Tell HER-2 Stick Those Stats Where the Sun Don’t Shine

You know what I usually do when something really upsets me?  I usually sit down on my kitchen floor and cry.  It’s not the most comfortable place to cry (that would be my husband’s arms) but I often end up there.  I seem to have a need to get low to the ground.  Get terra firma (or kitchen tile) under me so I don’t wobble and break like a teacup. 

I tell you this because I recently spent some time on my kitchen floor, right after reading this story in the Ottawa Citizen, which talks about a new program for young women with HER-2 positive breast cancer.  “Sounds great,” I thought.  “Maybe I’ll get involved,” thought I.

And there, smack in the middle of the article was this line:

“…it’s easy to see why HER2 is so feared: In a study last year at the University of Texas, women with early stage HER2-positive tumours were reported to have a 23-per-cent survival rate, compared with 90 per cent for breast cancer patients who do not test positive for the protein.”

Plop – straight to the floor.  Tears (big fat ones) and terror (also robust) ensued. How dare they?  How dare they just hit me with that 23% when I really and truly believed that I would beat this?  Believed it to the point that I publicly chastised anyone who didn’t believe it.  I more than believed it – I was full of conviction; I knew I would beat it.  And then, one little line in one little article sends me to the kitchen floor, my conviction shattered and my mascara all over the place?? 

Yes, actually.  That’s all it took.  Suddenly I was aware that my steely resolve and hell-bent determination are a little more fragile than I realized.

Slowly, the fatso tears became little spatters and then stopped altogether and reason – or my version of it — took over. I concluded that deeming the University of Texas researchers a bunch of hacks was appropriate.  As was feeling very unkindly toward the reporter who included that line in her story.  Thanks a lot, stupid no-cancer-having lady, for your blithe reference to these death stats concerning something I have to live with every day. Why don’t you go back to writing about five great picnic spots in our nation’s capital and leave me to my shattered optimism.

There – being nasty made me feel better already.  Next I went into action mode, pouring myself a nice big glass of wine and Googling all the statistics for various kinds of death, thinking surely it’s harder to survive car accidents and parasitic infections?

That’s when I found a story about that crocodile hunter guy. Yes, the crocodile hunter guy.  I know this sounds completely irrelevant, but stay with me:  There he was, Steve Irwin, cheerfully bounding around swamps and wrestling dangerous reptiles one day – then suddenly pierced through the ticker by a normally gentle sea creature the next.  He didn’t know what was going to happen to him when he went into the reef that day.  He probably had fewer reservations about swimming with those big portobello mushrooms than he would ever have had about hanging out in croc-infested swamps — and you can bet the stats for crocodile deaths are much higher than for death-by-sting-ray. 

Which is when I realized that statistics are for morons.  In reality, you can never know when or how you’ll die, you can only choose how you’ll live.  Some people wrestle reptiles, some wrestle cancer.  In the end, the obvious danger may not be the thing that strikes you down.  After all, that’s why I still wear a bicycle helmet.

So, thank-you dearly departed crocodile guy – I bet you never thought you’d come to the rescue of a Canadian girl with HER-2 positive cancer.  Life is full of surprises, and stupid statistics abound, but I am going to live.  This cancer is not going to win. I knew I cracked open the Australian wine for a reason.

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3 Comments

Filed under Living with Breast Cancer

3 responses to “Tell HER-2 Stick Those Stats Where the Sun Don’t Shine

  1. Anita

    So sorry you had such a bad day.

    I came here to give you a pep talk, but not only did you give one to yourself, but there’s nothing wrong with having bad days. It’s okay to be scared, hugging the linoleum tile, as long as you have people around you to help you up, give you a hug (and make sure that tile is clean).

    The thing is, there’s no point in pessimism. It just won’t help, and whatever won’t help needs to get thrown overboard until you’re safely on shore. I know – easier said than done, but you’ve got a knack for looking on the bright side.

    And the bright side, while it may not be blaringly bright, is that twenty-three out of a hundred women survived. No matter how bad the news, no matter what the articles said – they survived.

    Doctors know what they know until they know something else. And you can be one of the twenty-three.

    Big hugs.

    ❤ Anita

  2. Gwen

    Great title to the Blog! Turn the enemy into a joke and it loses a lot of its power. You have a talent for that, Leanne. Another thing to remember is that statistical studies rely on stats gathered over past years. Cancer treatments are changing quickly, probably more quickly than atats can be collected and results compiled. So the 23% quoted is likely to be inaccurate now, if it ever was accurate in the first place. Remember, there are lies, damned lies and STATISTICS!!

  3. Lisa Dunn

    One of the best things I ever read after I was dianosed was to remember that you are person and NOT a statistic. Each cancer patient is unique. And as my wise mother-in-law pointed out, no one is guaranteed tomorrow. So you are right, you can only choose how you will live today. Ignore the stats and keep hope alive! By the way, a bottle of Australian wine sounds great 🙂

    Lisa

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