Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ways to Go

If you have dealt with cancer, as patient or caregiver, you know the questions from friends and acquaintances: “Is there a family history?” “Did she smoke?” “Wasn’t he overweight?” “I think he had a lot of anger?”

Translation: There must be some reason that you have cancer and I won’t get it. However, we have numbers to help us sort the crowd. And to remember that cancer is not a moral issue or a character weakness or a personal failing. Maybe this also helps if you are asking, “Why Me?” In truth, why not you?

From the National Safety Council we have statistics that reveal what holds the greatest chance of ending a life. Here are some of the lifetime probabilities of a US resident dying. These are expressed as odds of dying:

Heart disease: 1 in 5

Cancer: 1 in 7

Stroke: 1 in 24

Falling: 1 in 128

Pedestrian accident: 1 in 626

Drowning: 1 in 1,008

Airplane accident: 1 in 5,051

Lightening: 1 in 79,000

So this tells us that cancer is very common with little discrimination and so shouldn’t we all be learning more? It also tells us that heart disease should be our biggest worry, so swap out those pink ribbons for red ones. But the biggest thing we need to be facing is our own mortality. The total odds of dying, of any cause, are 1 in 1. 100% of us will die. You’d think, given that, that we’d get a little bit better at dealing with it.

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