I’m not in much of a writing mood today. This past Friday, a friend of mine died—another one from the ravages of cancer. Counting my brother, Lynn became the fourth one this year.
She was never much when it came to gushing about anyone or anything, except for her daughter and her two grandchildren. Whenever it came to these three, her pride and joy radiated state-wide.
Even though I often wanted to, I would never have gushed about her in life because it would have mortified her to tears, and just because she’s not around to slap me silly for doing so NOW, I’m not going to do it here, either.
But, for the record, while cancer did take her life, it failed miserably at snapping her indomitable spirit, and I’m going to miss her more than any words could adequately express.
I promised myself decades ago during my time in Viet Nam, that if I made it out of that hell-hole outside of a body bag, I’d never sweat the small stuff again.
And while I’ve faithfully kept that promise, people with 3-digit IQs, who have watched helplessly as loved ones wasted away from its ravages, realize that cancer isn’t small stuff; it’s downright terrifying.
And, looking back as I approach my mid-70s, I’m struck by how dominate a factor cancer has been within the very core of my own family. It has taken 40% of it. And if I start counting aunts and uncles, it’s even worse. My wife is, so far, a cancer survivor.
And yes, I’m well aware that many forms of cancer are avoidable via more sensible lifestyle decisions. And that, given the historical statistics surrounding this disease, hordes of people are still playing Russian roulette when it comes to certain lifestyle decisions.
But regardless of how one chooses to live, in a simplified nut-shell—and I do mean VERY simplified—cancer is a disease of gene-mutation.
Each human cell contains about 23,000-genes. Some genes command cells to grow, and others command them to stop. Malignant cancer is the result of growth-control cells mutating and causing malignant dysregulated cell-growth.
Smoking, habitual crappy diets, prolonged excessive alcohol consumption, and extended exposure to unhealthy environmental conditions—voluntary or otherwise—simply increase cancer’s odds of occurrence.
As far as diagnosing it goes, it’s not a particularly tough medical task for trained personnel. But—and I base this on personal experience—for those patients awaiting test results, it’s absolutely agonizing. It’s close to the top of my worst nightmares list.
And as bad as this is for adults, it does not come close in comparison to what those parents who find themselves awaiting cancer test results for their young children go through.
And even though my children are grown and well into their own lives and careers, I still cringe at the thought of one of them being diagnosed with cancer. I don’t know what I would have done had I been forced to undergo such an agonizing wait when they were youngsters.
And then, of course, we have the annually published odds regarding cancer, which many people simply don’t understand.
I’m actually inclined to elevate it to MOST. Inferential statistics is tough enough for us math freaks to understand. It’s a virtual impossibility for—as my longtime friend Bruce B. calls them—math phobes to understand.
To begin with, odds are dynamic, not static. For example, the odds of dying from a specific cause in any given year are calculated by dividing THAT year’s population by the number of THAT year’s deaths from THAT specific cause.
The lifetime odds may then be calculated by dividing THAT one-year’s odds by the life expectancy of a person born in THAT year. Here’s an example.
According to the American Cancer Society, the projected number of cancer cases for 2014 will have been 1,665,540, and 585,720 of those cases will have died.
This arithmetic stipulates that IF you’re diagnosed with cancer, on average, your chances of dying as a result are 1 in 2.84 or, in terms of odds: 1.84 to 1. This is scary, but it has nothing to do with one’s overall chances or odds of dying from some form of cancer.
According to the U. S. Census Bureau, the projected U. S. population by the end of 2014 will have been 319,094,000 people. The number of people who will have died from cancer is 585,720 people (see above).
The arithmetic, therefore, dictates that for the year 2014, one’s chances of dying from some form of cancer are 1 in 545. And according to World Statistics, average U. S. life expectancy is 79.56 years.
So the lifetime chances for someone born in the year 2014 dying from SOME form of cancer are 1 in 6.85 (odds of 5.85 to 1). Granted, these odds still suck, but not as bad as odds of 1.84 to 1 do.
And, according to the Social Security Administration, if you’re a male who turned sixty-five in 2014, you can expect—on average—to live to the age of 84.3-years. Women, on the other hand, can expect to live to 86.6-years.
And you know WHAT? Cancer notwithstanding, and even though I turned sixty-five a long time ago, I’m all for this as long as I can still make it into the bathroom, remember to pull my zipper DOWN, and that drooling has NOT come to dominate my personality!