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I don’t believe statistics.  This is different than saying I don’t believe in them.  There are scientific and mathematical theories that explain how they do reflect a certain reality.  But when I hear the phrase “statistically speaking” I check out.  It’s another one of those stick my fingers in my ears and LA-LA-LA-LA I’m not listening moments.

Perhaps my mistrust in statistics is rooted in a phrase from my childhood that I often heard my father say.  “Figures can lie and liars can figure.”  The lesson I took from it was to have the confidence to question things even if, in all appearances, they seemed to add up.  That just because numbers are involved it doesn’t mean that’s where the story ends.

Lately, as I’ve spent more time on some of the great websites out there offering resources and support to cancer survivors and their loved ones, I have seen more and more posts by patients and caregivers sharing stories of being told by doctors their life expectancy.  For the most part, the message these people have for the medical world is don’t impose your made up time frame on me….because the reality is, no one knows for sure how long any of us have.

We have the right to know what is going on with our health.  We need to know certain things to be able to make informed choices.  But the degree to which we wish to know the “facts” should also be a choice. It’s an important conversation to have up front with your medical team.

Gary didn’t want to know the list of potential side effects chemo may have or may not have had on him. He didn’t want to expect to lose his hair, experience nausea, become foggy from chemo brain or consider the possibility of not being able to work.  He did lose his hair.  He was sometimes sick from the chemo but he was able to work when he wanted to and was clear headed throughout his entire illness.

He had to deal with certain realities and side effects but by not anticipating what might happen, he didn’t waste time and energy worrying about things that never came to pass.  This gave us more resources to invest in generating some balance to still have moments of life in between treatments, blood draws and doctor’s appointments.

When Gary was first diagnosed, one of our medical team tried to put us at ease by assuring us that, “If you’re going to get cancer then Hodgkin’s is the second best kind to get next to testicular because the cure rates are so high.”

Statistically speaking, Gary should have survived.  But he did not.  I don’t believe statistics.

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