Statistics are the worst. I even hesitate to write this as I worry someone going through the same diagnosis and treatment as I did may read it and get upset, but hopefully it is encouraging because I am one of the ones who "beat the odds".
It’s so easy to find statistics these days and many of them are not even correct. When I was diagnosed, I definitely struggled with what to read and what not to read. I tried to avoid them as much as possible, but I know those around me saw them as soon as they googled my diagnosis. I would even occasionally have someone ask me if I was going to die.
Even when you are trying to avoid the statistics, it's hard not to see them. Sometimes a number would pop up when I was looking at something else and I would try so hard to erase it from my brain and remember that everyone is different and that each type of cancer has so many subtypes and intricacies. But ignoring the statistics is easier said than done when it's your life you’re talking about. When I did read something, it usually spoke of someone's relapse, which wasn't exactly what I wanted to hear about.
My situation was even more difficult because I worked for a cancer organization after I finished treatment. It got harder and harder to avoid seeing the specific statistics to my diagnosis as much as I tried. Since I hadn't reached five years yet, it didn't always go over well and I often needed a minute to regroup at work. It's a balance to remain professional, but also give yourself the care you need.
Now that it has been 6.5 years since my diagnosis, I can handle reading statistics, but they still give me chills. It's hard to describe what it is like to read something that says you really shouldn't be alive. Only someone who has faced their own mortality at a young age can describe this. Is the reason I am alive just luck? Being on the right side of the statistics? I use statistics to show people why the fight is not done and that more research and money is needed. Unfortunately those numbers are sometimes needed for people to see the severity of a disease because I still encounter people who think it was no big deal that I had cancer or that think I should stop talking about it.
Statistics are also a good reminder that it’s okay to celebrate myself
and the fact that I am alive. However, it also makes the survivor's guilt
that much more present, especially since the majority of people I met with the same diagnosis as me have passed away. A nurse once told me she was told not to get too close to me (she said, "too late"). An emergency room doctor told me I had "the worst diagnosis possible for someone my age."
As I celebrate six years since finishing treatment for Leukemia, I will never ever forget those words. I haven’t done it yet, but I still want to go back and find that ER doctor some day and say, "I'm still here."
Have you ever struggled with statistics during or after your cancer journey? Share your experience in the comments below!
Photo courtesy of IHadCancer