IN a modern-day Chanukah miracle, peritoneal mesothelioma sufferer Galy O’Connor helped save 26 lives including her own by ensuring that everyone on a waiting list for lifesaving surgery was operated upon before the start of 2017.
Late last year, O’Connor launched a change.org petition calling upon Health Minister Jillian Skinner to urgently fund more theatre time and ICU beds for patients waiting for lifesaving surgery. Signed by almost 100,000 people, the petition achieved its goals with all the patients receiving the critical operations they needed.
After waiting for more than a year herself, O’Connor received her 10-hour operation on November 28.
“It was major,” she told The AJN this week. “My disease hides itself in your body and they found more of it than they anticipated. I wouldn’t have made it to January without that operation. It was big and the recovery was so painful. People should not have to go through what I went through.”
As O’Connor recovered in the hospital, the wards were full of patients that had also had their operations.
“This 18-year-old girl came up to me and asked me if I was Galy O’Connor … She gave me a big hug and said, ‘Thank you for saving my mum’. Sometimes I wonder why this is all happening to me, and I thought, ‘Oh, that’s why’.”
Home with her family for the holidays, O’Connor is enjoying things that she never thought she’d be able to again.
“I couldn’t believe it, but I actually went out on New Year’s Eve. I watched the fireworks with my husband …Everything I do is great. I can’t complain about anything. It’s much better to be alive than to be faced with the possibility of not being alive, which is all I had before.”
Although her cancer has been eradicated, the battle is “far from over”.
“I’ve got to stay in touch with the relevant people to make sure that the waiting lists stay short and that you’ll be operated on within two to three weeks if it’s life threatening and not wait a year like I had to,” O’Connor said. “That was a terrible year. It never should have happened.”
When asked what her future looks like now, O’Connor replied that she was going to start training again so that she could go back to her hobby of mountain climbing, continue her study of art therapy and above all, stay positive.
“It’s about choosing your state of mind and choosing to be happy and fight for yourself and others. We all have choices and I made a choice … I was not going to wait to die.”