Monday, May 23, 2005

Chances are

Given my tendency to worry about things, I often try to assuage my fears by learning about the odds of something happening. For instance, while going through the diagnosis process, if I had known that your chances of getting ALS were about 1 in 1000, I would have felt a little bit relieved. Certainly I wasn't going to be the 1 in that statistic right? And considering that most people are diagnosed between 40 and 70 years old, with the average being 55, I was way too young to be that unlucky. Right? Right? Well, lucky me, turns out I won the lottery when it comes to diseases.

Or did I? What about other ways for all us human beings to die? Your odds of dying from heart disease? 1 in 2.6. Cancer? 1 in 4. Homicide? 1 in 182. Car accident? 1 in 247. Fire? 1 in 1116. Huh, that's interesting. Your odds of dying in a fire are less than for getting ALS. Wouldn't have guessed that. How about an airplane crash? 1 in 4000. Hit by lightning? 1 in 84,000. Or my favorite: odds of dying in a fireworks accident? 1 in 615,488. Seems pretty far-fetched right? Well sorry to burst your bubble lottery ticket buyers, but do you know what your chances of winning the big money are? Anywhere from 1 in 15 to 1 in 80 million. Makes getting ALS seem pretty darn easy huh? You have an 80,000% better chance of getting ALS than of winning the lottery.

I don't throw these statistics out there to frighten anyone. The numbers are all pretty fuzzy, and they don't really mean much at the end of the day. When you turn out to be the 1 in some statistic, the odds just tell you how lucky or unlucky you are, which is always a relative point of view anyway. The numbers do nothing to help me live with ALS. That's up to me. And a little hope, no matter how desperate the odds, can go a long, long way. I mean, everybody that buys a lottery ticket is always thinking in the back of their mind, "somebody's got to win right?" That being said, the numbers still tell you something people. Don't be putting all your eggs in one basket eh?

When bad things happen to people, most of us tend to think "It's not fair!" As if only bad people should have bad things happen to them. As if what you do and how you act means anything to all those uncaring statistics. Let's face it folks. Fairness is a man-made concept. God, Mother Nature, the IRS. They couldn't care less about fairness. The numbers prove it. If you need an example, consider Dr. Richard Olney, who used to run an ALS clinic in California. This man devoted his life to helping people with ALS, to finding a cure. Now he has the disease. I mean come on, what in the hell are the odds for that? But who knows. Maybe fairness just isn't factored into the equation until you die. When God gets out his measuring stick for your heart. I like to think so anyway.

I've shared an idea with a few of you, and I hope you won't think I'm asking for any sort of appreciation by mentioning it. I'm really not. I just can't help but feel that in some ways, my getting ALS is like taking one for the team. Like taking a bullet for a friend. I mean, it had to happen to 1 of us right? And the numbers would suggest that it won't happen to the rest of you. Kind of the 'lightning don't strike twice' way of thinking? And I already had a friend die in a car accident, so maybe we're all off the hook there too?

I should probably shut up. Don't want to tempt fate. To tempt those blind and uncaring numbers. I'm sure the odds are minute, but I don't want to somehow win a trifecta by getting ALS, contracting leprosy, and getting smacked by a bus. I guess it's just one way of looking at things. Like I said, I'm not looking for appreciation. It's not like I made a conscious choice here. A bomb was dropped in our collective vicinity, and it happened to land on me. But it really helps me feel like my getting ALS means something. That it wasn't just bad luck. That somehow I can still make a difference.

People talk about luck all the time. Good luck. Bad luck. Getting ALS most definitely feels like bad luck. But as I've written before, in the grand scheme of things, I consider myself a very lucky man. Just getting the chance to be alive is lucky. Dear friend, if you're here, reading this, not wanting for food or shelter, the numbers are telling you that there is a 100% chance you should feel lucky. I myself am still hoping to beat the odds. To find a way to survive with ALS. I mean, somebody has to win the lottery right?

1 comment:

Jason said...

Scott, I didn't have a chance to meet you while you worked at AC/ACN, but I felt compelled to post a message after reading through your blog.

Thank you for sharing your story, your life, your family, your disease, with all of us. The way you write, you *must* write your book/screenplay/movie/whatever it is you want to write. You have such a wonderful ability to touch people with the words you choose. Your writing is fluid, it's sincere, it's honest, it envelops all of our hearts.

Thanks again and all the best to, your family, and your friends. You truly are an inspiration to others and you do indeed have purpose in your life.