Younghwa Kim – Surviving Mesothelioma

Younghwa Kim

Following the Footsteps of James Rhio O’Connor: How to Survive Cancer and Be Proactive

Cancer: one-syllabus word that evokes death and fear even for the strongest and youngest at heart. Once diagnosed with this disease, many do take it as a death sentence. What would I do to survive cancer? Can this disease be overcome? What steps should I take? How should I conduct research to learn more about this disease and make an informed decision? A heartwarming, successful guideline was already given by one brave man of hope and strength, Mr. James Rhio O’Connor. He was diagnosed with deadly mesothelioma when he was sixty-one years old, and given a year to live. Without giving up to cancer however, he carefully researched on various therapeutic options he could take, their long term and short term side effects, and even philosophies and theories behind each therapy. Instead of weakly giving away his flesh to the cancer, he thus survived next eight more years, leaving behind a rich and brave message to many people. I was amazed by his story, and wanted to construct my own way of preparing for cancer that may also attack me or my loved ones one day.

There is a Korean saying that goes like this: “to know your enemy is to win the victory a hundred times.” Applying this simple principle, and actively following the footsteps of O’Connor’s, the first step I would take if I were to be diagnosed with cancer, is to know who my enemy is. I will undergo any tests and check-ups that will analytically examine my current physical status. How far has the cancer spread in my body? Why did I get this cancer? What is the survival rate? What are the possible treatments available? What do the doctors recommend? Are there any alternatives? Instead of placing myself into a shade of darkness for the possible, imposing death, I will bravely face my status quo to learn more about myself: of my previous life style and genetic history that might have led to the diagnosis of this cancer. Of the character and whereabouts of the cancer. Of how I can live with the cancer, and eventually be a friend with it.

After I learned about this cancer that I was diagnosed with, and more about myself, now is the time that I need to focus on the actual research for Surving-Cancer-101. I would first visit my doctors and hear what they have to tell me about the possible treatments. I will set up an appointment for the cancer consulting service that many major hospitals offer. If my cancer cannot be treated there, I would ask them to refer doctors who are renowned for the area of the cancer I am diagnosed with. I would dedicate my time to observe and study their opinions and treatments. For next source of research, I will join a local city and university library for an online data service and to borrow books. At a small fee, many universities offer patronship to local residents, even if they are not currents students. I will conduct a keyword research on the library and “Link+” catalogue service on the cancer that I need to master. I will also subscribe to current medical journals and data base such as NEJM (New England Journal of Medicine) or PubMed to see if they have any up-to-date research on my cancer. I will also conduct a research on alternative therapies available. Totaling all the research I have done so far, I will eventually narrow down to the treatments and therapies that seem most plausible and effective. Following closely on what my doctors and modern cancer treatment offers, I will consider undertaking treatments that have saved the lives of many.

The third and most profound step that I will take in this journey is to live a healthy, proactive life even as a cancer patient. Just like O’Connor who created his own protocol of therapies along side the clinicians he selected, I also believe that we can look beyond chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, especially if they had little to offer. I will also research for a more natural, holistic approach to treat and heal the cancer, and see if there are other patients who successfully recovered through alternative ways. Living in this fast, stressful world that we call the twenty-first century, the modern men are exposed to deadly environmental carcinogens that cause cancer. Or people might have led unhealthy lifestyles that can cause cancer: stress, tobacco, eating disorders, genetics, or any kind of unknowns thereof. I believe that a healthy and satisfactory life can be established by following the eight steps of NEWSTART, first acronymed by the Weimar Medical Center in the 1970’s. Looking beyond chemotherapy and traditional hospital treatments, this approach guides to proactively balance daily principles such as: Nutrition, Exercise, Water, Sunlight, Temperance, Air, Rest, and Trust in the Divine Power. By balancing and exercising these different principles of life, one, even as a cancer patient, can live healthier and happier. As a pre-med student coming from Loma Linda which is one of the healthiest and longest-living communities of the world, I have been taught and lived to follow these principles myself. Trusting and re-founding any precious personal values—be it a divine power or beloved family members–gives a patient a hope and comfort one needs in his or her fight to cancer.

Learning from the footsteps of the brave James Rhio O’Connor, I have proposed three steps I would take to beat cancer. First of all, I will learn everything about my newly found friend and foe: the cancer. I would conduct a thorough medical research about this cancer: consult doctors and their references, and research online medical journals and books. Secondly, I will make an informed decision on the best therapies selected from my extended research. Last but not least, I will make this experience to proactively initiate and exercise a NEWSTART program to change my lifestyle and go beyond the cancer. Following the life-altering eight guidelines, I will reconcile with the disease, and learn to live with it and overcome it. I believe that through this journey, I will turn out to be a richer, healthier, and definitely a happier person. Just like O’Connor, I will dwell in the spirit of optimism. Saying no to cancer and yes to life, I will not only learn how to survive the cancer and live more years than as diagnosed, I will also learn to appreciate the peace and simple beauty of the world that I might have overlooked in my busy pre-cancer days. To exist, to inquire, to strive. To appreciate. And to enjoy life, as it is. I am a survivor.

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