Beating the Odds

michelle-yonah-33-of-33I have always hated math.  It is no secret. Anyone who has known me for any length of time can tell you.  I regularly communicate to my students that when I was a kid, I used to pray to God every night to take away multiplication. I distinctly remember this prayer, because it was one that he never answered.  Instead, I tell the kids, I had to be diligent and study hard to learn the tables by memory.  I do not say to them that I didn’t finally get all of the answers memorized until I was a fourth grade teacher!  My aversion to math is deep, so when I was diagnosed with cancer and percentages were tossed around I cringed…more at the numbers than the cancer. I had two types, ovarian and uterine. Two…that was simple math…even I can count to two.  I also knew that 50/50 was an equal chance between two outcomes, because everybody knows that. When they gave the survival rate for my types of cancer, my mind had to work.  If 85% don’t survive, then what is the percentage of those that do?  In case you are also bad at math; the answer is 15%.  Not such good odds…but I beat them.

One thing about Cancerland is that it is a place of statistics.  Measuring things is something all the researchers do, so almost every stage of your journey has numbers attached to it.  Because of my aversion to math, I avoided all those percentages as much as possible.  I didn’t know until years later that only 1 in 10,000 are diagnosed in stage 1. You’ve heard of people being one in a million? Well, I am one in 10,000. 🙂 I also didn’t know that nearly 100% of ovarian cancer patients have a reoccurrence of their cancer in the first year after treatment. I had heard that the number is reduced each year you survive.  But still, to me, 87% still seems pretty high a number of ovarian survivors who have a reoccurrence before 10 years is up.  I preferred not to know these statistics.  Or to pretend I didn’t know them.  Some competitive folks like to know the numbers so they know what they are up against, and that is fine for them, but not me, I have never been a competitive person.

The thing is, if I am honest, fear becomes a companion when you go into Cancerland.  It does not leave you after treatment, either.  It hides out in the corners of your mind in the shadows where the boogey man lives…only cancer is a real monster, not imagined. At any point it can rear its ugly self and you are right back in the very real nightmare.  It is enough to cause anxiety for even the most fearless of people.

However, today I am putting the fear away.  Today is my 10-year-cancer-free-Michelle’s-alive-day celebration.  Today numbers are my friend because I beat the odds.  Today percentages matter.  I become a regular person who has the same odds as any other person.  I am no longer at a higher risk to get ovarian cancer again.  It is a day for dancing.  And smiling.  And being light hearted.  A day to put the percentages of getting other types of cancer aside and to walk in the healing that belongs to me. Today I am 100% a miracle!

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11 thoughts on “Beating the Odds

  1. Hi Michelle,
    Congratulations and you truly have been blessed. While reading your post, I couldn’t believe it. Here is another area we have in common; cancer. I was diagnosed in 2005 with stage 1 non-invasive bladder cancer. I fought it for five years with reoccurring tumors. When the tumors became aggressive, we started a chemo wash treatment. After two years of treatment, I have now been six years since I had a tumor regrowth. That was cancer #1
    In 2013, I was diagnosed with stage 2 Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. I did six rounds of aggressive chemo and then 6 weeks of radiation treatment. I have now been cancer free for three years.
    I love your analogy of numbers and survival rates. Oh Yes, they do throw them out to you and it scares the pants off of you. Bladder cancer has a high reoccurrence rate and I was a witness to that. Unless Bladder Cancer tumors are invasive, hardly anyone dies of bladder cancer. However with males, having it show up in the prostate is something you do have worry about. With the stage 2 Lymphoma, I too had a 50/50 survival rate. If you beat three years without reoccurrence, then your rates go up to 75/25 after five years it goes to 85% survival rate. However with my type of lymphoma, my doctor tells me that reoccurrence rates are the highest between years three and five
    I very much understand your elation of reaching that magic number where reoccurrence and survival numbers are in your favor. You do hold your breath and every ache or pain you think the cancer is back.Been there done that…as they say.
    I’m sure if you haven’t already, you will be on your knees thanking God for carrying you through all of this. For me it is all about prayer and keeping a positive attitude. It has seen me through this much, I’m sure it will carry me the rest of the way. I understand and share your elations. God Bless.

  2. Wow Chuck…what a great thing…three years is huge. I think of every year I add as extra time. Prayer carried me then, and every test, scan, and lab is covered in it. It’s the only thing that is reliable in the cancer journey. Thanks for the comment and congrats on your three year!

  3. Congratulations, Michelle!! I am also 1 in 10,000!!!! I was recently diagnosed in November, but removal of the tumor and ovary at an early stage prevented me from having chemo or further treatment. I thank God for this and have never been so humble. My mother passed away from Ovarian Cancer in 2013, but she still surpassed the statistics that were given to her. She had Stage 3C and lived for 7 years even though they told her she would live 1 year. We had an amazing time together in those 7 years. Thank you for sharing your story!

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