Here in Southwest Michigan, we are on pins and needles due to Eastern Equine Encephalitis from mosquito bites. I’m a mosquito magnet. I’m not exaggerating, it’s bad. I can work myself into a panic about this encephalitis scare. And it is scary, but the statistics are in my favor. They are in everyone’s favor. It’s like the chance of a tornado hitting your home in your lifetime, statistically it’s rare, however it does still happen to real people.
I have encountered people who are attempting to make sense of diagnosis recently. I’m most frustrated to hear how specific the numbers are. I understand the need of medical teams to build awareness and warning for people at risk. Putting our heads in the sand is not good yet statistics are just variables. Sometimes there is a perception of definitiveness because, “the doctor said.” People can take serious stock in these numbers and make quick and severe health decisions. It’s like, “You have a 1 in 3 chance of having X disease.” Forgetting that the other side of that number is, you have a 2 in 3 chance of NOT having X disease.
I’m not advocating anything. I only want to make the case for keeping the faith. My heart has been reaching out towards these newly diagnosed persons and I’m just feeling compelled to share my own story of living within statistics and variables.
I have first-hand experience attempting to make sense of diagnosis. The second time my breast cancer returned, I was frustrated and had gained an extensive education on all things breast cancer. I swiftly made the decision to have a double mastectomy. I wanted to beat the numbers and removing both breasts would clearly put me ahead of the curve. My doctors weren’t keen on be making such a brash decision, but they did eventually agree. I knew if I could reduce my risk drastically that I could live without fear. Problem solved for about 3 years.
The statistics were no longer so reliable when my cancer came back the third time, it was growing rapidly and outside of the lymph system. My radio-oncologist pounded her fist on the desk while planning her attack. She would have no part in talking statistics, it was just about action. My oncologist is less animated, yet he wasn’t about to talk numbers with me either. I finally went to Barnes and Noble and grabbed a book which clearly stated that my particular diagnosis gave me a year to live. I took that statistic back to the oncologist and he refused again to talk numbers. I’m eternally grateful for these two and their commitment to keeping the focus on the positives only. The stories they heard from other physicians all over the country that they were consulting on my care. The new studies. My youth. It was hard on my medical team, they are humans too, and they were scared, I could see that on their faces, but they held faith.
I’m here 18 years later to write my story but my viewpoint on health and statistics in general remains rattled. I’m not perfect at staying calm in light of health scares. I certainly learned through the impossible that the whole experience softened when I flipped to the positive side and lived from that space. Lastly, what I most know is that whatever comes my way, I can handle it and you can too. You got this! Keep the faith and don’t forget the bug spray!