Friday, June 22, 2012
What Were the Odds?
Well, during one such moment, I decided to do some quick calculations and figure out what the odds of my getting MS actually were. This is assuming, of course, that I do have MS, which isn't certain since my diagnosis is still a matter of some disagreement, but just for giggles and shits let's just say that my creeping paralysis is MS. That controversy settled, figuring the odds of my getting MS involved a relatively simple series of calculations. Since I'm an American, I based my calculations on the statistics relevant to the USA. The precise numbers vary from country to country, since Canadians and folks in Northern Europe have a higher risk of getting MS, and people living closer to the equator or in Asia have a lower chance of contracting the disease. In fact, people living in the northern United States have a higher chance of getting MS than those living down south (I think this might have something to do with grits), but math was never my favorite subject so I decided not to overstress my feeble noggin and just use the numbers for the USA as a whole.
So, given that the population of the United States is somewhere around 300 million, and there are an estimated 400,000 MS patients in the USA, the chance of any one American getting MS is 1 in 750. However, women get MS in greater numbers than men; the most commonly used figures indicating that the ratio of MS stricken women to men is 3 to 1, although in recent years this number has been widening, and women have been getting MS in even greater numbers than men (I'm pretty sure this has nothing to do with grits). For my purposes, though, given the feeble noggin thing, I went with 3 to 1. Therefore, using the aforementioned figures, the odds of any one female in the USA getting MS are 1000 to 1, and the odds of an American male getting the disease are 3000 to 1.
In other words, if, when healthy, I were sitting in an auditorium with 3000 other healthy men, chances are that one of us would get MS, meaning that any individual in that auditorium would have a 3/10 of 1% chance of getting the disease. And the winner is… me. And any other guy reading this who has MS. As the theme song for the old TV show Candid Camera used to say, "when it's least expected/you're elected/it's your lucky day/smile, you've got creeping paralysis". Okay, so that's not exactly how the song went, but I'm using some artistic license here, like I'm Picasso or Keats, and this is art. As if.
Going through all of the above calculations got me thinking about some of the other longshots that I've experienced in my life. In 1994, I hit Florida's "Fantasy Five" lottery, matching all five numbers on my ticket with the winning numbers, netting a nifty little prize of about $14,000. I did a little digging on the Internet, and found out that my odds of holding that winning ticket 18 years ago was 1 in 65,780, so I was much more likely to get MS than win the lottery. Having done both, I can say one thing with absolute certainty. Winning the lottery is a lot more fun (and lucrative).
Way back in 1987, while playing golf for maybe the seventh or eighth time in my life, I hit a hole-in-one. Now, the course I was playing on wasn't a regulation size golf course, but what they call an "executive course", in which the holes are shorter than on the bigger links. Still, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, and I hit a tiny little ball about 180 yards into a tiny little hole. According to the Internet, my odds of doing this were 5000 to 1, although I have to say that, given my inexperience and general ineptitude with a golf club, I'm pretty sure that there's no way in hell I could have duplicated that feat in 5000 tries. Or even 50,000 tries. Regardless, the chances of my getting MS turn out to be much higher than my hitting that hole-in-one. Again, having done both, getting the hole-in-one was a lot more fun. Seeing the looks on the faces of the people I was playing with was absolutely priceless.
All of the above numbers started my mind whirring, or at least wobbling, and doing a little more searching, I came across a whole bunch of other statistics with which to compare my chances of getting MS. The numbers regarding cancer were downright startling (click here). The risk of an American male developing cancer is 1 in 2, for an American female it's 1 in 3. Holy crap! So much for that vaunted War on Cancer we keep hearing so much about. If you’re a guy, the form of cancer most likely to send you off to meet your maker is lung cancer (1 in 15), followed closely by prostate cancer (1 in 36). For you gals, lung cancer will do away with 1 out of 20 of you, and breast cancer will claim 1 in 36 members of the fairer sex. Honestly, I had no idea the numbers for cancer were this high. Of some measure of solace is a new study that indicates that people with MS have an overall lower risk of cancer (click here), although it seems to be lower for some cancers and higher for others.
