1 Farris 1 James Rhio O Conner Memorial Scholarship Essay Cancer is a growing medical phenomenon that is continuing to increase and take the lives of many people. There are several beliefs and opinions as to why this is such a serious problem. Along with the awareness of the disease has come a variety of treatments including conventional, experimental, and alternative. Many people diagnosed with cancer are unaware of what to expect with different forms of treatment, as well as the potential outcome of poor quality of life and/or death. There is so much that we are not aware of when it comes to cancer and its treatments, there is also so much that we are trying to discover, as well as the many remedies that have been used for centuries. Rhio O Conner was a man diagnosed with mesothelioma at age 61; he was a man that defied the odds. James Rhio O Conner was diagnosed with Mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer, he was given less than a year to live. Doctors suggested that he venture on a cruise with his wife and, when he returned home to begin hospice care. Rhio did not accept that suggestion as an answer; he wanted to fight and beat the cancer that was predicted to take his life in a short period of time (survingmesothelioma.com/survivors/rhio-o-conner). This form of aggressive cancer is caused by an exposure to asbestos, a substance found in insulation that is made from the chrysotile, which is a group of minerals that possesses excellent fire and heat resistant properties. The use of these minerals dated back many years, before it was discovered to cause health issues, it was used for a variety of purposes. Asbestos was used in factories, heavy industries, oil refineries, chemical plants, railroad cars, shipyards, pipes and countless more. Rhio O Conner was exposed to asbestos when he was younger this causing him to develop Mesothelioma (mesothelioma.com/asbestos-exposure/).
2 Farris 2 Mesothelioma is a result of asbestos being inhaled; allowing these microscopic fibers results in the fibers becoming lodged within the outer lung tissue layer the mesothelium. The mesothelium is a thin layer of collected cells that protect and lubricate the chest cavity. The asbestos causes inflammation of the cells of this layer producing harmful scar tissue. Scare tissue can become cancerous when the contact inhibition between cells has been disrupted resulting in uncontrolled mitosis-cancerous cells (mesothelioma.com/asbestos-exposure/). Once a person is diagnosed with Mesothelioma treatment begins immediately due to the aggressive nature of this form of cancer. Treatment is determined by the stage of cancer diagnosed. Other tests begin with determining whether the cancer is benign. Benign cancer cells are collection of cells-tumor that are classified as non-cancerous, and cannot spread to surrounding tissue within the body. Malignant cancer cells on the other hand, do spread when the cancer has metastasized and these cancerous cells are spread throughout the body via blood, lymphatic vessels, or membranes surfaces. This is when a person s diagnosis can become detrimental. (mesothelioma.com/treatment/conventional/). Treatments can be of three different types, conventional, experimental, and alternative forms. Conventional treatments encompass chemotherapy, radiation, and/or surgery. Often radiation is used for patients diagnosed with Mesothelioma that cannot undergo surgery, radiation begins to kill small deposits of the cancerous cells that might not be seen during the surgical procedure. This is a process in which high energy beams of radiation are targeted to kill the cancerous cells. Chemotherapy is another form of treatment in which the use of drugs is targeted to kill cancerous cells. This form of treatment is a systemic therapy approach which most often comes with severe side effects, just like various other treatments. Once the drugs are taken, they
3 Farris 3 disperse all throughout the body systemically, killing and destroying cancerous cells. However, during this process good healthy cells may also be damaged; in most cases, these are the bloodproducing cells which causes people utilizing chemotherapy to have a low blood cell count. Because of the inherent threats to the healthy cells of the patient, chemotherapy is a highly monitored regiment involving specific drugs, quantities, and duration are specialized towards each patient. These are catered to people in various ways in efforts to destroy the dangerous cells while reducing side effects, which includes: infection, excessive bleeding or bruising, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, and many more (mesothelioma.com/treatment/conventional/). Surgery is one of the most debated forms of treatments for people diagnosed with mesothelioma as it can take on two forms: curative or relief. There are several factors physicians and treatment specialists have to be cautious of. When some