This essay is for the James "Rhio" O'Connor Memorial scholarship. To learn more about mesothelioma and it's survivors, click here.
James ‘Rhio’ O’Connor was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a form of cancer, and was given a year to live. He was an optimistic and determined man and took it upon himself to research multiple methods of treatment, from conventional to alternative treatments, and because of that lived another six years. He faced many hard choices regarding the kinds of treatments he wanted to receive and the side affects of each one and ultimately gave himself the opportunity at a longer life.
Rhio’s story hits close to home because someone close to me is going through a similar situation. He has an aggressive form of prostate cancer and after being told he possibly has only a year or two left to live, he took his life into his own hands and learned about alternative treatments. In his case the alternative treatment is following a vegan diet with no animal products because animal proteins feed his cancer differently than plant proteins. In just a few shorts months it has drastically reduced his doubling time of the cancer and he is now expected to live well beyond his original prognosis. This inspired me to look more into diet and health so that hopefully I could prevent cancer in my own body based on the food I eat and also find more information for people around me who have cancer.
Within my research, I have learned that diet is extremely important to the health of your body. Nowadays there are so many toxins and chemicals in almost everything we eat. Some foods are genetically modified to the point where your body cannot even recognize it as food! It is hard to know what you can and cannot eat because everyone tells you different things. The government recommends high amounts of grain in your diet and low amounts of meat, but the paleo lifestyle discourages the consumption of grains and encourages high meat intake. Who am I to believe? The government, who also hands their hands in the pockets of grain companies, or real people who live the paleo lifestyle and are healthy and happy? Personally I choose to eat based on what my body tells me it likes and what makes me feel healthy, but many people are bombarded with all these different people, media, and organizations that tell them contradicting information. It’s hard to know what to do.
Something that has to change soon, and I believe it will, is that people need to do more research on their own about their health. If you are healthy to start with, the chance of getting cancer is low and is a good way to prevent it. People should not just blindly go about their life and not be concerned with what they put in their bodies and how it affects them. They need to be proactive and strive to be as healthy as possible if they would like to continue living a long and healthy life.
In order to assist people in research, I believe that doctors and scientists also need to offer information that is not backed up by the pharmaceutical companies who are making millions or billions off of their products. Doctors should not be able to receive any kind of compensation or incentives from pharmaceutical companies to promote specific medications or treatments. Rather, they should simply make money from healing someone in the best way they possibly can. Scientists should also do studies that are unbiased and not in favor of the company who is paying for the study. All studies should be independent of the company it is for so that pharmaceuticals are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration when really they are not safe. If doctors and scientists did their work to only heal people and not make money or answer to big pharmaceutical companies, people may not die so frequently from cancer.
Alternative treatments also need to be funded. Pharmaceutical companies do not want to put forth money into something they cannot patent and make money from. Understandably, they should not have to be the ones to do so because they are a company who is trying to make money. They are a business. What should be happening is for universities, organizations, governments, and communities to put forth funding. It is not the responsibility of a big pharmaceutical company to validate or disprove alternative treatments, it is the responsibility of people who want to stay healthy and people who care about the health of themselves and their community.
Due to the research I’ve already done and the lifestyle I live, if I were to one day get cancer I know I’d try and fight it any way that I could, like Rhio chose to do. I would research my cancer thoroughly to know exactly how it works and how it is affecting my body. I would try and get in contact with survivors of it to see what kind of treatments they did, as well as get as much information as I could about those who have passed away from the cancer to see what treatments they did. I would talk to those that tried the conventional way of treatment with chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery, as well as those who tried alternative treatments and their doctors.
I do not believe there is just one way to treat cancer and that different circumstances call for different measures. Some cancers may not benefit at all from a change in diet because it is too advanced, some may benefit simply from a drastic change in diet, and others may need a combination of conventional treatments, homeopathy, and diet. There really are so many different ways to treat cancer so after researching all my options I would just have to go with what I decide is best.
I am a nursing who plans to possibly become a pediatric oncology nurse and so far in my studies and experience in the medical world I have realized that alternative options for cancer treatment are extremely rare. I find that very upsetting because things we find in nature can be very powerful and have true healing abilities! How is someone with cancer supposed to heal when they are so sick from chemotherapy that they can’t eat anything? Why not give them the nutrition they need instead to be strong powerful human beings that can heal themselves with the help of alternative remedies? If there are alternatives to putting toxic chemicals in our bodies that will work just as well, if not better, then it should be an option that every doctor should provide.
While I hope to never have cancer at any point in my life, it is inspiring to read success stories like Rhio’s. It encourages change in the way the health industry is run and proves that alternatives to conventional treatments can work. To share his stories with people hopefully inspires others to open their eyes to this world we live in and question the way treatments are done and the way patients are handled. Maybe more people will take their lives into their own hands make a change.