Here are some other grim statistics. Chances of dying from: heart disease-1 in 3, a car accident-1 in 18,585, any kind of injury-1 in 1,820, food poisoning-1 in 3,000,000, shark attack-1 in 300,000,000. Guess I don't have to worry too much about shark attacks, a fear which preoccupied me when I was a kid. Especially since I'm now partially paralyzed, and the odds of me actually going in the ocean are about 1 in 100 gazillion, give or take a few gazillion. Unless a Great White shows up in my apartment, I'm probably safe.
According to the Internet, my odds of winning an Olympic medal are 662,000 to 1, although much like the shark thing, in my current condition the odds of my winning Olympic pay dirt are about the same as those of monkeys flying out of my backside. Unless, of course, they add "hitting pedestrians with a power wheelchair" to the list of events, in which case I believe I'd be the favorite, especially given the increasing wonkiness in my "wheelchair joystick controlling" hand. The Internet also says my odds of getting canonized are 20,000,000 to 1, but I think that number may be a little off for me, what with my being Jewish and all. Not that I wouldn't like to be canonized, but rules are rules. Still, Saint Marc, patron saint of writing drivel on the Internet, it has a nice ring to it. On the other end of the spectrum, the odds of someone being considered possessed by Satan are 7000 to 1. Not sure of the accuracy of that number, though, as church documents confirm that at least 50% of my ex girlfriends were possessed by Satan. Luckily, I married an angel.
So, in the grand scheme of things, the odds of my getting MS (3000 to 1) were shorter than my getting a hole-in-one (5000 to 1) or winning the lottery (65,750 to 1), all of which I accomplished, but longer than the chances of my getting away with murder (2 to 1), developing hemorrhoids (25 to 1), or being on a plane with a drunken pilot (117 to 1), none of which I've yet to experience. I'm not quite sure exactly what wisdom there is to be gleaned from this jumble of numbers, but I do know this: the odds that MS sucks great big fat hairy monkey balls are a dead solid 100%.
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get it right. the biggest, fattest, hariest ever...ReplyDelete
Yes: Biggest. Fattest. Hairiest.Delete
Sounds like the motto for an especially gross Olympics…
I think we should start a petition for that Olympic event. There are some people out there just begging to be run down by a wheelchair.ReplyDelete
Heck, why wait for it to become an Olympic event. I say if they're begging for it, run them down…Delete
This post made me giggle and believe me I can use them right now for not only do I have a rapidly progressing case of PPMS, I currently am undergoing testing for a pheocromocytoma, an extremely rare adrenal tumor (like 1 in a million rare). Either that or it's adrenal cancer which is also extremely rare. Or it's just a benign "growth", but in any event the only way to know definitively is to pull the whole sucker out, they can't biopsy as those nasty pheos don't like to be disturbed. Lucky me! I think perhaps I need to start buying lotto tickets?ReplyDelete
Glad I could make you giggle, but, ugh, so sorry to hear of your latest troubles. Sending "benign" thoughts your way. I know it's foolish to expect fairness from the universe, but WTF, isn't PPMS enough?Delete
Saint Marc? I admit I don't know you well but I don't think so. On the other hand, drivel? Never!ReplyDelete
Thanks for the yuks.
Hey, I've never done anything in my life that would exclude me from being a saint.Delete
Uh oh, that last statement wasn't exactly true, and I'm pretty sure telling untruths is an exclusionary criteria for sainthood, so I guess I'm SOL…
labels should make me feel thrilled
but I feel like shit
Now that's a lovely haiku. The fact that "but I feel like shit" fits the format so perfectly only proves the genius of the form.Delete
"Unless a shark shows up in my apartment, I'm probably safe." LAND SHARK!!!ReplyDelete
(Don't answer the door.)
Actually, those numbers made me feel better. Dunno why, but they did. Thanks!
Of course, I too was thinking of Land Shark when I was writing that bit. I was going to try to find a clip of that old Saturday Night Live sketch on YouTube, but then got lazy.Delete
I once actually came within 10 feet of a huge bull shark while snorkeling down in the Florida Keys. Let's just say it wasn't the most macho moment in my life, as I tried desperately to walk back to the boat, leaving my girlfriend in my wake. Hey, chivalry is not dead, unless there's a shark involved.