recommendations these treatment options, some forms of surgery are less invasive and are used to help with discomfort within patients, some including thoracentesis and peritoneal mesothelioma. These procedures are performed to remove fluid to help with breathing and discomfort. Yet these forms of surgery are not performed to cure the cancer. Surgery can be dangerous, any surgery performed on patients with cancer runs the risk of the spreading of the cancerous cells. There have been many cases in which surgery is performed to remove the cancer, or to help with discomfort of the patient, and the cancer is spread throughout the body. Curative surgery is performed only when the cancer is localized and the cancer cells can be completely removed. Yet, once again, it is dangerous in not only the person undergoing the surgery, yet the spreading of cancer as well (mesothelioma.com/treatment/conventional/). Experimental treatments are efforts in treating cancer that are still being tested. In some situations patients reach a point in which any effort towards the betterment of their future is
4 Farris 4 worth the risk. A variety of experimental treatments include: Gene Therapy, Immunotherapy, Photodynamic therapy, and Multimodality Therapy. Each of these treatments are still being tested and perfected in whatever way possible (mesothelioma.com/treatment/conventional/). Lastly, there are alternative treatments which encompass a variety of options. These avenues include homeopathy, light therapy, biofeedback, Feng Shui, health coaching, acupuncture, chiropractic care, aromatherapy, herbal and nutritional supplements, and many more. I do believe that some physicians do not recommend these alternatives because they feel that they do not want there to be reliable results. I find that a physicians may be hesitant in ways to advice their patients to seek these alternative remedies. Yet a physician that is willing to care for the patient and provide them with whatever form of treatment that could possibly be beneficial, is admirable and should offer their compassion and knowledge to their patients. I myself have been fortunate to not have to face the wrath of cancer, yet I have witnessed many of my close family members, co-workers, and friends face that battle. It is a life-altering experience, and devastating for many (mesothelioma.com/treatment/conventional/). Unlike James Rhio O Conner, some may not have that fight within them, or the knowledge to fight back. They may comply with whatever treatments they have been given and seek no further resolutions. A dear friend of mine and coworker was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at a young age. She was told that she would have to undergo chemotherapy and radiation as well as have a complete hysterectomy. It was all of the sudden and unexpected, but she was not ready to give up. Similar to Rhio O Conner she resisted having her surgery and fought back against cancer. She went through with the chemotherapy but sought for other forms of treatment. Her physician then recommended that she do a lemon pyramid. What that is, is a cycle in which she would consume lemons for 24 days, the first day she would begin by eating one lemon, the
5 Farris 5 second two lemons, and so on and so forth until she reached a consumption of twelve lemons in one day. Once she had reached twelve lemons, she then would taper down, hence forming a pyramid. This alternative was an effort to cure her cancer, allow her life to progress. She is now a happy mother of two beautiful children and has been cancer free for many years. The reality is that we are still trying to advance and understand how exactly to treat and cure cancer. There are numerous aspects and experiments taking place daily to find that cure. Yet cancer is evolving and it takes a large amount of money to test theories and run experiments. In ways, I find that some alternative may have yet to be fully tested due to the lack of funding, and with no funding it is difficult to patent an alternative treatment as a form of a cure. Many corporate drug companies fund the immense amount of dollars for the experiments in finding treatments, in order to make a profit. In many ways it seems as though the treatment is not the goal of their research, but rather it is the amount of profit they will gain from the drugs or treatments that are formulated through the experiments. I feel that even through my experience of educating myself on mesothelioma I have come to realize that there needs to be more awareness of these alternative treatments. There can be preventative measures people can take to help their bodies fight against cancer, and provide over all well-being. It is important for one to be aware of their surroundings and what may be presented to them. Knowledge is a critical key in life and I feel that there may be ways in which we can help further that knowledge and awareness for many people.