Monday, November 9, 2009

Rhio Scholarship Essay

This essay is for the Rhio Scholarship 2009.

Life sometimes has a very unique way of presenting subjects or challenges to you. I find myself seeking scholarships and financial aid for school now that I am nearly 40yrs old. I thought after a little college 10yrs of marriage and 4 kids I was well beyond the school thing. After being of of many people who have recently been downsized or laid off, I needed to return to school. The other happenstance here is the fact that my mother in law passed away in December of 2008 from breast cancer. Then I came across this scholarship.

Tommie, my mother-in-law, was diagnosed in March of 2006 with Stage 4 Inflammatory Breast Cancer. She had not gotten regular checkups, was a lifelong smoker, had taken hormonal replacement therapy, and most importantly ignored and hid all of the obvious warning signs of her condition. Things were not looking good at all. She was told that these things can never be predicted exactly, but she has between 3 and 6 months to live. They could start some therapies for her, but she had better get her affairs in order because she was not going to beat this. Of course this came as a huge shock to all of her family. The cancer was one thing. She also had to deal with the guilt and shame of not seeking help or treatment much earlier. With a very strong support network of family and friends around her she decided that now was the time to throw everything she had at this disease. Her husband Bob is one of the strongest men I know. Never, ever did he look at her and ask why? He was supportive of her from day one. Looking forward and not backward was the key to her fighting. Tommie was able to live a very good life for much longer than any of us ever expected. Only in the final two months of her life did the quality of her day to day health suffer. She was able to golf, travel and spend time with family pretty much until the end. We all miss her very much, but are very thankful that we had the time that we did.

Rhio O’Connor believed strongly in the importance of educating current and future
leaders about the value of “thinking outside the box” when it came to the cause of cancer
and its rational treatment. To read about his story please visit the Surviving Mesothelioma website. Rhio's story sounds so much like my Tommie's. Not in the details of course, but in the spirit that they both had when they found out they were sick. Neither one hoped for anything else except for complete healing. Going into a battle with a demon like cancer and praying for anything less than complete healing is like a football team saying, "gee, I hope we score 14 points today, that should be enough to win." You cannot fight for anything without putting all your heart and soul into it.

Rhio took his fight one step farther. While respecting and listening to his doctors, he took it upon himself to be his own "general contractor". No one other than the patient has their interest more in mind. Like Rhio, I would take everything to the extreme. If I was looking at a particular treatment, I would find all of the information on it I could. Rhio did not have the benefit of a strong Internet when he got sick. Today you can find just about anything on the Internet. That is where I would start. I would find out which hospitals and professionals are the top in that field. I would then go directly to them. The next thing I would do would be to rally as many of my closest friends, classmates and church members as I could. The wonderful thing about friends is they are better than any Internet search could ever be. Too many people curl up and go away when they get sick. They don't want to seem like a burden or seem like they are looking for sympathy. I could care less about the sympathy part, but if my life is on the line I want all the help I can get.

Communication may be the strongest medicine we can administer to ourselves in the time of crisis. Being fulling informed does not mean just asking your doctors questions. It means finding information on your own. It means making those connections that will change the course of your treatments for the better.

A friend of mine was in a car accident 5yrs ago. His small pick up truck was struck broadside at 60mph. He rolled an estimated 5 times into a telephone pole which fell upon the upside down cab of the truck. The rescue crews did not believe he was alive because of the lack of space in the cab area. His wife was told to meet the helicopter at the pad at the hospital to say goodbye. He was paralyzed so badly that he had to be on a ventilator for almost 6 months. Through his persistence, faith and his wife's devotion he is now wheeling himself around in a wheel chair. His wife found treatments that have made significant progress in his recovery. His father-in-law started a web site that mainly provided updates on treatments and allowed friends and family to post prayers and well wishes. Through information received on this site they got some direction and inspiration for some specific new treatments. They are going to Russia every 6 months for stem cell treatments. It is not covered by their insurance or endorsed by his doctors here in the states, but through diligent research and prayer they decided to give it a chance. The results have been amazing. Their goal is for him to walk one day. Based upon his determination and progress so far I believe he will.

That is the type of determination and ingenuity that I hope to be able to exhibit if I myself or one of my family members is diagnosed with cancer. I would engage everyone I knew and let them know I will need their help with my illness and support. Cancer has touched so many lives. Just about everyone has someone who has suffered. That community knowledge base can be more valuable than any electronic search engine.

If you want more information on mesothelioma please visit