Stats Aren’t All That

3 08 2011

Artwork courtesy of The Pink Fund.

When I read Tami Boehmer’s post on The Pink Fund site today, I knew I needed to share it with my readers. Tami is an amazing woman with an incredible, inspiring story. What’s more, as I was reading through her blog post, I realized she referred to the very book I’m reading at this moment: Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life. I was just lying in bed with it last night, highlighter in hand. What are the chances? The book was recommended to me a month or two back by my friend Scott Orwig, who was diagnosed earlier this year with prostate cancer. I’ve done a ton of reading and sifting through preventive and curative cancer information in the past several months and I must say that the perspective that Anti-Cancer and Tami Boehmer take are spot-on. Right after I hit “publish” on this post, I’m going to see if Tami’s book, From Incurable to Incredible: Cancer Survivors Who Beat the Odds is available for download as an iBook. Wish me luck. I’m so anxious to read it that I hate to have to wait for an Amazon delivery or find a Barnes & Noble. Oh, one last thought: I’m going to print out a copy of Tami’s blog post and put it up on the wall to remind me at those scary moments that there is indeed hope, no matter the prognosis. You might wish to do the same. — Amy Rauch Neilson

By Tami Boehmer

I don’t believe in statistics. They’re great when you’re told they are in your favor, but they stink if you’re on the wrong side of them.

It felt good to have a chat with my oncologist and learn he feels the same way. He told me he doesn’t like them! I do believe these numbers lump everyone together, no matter the age, lifestyle or whether or not they are taking an active role in staying healthy. Those people aren’t me.

I told this to my oncologist and he commented that about 80 percent of his patients don’t take care of themselves at all. They go to get chemo, but little else to help the process. So I feel like I’m ahead of the curve.

In sharp contrast, I also go to another city to see a top oncologist who is on the forefront of groundbreaking research. He tells me about great new trials that sound promising and how there is more money being spent on breast cancer than any other cancer. But he also talks about the grim realities of metastatic breast cancer and makes remarks about the unlikelihood I’ll be around in 15 years. That’s his opinion, and I don’t accept it.

Here’s what Doug Ulman, president and CEO of the Lance Armstrong Foundation and three-time survivor, told me when I interviewed him for my book, From Incurable to Incredible:

“Lance often tells the story of how one doctor said to him, ‘I like your chances.’ He said all he needed was that confidence, someone who believed. People want to be inspired and hopeful.

That’s why I don’t often see the value of statistics. It might be helpful if you tell someone that people with their diagnosis have a 90 percent chance of surviving. But telling someone they have a 20 percent chance? What does that do but demoralize them? Could you make a statement about the gravity of the situation and still offer hope? I think so.”

I know there is much more to the equation that goes beyond the medical model. After all, I’ve talked to people all over the country who are alive and well today after doctors told them otherwise.

Medical stats lump everyone together – people who lead a holistic lifestyle, are happy and have purpose in life; and people who eat junk food, don’t exercise, and are stressed and depressed.

David Servan-Schrieber, MD, PhD, in his book, Anti Cancer: A New of Life (Penguin Group, Copyright 2008), talks about the bell curve of statistics from which median survival rates are derived. I recommend you read the book to get the full story; it’s wonderful. When I read it, I highlighted this part and put a star by it because I think it’s so important:

“Statistics we are shown on cancer survival don’t distinguish between people who are satisfied with passively accepting the medical verdict and those who mobilize their own natural defenses. … And within this “median” are those who live much longer. This is most likely because, along with the benefits of the conventional treatments they receive, they have somehow galvanized their natural defenses. They have found harmony in this simple quartet: detoxification of carcinogenic substances, an anticancer diet, adequate physical activity, and a search for emotional peace.”

Don’t bet your life on statistics. There is hope no matter what the prognosis.

Tami Boehmer is a metastatic breast cancer survivor, speaker, blogger and author of From Incurable to Incredible: Cancer Survivors Who Beat the Odds. You can visit her at




3 responses

3 08 2011
Linda Stanislawski

Hope is such a powerful thing. Thank God for hope

3 08 2011
Roni Kinsella

Yes thank God for the great gift of Hope!

4 08 2011
Aunt Doris

Tami sounds like a very wise person. People also don’t factor in the spiritual side of cancer surviving. There is a real God in heaven who loves you and me. He will have the last word and He is absolutely trustworthy! Statistics can’t be relied on. They all depend on which people are are polled, and that could be very controlled by the person doing the survey. I’d rather we trust in what God says: “I will never leave you nor forsake you!” God bless you and Don and Theo, Amy. Love you guys.

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