Thursday, March 29, 2012

"Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things"...

That's the beginning of a quote from The Shawshank Redemption. It was a much safer title for a post than the original title that I had selected which was:   "FUCK STATISTICS".

This is a shout out to all of you websites, and authors of articles out there, who feel absolutely compelled to assault your cancer survivor readership with statistics....all of the time.   When you start every article with " ______, the deadliest form of cancer".  Or "one in 25 people with ____cancer will die.” ENOUGH.

WHAT IS UP WITH THIS????? SERIOUSLY. How would you feel if every single article you read about "your" type of cancer began with this?   Way to go instilling hope in someone who is newly diagnosed….NOT.

There may be some valuable information in an article. But do I want to send it to a patient when the opener starts like that?????

Here is what I know. There are patients that I know that "should have" been dead long ago based on statistics.   Yet, they are still here, thriving, and ALIVE.   

One of my favorite patients was told by some horrific doctor "by this time next year, you will most likely be dead". So every year on the anniversary of his appointment with that doctor, my patient wrote that doctor the nastiest of letters. My patient’s rationale? "Every year when he gets my letter, he's going to WISH that I was dead". I thought this was a scream.  No, I am not urging you all to write nasty letters to your doctors.  But that insensitive doctor deserved one. 

To patients, I say: use statistics to help you when you need to make a decision between treatments based on their historical effectiveness rate in clinical trials.   Then take the rest of those “1 in 265 patients with _____” statistics you read about and put them away.

I am also not telling you to live in denial.   "Okay, I get it.  My cancer is serious.  Now what is the plan?"

You are you. You are strong. You are fabulous.  You are a fighter.   You have friends and family who love you.   Many of you have faith in a higher power.   Many of you have faith in science.  Many of you have faith in both.  No mortal can say for sure what your course will be, even a doctor.
Doctors may have statistics that can sometimes guide you, and that is the right way to use statistics.  But doctors are not God, and statistics are numbers.  Every doctor or nurse out there can tell you stories about "miracles" or things that are "unexplained".  We also don't know everything there is to know about cancer yet.  We have a lot more to learn.  As long as there is research there is hope.

My patient who wrote the nasty letter to his doctor? At one point he got extremely depressed because every article that he read, assaulted him with the statistics of his disease. He just couldn’t shake the horrible statistics that leapt out at him on every page.

Finally one day I said to him (in a most unprofessional way), "Fuck Statistics”!!!!! Well, he howled with laughter. It became a frequently repeated catch phrase between us. I would repeat it sometimes when he was low, just to get him to laugh.

One day when he was due for CT scans and was horribly nervous, he sent me an email.   He said, "Every 3 months it gets harder. You wonder, is this the last set? What's the last tune? I get frightened. But then a little voice whispers softly to me, a voice that's not usually soft, but when needed can be.   And I remember 2 words:   "Fuck Statistics".

So, to all of you writers of “cancer” articles out there, I implore you!!!   You can get your message across without always clubbing someone over the head with the stats. To all of you cancer survivors out there?  Use statistics to choose the path, but choose HOPE to take you down the path.  Hope is a powerful thing.

On "HOPE"...

"Hope is a good thing- maybe the best of things... and no good thing ever dies." - Andy Dufresne (The Shawshank Redemption)

“So make your best choice. Be aggressive. Expect good results. If the results are bad, move in a different direction. Until the very worst happens, if it does, there is always cause for hope.” Bob Simpson.

“Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without the words, and never stops at all.” EMILY DICKINSON

“We all hope. It's what keeps us alive.” DAVID MAMET

“Hope is tenacious. It goes on living and working when science has dealt it what should be its deathblow”.   PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR”


  1. As a Ocular Melanoma patient I love your Blog !
    I have just shared it on my Facebook wall so that my friends from my Melanoma support group can also enjoy ... I just had to quote you and put in "FUCK STATISTICS" :)

    1. Hey Ocular Melanoma Patient!!! I LOVED YOUR COMMENT!!!! So sorry not to respond earlier... for some reason your comment was in my spam file. Thanks for reading and YES, FUCK STATISTICS. Hope is the best of things!!!! Thanks for spreading the word about my little blog on FB. ROCK ON!!!

  2. Please list and on the resource list. Thanks Sandy!

  3. Julie,
    Thanks for mentioning this!!! Had them only under financial resources. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Elliefund and SAMfund!!!
    Thanks for all of the incredible work you do!!!