma symptoms consist of chest and back pain, a persistent cough and a shortness of breath, which can easily be diagnosed as a viral pneumonia. And sometimes, patients show no type of symptoms at all.
If I were diagnosed with cancer, many things would go through my mind. I think that one of the most important steps towards deciding on a treatment plan would be to getting the opinions of multiple doctors. Each specialist would bring a different perspective. I would have a better chance of making an informed decision on my treatment if I felt informed. Finding an expert in the field would also allow me an insight into how my body would be affected by the cancer, and through this understanding, I can learn better ways to help support my body. If studies show that cutting certain foods out of my diet will allow me to live longer, than that would be one more step I can take towards staying alive. Through the number of resources available for me to research my cancer, such as the internet, books, doctors, specialists, etc, I can begin to understand my cancer. And through using these sources, my decision on what treatment to choose would be more informed.
If I was faced with an “incurable” cancer, I would never stop looking for a way to stay alive. Survivor success stories can show insight into how you can live past your “expiration date.” They could have advice about how to make it through the different stages of cancer, what types of food best support my system and some mind- body strategies to use. Those survivors could also to offer insight into what types of activates you would still be able to do, and give a sense of understanding, because they know exactly what you are going through. Because while family can be supportive, the understanding of someone who’s gone through what you are going through can be extremely comforting.
There are other types of treatment that are not main stream. If the opportunity arose to use experimental drugs, I think that I would. If I had an incurable form of cancer, I would not allow the opportunity to possibly find a cure slip away from me. But most of all, I believe the most important thing to me would be to never lose hope. Our technology is advancing every day, so while one day my cancer may be incurable, tomorrow a breakthrough could emerge. Researchers are constantly looking for new ways to treat cancer patients, and it is only a matter of time before those incurable cancers become treatable.
James “Rhio” O’Connor reminds us the importance of education and how through education anything is possible, including living longer than any doctor expects. Like our good friend Jimmy V, no matter how difficult things got, James “Rhio” O’Connor never, ever gave up.