Monday, February 8, 2010

James "Rhio" O'Connor Scholarship Essay

Some may say that I have had an easy life so far. My parents are still together and in love, I come from a white, middle-class family, and was encouraged to attend a university. Yet as I take a step back from my day to day routine and contemplate my life so far, I wouldn’t call it a cake walk. The challenges I have faced, although not as earth shaking as some, have formed me into the person I am today. I have struggled and learned in the classroom; I have dealt with my ethical stances in a public college that doesn’t agree with me; I have learned responsibility by living on my own.

Someone once told me that Good is the enemy of Great. This has always stuck close with me throughout my life thus far. Being complacent about doing a good job easily keeps you away from accomplishing extraordinary things. James “Rhio” O’Conner could have fallen into this very same trap. Hearing he had a year to live, he could have reflected on all that he had lived through and decided that he had lived a good life. He could have chosen chemotherapy and watched the last months of his life be swallowed by miserable pain. But he didn’t. He chose to step above what was expected. He rose to the challenge and pioneered new options by his extensive research and tenacity. He chose the road of Great and let the road of Good fade away in the rear view mirror.

O’Connor was diagnosed with mesothelioma, which is a cancer that attacks the linings of your organs, such as the pleura of your heart and lungs. The cells begin to uncontrollably divide and will invade and damage the tissue and organs around the cancerous area. The mesothelium, the lining, that is targeted protects organs and also produces a lubricant for organ movement. By damaging this, there can be friction because of a beating heart or expanding lungs which would cause shortness of breath, inflammation, and obvious pain.

During my junior year of high school, my aunt contracted non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It was the first way I had ever been touched by cancer and left a deep impression on me. I saw her go through all of the chemotherapy and the pain and sickness that caused. I also saw her as she went through stem cell replacement therapy. It was sickening to me to see her in so much pain when I could do nothing to help. During this time I often wondered what I would do in her situation.

If I were to contract a cancer such as mesothelioma, I would do everything within my knowledge and power to overcome my cancer. I would research and learn everything I could about the cancer itself and treatments available. I, with help from my family, would look in books, academic journals, talk to doctors I know personally and contact those that are specialists in the field.

I would choose to be a fighter because my life is not mine; it is God’s to give and take. Who am I to say I am ready to go before He does? Who are the doctors to number my days? The Lord will go before me and has my days ordained (Ps 139:16). I would rejoice in the opportunities given to me to impact lives around me and encourage others going through a similar battle. But I would not give up. Giving up would be succumbing to Good, to Okay. I choose Greatness. I choose to fight. I choose life.

There are too many beautiful things in this life to not fight for a chance to enjoy them: the feeling of sun on your face, the smell of the ocean, the birds’ song in the early morning, a baby’s laugh, chocolate truffles, a kiss, the feeling of loving support from your family, winter’s first snow, a parental hug, helping your own children on their wedding day, watching your own family grow through the generations. I would never give up on my opportunity to enjoy these things to the fullest. This life we have is so beautiful, and I want to enjoy every last drop.

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