Wong, Chelsea E. – Surviving Mesothelioma

Wong, Chelsea E.

Everyone knows about the famous saying that one person can truly make a difference. That famous phrase is difficult for most people to believe, unless they are given a real-life example of someone who actually enacted change on his own. James Rhio O’ Connor (“Rhio”) is a prime example of that individual. At the age of sixty-one years old in 2001, Rhio was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that develops from the protective lining that covers most of the body’s internal organs. Due to his exposure to asbestos when he was young, Rhio developed mesothelioma, and doctors gave him only one year to live. Due to the position of the tumor, surgery could not be conducted on him. However, instead of accepting his prognosis, like most doctors encouraged him to, Rhio fought this battle. By consulting with multiple clinicians, taking multiple supplements, altering his daily diet, and changing his own discipline, he was able to survive for 7 ½ more years until he passed away last July at the age of sixty-nine years old.

Rhio’s inspirational battle against mesothelioma is personally very inspiring to me. His determination and belief in something greater has made me wonder what I would do if I was faced with the challenges that Rhio faced. If I had a visit to the doctor today, and I was diagnosed with mesothelioma, at first I would naturally be devastated. Initially, a million questions would race through my mind, including why was I one of the rare few to be diagnosed with mesothelioma? How come doctors and scientists have not created a cure yet for this cancer? However, after I gained some perspective on the situation, I believe it is important to look at every challenge, even one as dire as this one, optimistically. It would be a much more useful use of my time to figure out a way one how to battle my cancer.

The first step I would take is to contact any person I know of who has been diagnosed with cancer. I would first talk to any family members who have been diagnosed with cancer and are currently battling it or have already beat it. I would then ask my family members if they know of any other individuals or have any friends who have fought or are currently fighting the battle against cancer. To these individuals, I would ask them about what specific treatments they have tried in order to beat the disease. Have they used chemotherapy or radiation? Have they gone through operations? After finding out what medical treatments they have used, I would then ask them if those treatments have worked. Have they been cleared of cancer or was the cancer cleared for a certain amount of time and returned? In addition to finding out what treatments have been the most successful, I would then ask people if, in addition to treatment, they have changed any aspects of their lifestyle. For example, have they exercised more frequently since being diagnosed? Have they taken additional vitamins? Have they changed their average diet and began eating healthier foods? By analyzing the various treatments and lifestyle alterations that have been deemed as the most successful and effective, I would initially have a better general idea on what the best path is for me to take in my battle against mesothelioma.

The next resource I would use to decide what my treatment should be would be to contact my own doctor and also get a second, third, and even fourth opinions from other recommended doctors. My goal would be to find out what treatment they would recommend me taking. If they suggested I undergo chemotherapy, then I would go along with it. However, in addition to undergoing the recommended medical treatment, I would take the situation into my own hands and create my own personal road to conquering my battle.

Although I am a Human Biology major and I think science is fascinating, I am very well aware of the fact that science is always changing and evolving. The scientific community has not discovered a cure yet for cancer, and in the battle against cancer, science can only have a limited effect. Science is not the law, and as psychological studies have demonstrated, emotional state and surroundings can have a huge effect on people’s well-being. Thus, I know that it is important for me to “think outside the box.” The first thing I would do is to change my frame of mind for the better. Although it may be very difficult at times, the most important part of my overall fight would be to maintain a positive attitude. It is important to keep looking forward to the future and have hope that my treatment and lifestyle alterations are going to help me defeat my “enemy.” Cancer is dire, but miracles can happen, and I would make it my personal goal to be the personification of a miracle.

To maintain this positive state of mind, I would also alter my surroundings for the better. From the point of diagnosis, I would make it my goal to constantly surround myself with upbeat, positive people. Being surrounded by people who are cheerful and who also believe that I can beat all odds is crucial to my success. The people I converse with and listen to are a major component of a healthy environment. These individuals would be the ones encouraging me to keep fighting and suggest additional ways to succeed. I would also try taking various daily supplements for health purposes, and I would also try to exercise everyday to stay in shape. Exercising produces endorphins, and consequently, I would be in a much happier mood on a day-to-day basis.

Like Rhio demonstrated, the power of one individual is enormous. Although it is usually underestimated, one person can make a difference. Having determination and the ability to make tough decisions are crucial for anyone to succeed in various aspects of life. I also consider willingness to learn and try new things, determination, and diligence to be necessary qualifications for success, in this situations and other challenges overall. One must be willing to learn if he or she wants to succeed. I realize that no matter how much I think I may know about something or how accomplished I feel, there are always going to be people who know more about something than I do. It is important to always be open to new ideas and try new suggestions that could possibly play a positive role in my battle. Determination is also key to success. I know what my goals are, and I cannot lose sight of them. It is inevitable that obstacles are going to come my way and some treatments may not go as planned. An event , like this diagnose, is something that I could not have planned for. However, my determination will help me look toward the future and achieve what I want to achieve. If I continue to be a diligent individual, I can only have hope that my hard work will pay off. My personal philosophy is that if I am going to do something, then I need to put my best effort into it and complete it to my best ability. I always do the maximum in whatever I set out to do. By trying to do the best that I can, I will be happy with what I achieve. Instead of giving up the fight, as long as I know that I tried everything I could have to survive, that will make me happy. The world is always changing, and discoveries are being made every day. By having a positive attitude and “thinking outside the box,” I know that I can find happiness and success and survive all odds just like my role model, James Rhio O’ Connor, did for 8 years following his prognosis. I hope that others, too, are inspired by Rhio’s amazing story and always strive to be creative to find light at the end of the tunnel.

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