During our lifetimes, we all will face challenges. Some of us may lose a limb as a war hero. Others may experience memory loss as time ticks forward. What about cancer? How many of us are at risk? Research shows that we have about a 1 in 2 chance of developing cancer.
Let me introduce you to a remarkable individual—James “Rhio” O’Connor. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare form of deadly cancer, and given only one year to live. Instead of grasping the idea of death, Rhio chose life. He intensively researched about his cancer and spoke with a myriad of doctors, scientists, and patients. With assistance from his handpicked clinicians, Rhio created his own therapeutic protocol. He also exercised informed consent based on facts, not myths. His extraordinary effort to learn, believe, and decipher enabled him to outlive his prognosis by more than six years!
Rhio’s story inspires me because he found his own path to health. Despite a doctor’s survival rate, he continued to live with this incurable disease. If faced with the same challenge, I would develop a plan similar to Rhio’s strategy. First, I would discover my own coping methods. From practicing relaxation techniques to keeping a journal, I would want to record my thoughts and feelings. These activities would recharge my spiritual wellbeing. Next, I would gather facts about my cancer. I would research information at libraries and seek opinions from various physicians. I would ask questions:
• What other tests or procedures do I need?
• What are my treatment options?
• How will the treatment benefit me?
• What can I expect during treatment?
• What are the side effects of the treatment?
Lastly, I would maintain a healthy lifestyle. Eating a balanced diet and getting adequate rest would help me manage the fatigue of the cancer and its treatment. For example, I would live a Paleo lifestyle. The diet has a simple premise—if the cavemen didn’t eat it, I shouldn’t either. I would avoid highly processed foods and refined sugar. In addition, exercise would play an integral role in improving life with cancer. Recent studies reveal that physically active cancer patients not only cope better, but also live longer. Therefore, I would participate in CrossFit training, a fitness routine with a mix of aerobic exercises and weight lifting. More importantly, I would let friends and family members help me. It may be difficult at first, but I would learn to accept my new lifestyle.
All alternative approaches should be accessible to cancer patients. In order to make an informed decision, I would desire a holistic approach to my treatment. Chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery are good options. However, if those treatments offer little help, I would want to explore other methods. For example, acupuncture is a procedure where a licensed practitioner inserts tiny needles into the skin at precise points. Research shows that acupuncture may be helpful in relieving nausea and vomiting. Aromatherapy uses fragrant oils to provide a calming sensation. Aromatherapy alleviates pain and stress. During massages, a well-trained therapist kneads the skin, muscles, and tendons. Massages are great for reducing anxiety and fatigue. Yoga is another alternative option that combines stretching exercises with deep breathing. It has been shown to improve sleeping patterns. But no matter what type of treatment, patients should be notified and aware of all possible alternatives.
Together, we can improve the progress of curing and preventing cancer. Our culture should promote healthy living. From the reduction of soda consumption to the elimination of tobacco use, our society must encourage everyone to strive to live healthier. Employers should carve out time for employees to participate in physical activities. Farmers’ markets should be available for all communities to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. Researchers could strengthen the efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and overall success rate of cancer clinical trials. I also recommend the improvement of public access to educational resources. Citizens should receive the latest information about prevention and treatment. Everyone deserves the greatest chance of cancer survival.
James “Rhio” O’Connor’s journey teaches us the importance of taking ownership of our lives. Whether it’s researching for countless hours or seeking alternative therapies, we have the power within us to find our path to health. We all have a choice. Let’s choose life!
By Shayla Price