What would you do with 2,372 more days? 2,372 more days of sunshine, laughter, tears, family, and every other beauty that life holds. When you think about what you can accomplish with 2,372 days each one seems like a blessing. Rhio O’Connor added this and more to his own life span through sheer determination after being diagnosed with mesothelioma. He did not allow a physician imposed countdown of one year to begin with his diagnosis of mesothelioma, instead he became his own health advocate through research and optimism, took back years of his life. For more information on this rare form of cancer please visit www.survivingmesothelioma.com .
I know first hand that you cannot take the word of a physician as the final word on the workings of your body. January 25th, 2010 I celebrated two years of being cancer free and had it not been for my own persistence, my cancer may have not even been discovered until it was too late. For two years prior to being diagnosed I visited the doctor on almost a weekly basis complaining about my multitude of symptoms and for two years I was told “There is nothing wrong.” I knew my body, and I knew that they were missing something. I was getting sicker and nothing was being done. I packed up and moved home to live with my parents so that they could help support me on my search for wellness. Three months and countless doctors later I was diagnosed with a rare type of ovarian cancer called a Sertoli-leydig cell tumor. This is an androgen producing tumor that had transformed not only my body but also my mind with the extreme amounts of testosterone it was pumping into my system. When tested before surgery, I had the testosterone level of more than ten times that of an adult male. The rest is history now as I am here, alive and well to write this essay today.
When reading about Rhio O’Connor’s story of his strength and perseverance, I thought about what might have happened to me had I not persevered. Having cancer is a rare situation where you must simply choose to either take one person’s words as the gospel or to take your will to live and fight for it with everything you have. No doctor has the all knowing ability to time stamp a life or predict the future. If cancer wins in the end at least you know that you tried absolutely everything. More than Rhio O’Connor just being an inspiration when it comes to a life threatening illness he is an inspiration in all aspects of life to never ever give up.
If the situation were to ever arise that I was given the diagnosis of an “incurable disease” I would do everything and try everything within my means. I often say now my doctors face an interview process and it is a possibility that they will fail. Having a medical degree does not automatically mean that a doctor is a good match for your case. Rhio O’Connor did such an important thing in the way he practiced informed consent and worked side by side with his doctors in creating his treatment plan. A patient-physician relationship is much more involved than something like having a car repaired and it should be treated as such. Selecting doctors that were both skilled in their profession as well as their bedside manner would be my first step. I would complete extensive research on their success rates as well as education so that they may also complete a history similar to the ones required from the patient with any medical appointment.
During my personal battle with the illness I researched tirelessly all kinds of medicine, both alternative and conventional. I began taking supplements to try to minimize the damage being caused in my body and spoke with a dietary consultant to ensure that only healthy positive energy was entering my body and that I was not introducing any more poison than the disease was providing. I would take this same approach when facing a terminal diagnosis.
The hard thing about the conventional treatments for cancer is the terrible side effects and how greatly they can diminish quality of life. In considering options of chemotherapy and radiation I would consider the likelihood of life extending results as well as what quality of extension that would be. In Rhio’s case, he chose to forego chemotherapy as his quality of life would be poor and the outcome would not increase his outlook for a longer life.
Aside from the research and treatment that could be done from a medical standpoint, two factors that I would consider invaluable would be a large support system and a positive attitude, no matter how grim the outlook. Being surrounded with loved ones can work wonders with the ability to press on and find the beauty in each and every day. Another support system that can be vital is that of people who are also struggling with the same cancer. They offer an insight and understanding that cannot be matched. The value of an optimistic approach to life cannot be understated whether facing a life ending disease or not. Rhio maintained a positive approach to life throughout his struggle this was essential in outliving his prognosis by so many years. As hard as it may be to keep a positive outlook in such a heartbreaking situation it is so important to do so.
Rhio O’Connor is a hero that we should all look to for inspiration in our daily lives. By extending his own life he also touched the lives of others who suffer from mesothelioma as well as any other deadly cancer. The information that his doctors were able to gain through the tireless research he completed left a brighter tomorrow for those battling cancer. The thought alone of being in his situation makes anyone touched by his story a little more appreciative of each and every day- as they are all so precious.
By: Zold, Amanda