Why does one patient, like Mike Katz of New York City, live 20 years with multiple myeloma and is still doing well while a neighbor, Dale, with the same diagnosis, has been given just a short time to live after three years?
Why am I living well 10 years after treatment for leukemia when others, who received the same treatment, are no longer with us?
We are starting to unlock some of the answers as doctors test our bodies to understand the exact biology of our cancers and aim personalized treatment at the offending cancer cells. But so much is not known yet about why one person responds to medicines and another does not.
We also are often clueless why one person develops cancer in the first place and others who live and work alongside them, even identical twins, do not.
That is why statistics can be meaningless. While most people might have a short life with, for example, lung cancer, some people survive. You are the statistic that counts, not some bigger number on a page.
That doesn’t mean we all shouldn’t understand reality and understand the odds. But we do need to understand how reality applies – or doesn’t – to our own situation.
Katz, in our recent myeloma webcast, is an inspiration. So is David Smith, the 39-year-old Austin, Texas firefighter who was diagnosed with rare adrenal cancer and a featured guest in an upcoming program. One doctor told him he had a short time to live. That was a year ago and now he’s back to work.
My message is don’t buy into the statistics. Never give up hope. And know one other person’s experience with what seems like the same disease may be very different from yours.