Words: Determination And Hope


In 2001, James “Rhio” O’Connor received a medical diagnosis that would change his life forever. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma, which is a rare type of cancer affecting the thin layer of tissue covering the internal organs, and is linked to asbestos exposure. This rare type of cancer is very difficult to diagnose in the early stages as an individual may not experience any symptoms early on. However, when the symptoms manifest, mesothelioma is very difficult to control. At that time, Mr. O’Connor’s physicians gave the usual treatment options available, including chemotherapy, radiation and/or surgery. He was also given just a few short months to live, which was even more devastating to him. Due to his optimistic outlook on life, he decided to look at different approaches to deal with his deadly diagnosis. Determination and hope are the two words that come to mind when writing about Mr. O’Connor.

I am a 34-year-old single mother, and both of my parents are living with cancer. In 2008, my father was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He has since undergone chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. These three treatment options have kept his cancer under some control, but the disease continues to spread, so more chemotherapy and radiation have been ordered following his extensive 16-hour surgery done in 2009. In 2009, my mother was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Surgery was done almost immediately after her diagnosis to remove the thyroid but a dose of radiation was also required. When my parents were diagnosed, I really cannot recall what treatment options were offered by the physicians at that time and this was mainly because all I could recall was the word “cancer.” It is so strange that such a small word like cancer can cause such a large shock and devastation to a patient and their families.

Once I was able to process all of this information and become a rational daughter again, I spent quite some time researching with each parent various cancer treatment options, including their physician’s recommended treatment options. While each parent underwent the physician recommended treatment options, we also found it helpful to have the extra information available from different resources. By taking the time to research and educate ourselves about cancer, we as a family were all determined to find some hope in this dark situation.

Mr. O’Connor took his educational resources one step further and actually applied them to his take on cancer. Countless hours were spent talking to physicians as well as other cancer patients about their conditions. More time was spent in various libraries researching the signs, symptoms, treatments and prognosis of cancer. Mr. O’Connor decided to apply the holistic approach to his cancer, which involved taking natural supplements and changing his diet. He was determined to seek out his own path to health and at that same time, he showed tremendous hope to others.

While many physicians doubt or look down upon the holistic approach, some of their cancer patients may have a difference of opinion, especially in Mr. O’Connor’s case. The physicians he initially sought care from gave him only months to live, but due to his determination and extensive research, he challenged his prognosis and lived with mesothelioma for six years. It is not unheard of for these physicians to offer such options, but many simply do not offer them and revert to their usual methods of treatment. This type of determination and hope that Mr. O’Connor demonstrated should be an eye-opener for those who do not appreciate the holistic approach.

For one to actually apply the holistic approach to their treatment, each individual must be open-minded and take the time to do their research. We all see the individuals who seem to just “give up” after they receive their cancer diagnosis. The other optimistic patients do look beyond the usual treatment options, and entertain the holistic options. For those looking for some type of hope, I believe that all options should be explored, especially if they could mean the difference between living just a few months versus years.

James “Rhio” O’Connor and my parents both inspire me to have a positive outlook on life. Even in their darkest moments when they were diagnosed with cancer, each one of these individuals found some hope in their situation. With determination and hope, we all can face our most difficult challenges in life. When it comes to a disease like cancer, all information of any kind should be welcomed and entertained by both the patient and their physician. Mr. O’Connor researched and educated himself about his type of cancer, which is inspiring and can be admired by all. He had such great determination and hope to prolong his life, which he did.

While Mr. O’Connor beat the odds given to him by his physician, he also proved to the medical community that more can be done for this type of cancer instead of the usual treatment options. If anything, I would hope that the medical community would always introduce the holistic approach to their patients with cancer. These patients are informed of their usual medical treatment options for their types of cancer, but the physicians should also suggest the holistic options, including the importance of supplements and proper nutrition. The diagnosis of cancer is devastating to each patient and their families, and perhaps by offering more options for treatment, we could ease some of their devastation and introduce some type of hope with these options. James “Rhio” O’Connor truly is an example of an inspiring individual with a vast amount of determination and hope.

By: Brachle, Gina

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