Monday, August 05, 2013

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

"Here is the stat that the doctors gave Mr. and Mrs. Spicer: One in four.  That's the last stat I'm going to give you, because so what?  So what?  Stats don't mean anything.  Every time Joe Pepitone steps up to the plate, it's new.  It doesn't matter if he's hit five hundred home runs or if he's struck out five hundred times.  It's a new thing.  And no one can predict what's going to happen, except that he's Joe Pepitone, and he's going to try his darnedest, and he's not going to let anything get him down, and he's going to fight his way through no matter what, and he's got all his friends behind him, and if you don't think that matters a whole lot, then you don't know how to get from first base to second.  Because stats don't mean anything."
-Gary D. Schmidt, Okay for Now

Last week we got the results back from our karyotype test - we're both normal.  That was a huge relief.  And even though I knew that statistically speaking, it was unlikely that one or both of us would be abnormal, I found myself really nervous on the day I called for the results.  I thought, well, statistically speaking, it's the minority of couples who need help getting pregnant.  And statistically speaking, it's the minority of couples who have a miscarriage in a given pregnancy.  And it's an even smaller minority of couples that have more than one miscarriage.  So seeing as how we're already in this tiny minority, why wouldn't we be in an even tinier minority that also has an inherent chromosomal defect?  Happily we are not.

When Dad was first diagnosed, I spent a lot of time reading online forums populated by other caregivers and cancer sufferers, and it started to really make me sad.  Dad's five year survival probability was in the single digits and Dr. T (my dad's fucking amazing oncologist) basically told us that if Dad decided not to do chemo, he'd die in a year, but with chemo he should probably have two years.  My dad's decision to do the chemo will be the subject of a post all on its own, but let's just say that two years sounds a whole lot better than one year when it comes to dying.  And as I was reading (and comparing) our situation to what other people were going through on these forums, I just found myself sinking down into this dark world where MY DAD IS DYING ALL THE TIME.  And what's the point of having Dad for two more years if I'm going to spend those two years obsessed with him dying instead of enjoying his life?  So I decided not to partake in these forums anymore, but right before I stopped, I read a post where a woman said, talking about her dad, that the stats don't mean anything when this is your life.  The stats can tell you that this situation is dire, but everyone affected by cancer is an individual and everyone's outcome is different.  And if you get bogged down in those stats, you will make yourself miserable.  And in the end, that's exactly what Dr. T said to us (and what he continues to say to this day) and we've been very lucky that two years stretched to four years, and we'll see what happens next because the stats don't apply to us now.

Other IF bloggers have very eloquently debunked a lot of myths involving statistics and infertility, but my personal favorite is Aramis from It Only Takes One's post about the law of averages and how every cycle is a new cycle, just like every flip of the coin is its own new toss and the chances of it being heads or tails is still 50/50.  It's so easy to look at other pregnant women and think that there are only so many women who will get pregnant in a given year, and if that lady walking around Whole Foods is pregnant, and oh look, there's another pregnant lady at Whole Foods, then that's reducing my chances of getting pregnant!  Of course that's not how it works, that's not how the statistics of infertility work.  

I try to remind myself that actually the statistics are on my side that I will someday get pregnant.  Still, I can't help but sometimes think that I might wind up in the ever dwindling minority of people who keep failing.  But statistically speaking, IUI shouldn't have worked for us - I've read the studies - but it did work for us, twice.  So while I'm going to keep using the scientific studies to inform my decisions on my treatment and care, if I get too bogged down in the stats, I'm going to sink into that same dark hole I was in four years ago, reading cancer forums.  When we start a new cycle, it is a new cycle.  The game starts over again, but this time we'll have a little more information and that's a good thing.

1 comment:

  1. This is a very smart, very well-thought-out post. I hope you're able to remind yourself this often. Even when I know things logically, I still get scared and freak out, and just have to keep reminding myself of what I know.

    I'm so glad your father was able to fight, and so glad he's still with you. Cancer is a bitch.