Saturday, June 06, 2009

You Bet Your Life

I'm not the only one who counts survival time in months!

I read a news story about a British man who bet against the prognosis he was given when he was diagnosed with mesothelioma. In 2006 he was told that he would only live a few months (this is sounding familiar) and he responded by placing 100 pounds in a 50:1 bet that he would live until the middle of the following year. He made 5,000 pounds and renewed the bet that he would live until this past June 1. He did, and now he has put down another bet (100:1) that he will survive another year.

The man explained that physicians told him the longest known mesothelioma survival was 25 months. "I reached 26 months a year ago and on June 1 this year I will have reached 38 months," he said.

I guess I could have made some money this way, except for the fact that I'm not a gambler -- unless you count having insurance. (I heard a comedian say once that insurance was legalized gambling: "I'll bet you $1000/year that you won't wreck your car." "I'll bet you $1000/year that I WILL!" And then if you get in a wreck they say, "Double or nothing, you won't do it again!")

So the question in (what's left of) my mind is whether this man's bet helped keep him alive longer than expected. It's not a huge sum of money, but you never know what motivates people to hang in there. My motivation is my family, of course -- and the fear of people going through my incredibly messy closet.

One news report was headlined, "Positive Attitude Does Little to Boost Cancer Survival Odds, Study Says." However, the actual study conclusion was merely that emotional status was not independently prognostic (because - duh - other factors can weigh more heavily in predicting outcome). But the suggestion in the headline was flawed. Having a positive outlook certainly can't hurt, and surely it helps people take better care of themselves.

It's not hard to find the story of someone who has beaten the odds against a disease, and it's also not hard to find the story of someone who died much sooner than expected. (Another news story was about a man who died one hour after being diagnosed with cancer.) I think ultimately it boils down to what a patient once said to their doctor after being told they wouldn't live much longer: "It's not your call!"

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