Thank you for the laughter; not at you, not sure with you, but a humorous perspective on not a funny subject. What are the odds for us to meet you? 1 in 311,591,917?ReplyDelete
You're welcome for the laughter. The odds of meeting me are directly proportional to your proximity to me. For instance, if you're a resident of New York City, your odds would be much better than if you lived in Bulgaria. If you happened to live in my apartment, I'd say your chances of meeting me would be about 50-50, since I spend much of my day using my cloak of invisibility. I can be tricky like that…Delete
Mark, I really love to read your blog, it makes me feel I'm not alone with this "big fat monkey balls" thing desease. Oh, and hairy also...ReplyDelete
Anyway, my english sucks a bit too, but I just wanted to tell you, thanks, for all those words that make me laugh, make me smile, and
confort me because it's so much like my own life.
You're very welcome. Your English sounds just fine. It is comforting knowing that others are going through similar experiences as you, but it would be even more comforting if those experiences were, say, waking up neck deep in cash and being named to People Magazine's "50 Most Sexy" list. Oh well, I guess we've just got to learn to take comfort where we can find it…Delete
The number of millionaires in the U.S. is 9.6 million. We had way better chances of that than what we got instead. I'm not doing the math--it would not help.Delete
Mistake, MarC :)ReplyDelete
No problem, happens all the time…Delete
WK ..the odds are interesting, however, I would much prefer the lottery odds to the MS....oh well. Maybe now that I have MS I can hang my star on a possible lottery win? That would be too sweet!Oh well, I'll just keep dreaming..KIMReplyDelete
Hey, you've got to be in it to win it. Buying an occasional lottery ticket is wonderful way to get the imagination going, and you never know…Delete
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I've won 5 out of 6 on a NJ lottery, hit a hole in one though I've only played Golf 3 times and I don't eat grits!!! Let's do a study like for $500,000. I see a trend. What are the odds!ReplyDelete
Wow, you must be my female doppelgänger. Only I do eat grits. Developed a taste for them when I lived in Florida, and now on weekends sometimes my wife makes me the instant kind. Yum.Delete
What about the chance that a land shark could knock on the door? We have to consider all of the possibilities and all of the potential horrors. I was raised Jewish also. AliyahReplyDelete
I think land sharks keep kosher, although I'm not sure if that puts people of Jewish persuasion in lesser or greater danger. Only one thing to do, always be wearing a piece of bacon somewhere on your body.Delete
Thank you for sharing your ponderings and funny humor. I always enjoy your posts and perspective.ReplyDelete
There is little any of us can do to avoid 'the odds' of any of these things. The best effort is to live as mindfully and positively as we can to optimize the experience of whatever crosses our path.
Laughter is a key to thriving.
Keep up the great work to help us keep a smile on our faces.
Laughter is definitely the key. When I stop being able to laugh at my situation I'll know it's time to signal the cosmic waiter that it's time to pay the check and get going…Delete
Everyone is facing different trials in life. Those trials are only given to us for us to be a strong person. All we need is always think positive, don't loose hope and have faith.ReplyDelete
You're right, everybody does face the trials. Only, really, I'm plenty strong now and ready to be cured. If I get any stronger I'll qualify for my own comic book…Delete
I thought if we got MS, we got a pass on cancer? Am I wrong? How unfair.ReplyDelete
A study just came out saying that PwMS have a lower risk of cancer. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean no risk of cancer. Just doesn't seem right.Delete
I'm female, born & raised in Louisiana, with no family history of, nor even known prior contact with anyone with MS. (It's like this totally unknown disease here. My Neurologist specializes in other areas entirely, but he's all I have.)ReplyDelete
If only I'd known I should have eaten my grits.
I have MS, I have bowled a 300 game and have 2 aces on the golf course...can you calculate how odd I am? (ha ha)... The irony is my passion for golf and searching for errant shots probably led to my contracting Lyme disease, thus triggering my PPMS...ReplyDelete
For the sake of mathematical accuracy... the 3:1 ratio means there are 300,000 women with MS and 100,000 men with MS. So the rate for women is 300,000 in 150,000,000 or 1 in 500, while the rate for men is 100,000 in 150,000,000 or 1 in 1500. Which even further proves your point.ReplyDelete