I 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!