Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Meaning of the Median

Eight months ago today I was lying on the couch eating Trader Joe's fish sticks. Those days, I was so short of breath that sitting at the dinner table and eating was a lot of effort, so I took most of my meals on the couch. The phone rang, and I got the terrible news: the biopsy confirmed that I had cancer.

Eight months.

I am officially at the median survival time predicted by the (most likely outdated) statistics. 

What better day than today to dust off Stephen Jay Gould's great essay, "The Median Isn't the Message," writing that is often circulated among cancer patients, with good reason. He does a great job of explaining why he felt confident that he would outlive his cancer's median survival of eight months (and he did). He reminds himself, and us, that the median tells us 50% of the people with this disease will live longer than that point. The right tail of this graph can stretch out for quite a ways, and based on reports from several lung cancer patients who have lived with this disease for years, it does.

I hope to keep pushing further and further into the right side of the graph.

I have a scan on Friday and I have come down with a nasty case of PSS: Pre-Scan Syndrome. It mimics all the emotional symptoms of PMS, with irritability, heightened emotions, and general crabbiness. The logical side of me always grapples with this weird fear because nothing is actually different before and after the scan. The event itself doesn't change anything, only my knowledge changes. And yet, it still freaks me out.

I will get the results on Tuesday. Fingers and toes crossed for a good report.

7 comments:

Sharon Larsen said...

Best of luck on your scan Friday! Love the term PSS. I'v not heard that one before. Scanxiety, yes. I think I like Pre-Scan Syndrome better. I am definitely keeping finger and toes crossed for good results!

Tori Tomalia said...

Thanks, Sharon!

Luna O. said...

I know the PSS feeling, but I also have a good feeling that your scans will be just fine. I'll be thinking of you with all crossable body parts crossed.

Luna

Zuzana Tomas said...

May you have the best of news on Friday!!!!

Anonymous said...

Best wishes Tori! We are thinking of you often.
-- Eva

Tori Tomalia said...

Thank you Luna, Zuzana, and Eva!

Zuzana Tomas said...

Yeay!!!!!!