Picture it and write: Percentages

by joetwo

Hello there! Here is my offering for this weeks picture it and write from Ermilia’s Blog here. Once again the picture is not mine, I only use it for inspiration. Anyway, Enjoy!


“What are all of these?” I asked looking at the small pharmacopoeia that Dr Jameson had just placed in front of me. He looked back at me over the rim of his reading glasses and said matter of factly “This is the next part of your treatment.”I was a little taken aback by that “The next part? After what I had just been through!”

The Oncologist removed his glasses and sighed a little.”I had explained all of this to you before. After the mastectomy you would need to engage in chemotherapy for a number of months, just to be safe.” I shifted my hands to look at the labels of the containers of pills on the table, the scar on my chest still hurt when I moved, but it was healing. “Just to be safe for what?”

He seemed as exasperated as his medical training would allow him to be “There is a small but finite chance that parts of the tumour were missed during the surgery” “Missed!” I nearly screamed in panic “They said it was all gone!”

Dr Jameson Lifted his hands in an attempt to calm me down ” Ms Ford! I know this must be a difficult time for you! Believe me I have treated many patients in the same situation as you through the years. I can tell you keeping a level head will go a long way in helping.” I have to say that I was getting tired of the arrogance of this man. “How do you know how I am feeling?! Just being told that I could still have cancer!”

The doctor got off his chair, walked around his mahogany desk and sat on the chair behind me. “What I am not saying is definite! I’m saying there is a chance, a small but still there, chance that some cells remained. The chemotherapy will try to stop them before they get re-established. That is why it is necessary.”

I looked at the pills and the doctor, becoming less excited and more calculating. “You said there was a chance stuff was missed. How much of a chance?” Dr Jameson looked thoughtful for a minute, as if recalling figures in his head. “Not high one in a hundred, one in twenty at most. The chemotherapy is there to remove them when they are”

I found that remark understandably suspect, “So there us a chance that I may not have any left”

“Oh yes!” he nodded “A very good chance. The thing is if we did miss some.. and again, that is very unlikely, it may be a lot more difficult to treat them through surgery like we just did now. The thing is when you reduce it to only a few cells they can become more.. mobile so you can have secondary tumours forming. You can’t tell where they’ll be until they form, by then it may be too late.”

That last word sent shivers down my spine, I clutched the bottle of pills as if they were more valuable than gold, come to think of it I suppose they were, “So these pills will stop that happening? Guaranteed?” The doctor seemed a little uncomfortable, as if he was trying to phrase his words difficultly. “I wouldn’t like to say 100 percent guaranteed. Every cancer reacts differently to treatment. That is why we use the latest drugs available, and a wide range of them together, to give you the best possible chance.”

“So you are saying that even all of these” I moved my hand to encompass the collection of bottles “May still not cure me? Why not?” More uncomfortable faces “There is a chance, about two to five percent that the cancer may develop a resistance to the drugs, that is why we use several at a time, to reduce that chance further. The idea is to kill it quick and fast before it has a chance.” “Without getting me first” I tried to joke, but the chuckle was stuck in my throat, my mind going back to the extensive list of side effects on the labels before me.

The doctor nodded “That is true. In this field it can be very much a case of ‘Kill you or cure you'”. He went back behind his desk. “The side effects can be very unpleasant. I will be in contact with your GP to minimise your discomfort. I will of  course also like to schedule more appointments keep track of your progress.” I had gotten to know Dr Jameson over the short few weeks since I had been introduced to him. While I found him a bit arrogant, he did seem to care. “How long will you be wanting to check on me?”

Another uncomfortable pause “Very regular at the start, while you’re still undergoing chemotherapy, every few weeks to check how you are progressing. After that.. well we may want to monitor you for quite a while.” I looked over at him expecting the worst “How long are we talking here?” The doctor was more confident at what he was saying now, years of practice I guessed “The thing is Ms Ford, we can never be completely sure that we got it all, not after surgery, not after, chemotherapy, not after all of the other treatments that I can bring to the table. There will always be a chance that it will come back at some time.” He got up again and went to a large book-case, selected a particular volume and opened it, searching for a particular page. He then went over to me and showed me the graph on it. It was a series of lines made on a time line. The words on the title got me first. In big and bold “Survival rates: treated and untreated”.

Dr Jameson spoke softly “I know the title is scary, it might help if I were to put it a bit more diplomatically. The basic idea is that these lines represent now long, on average, the patient is still around after first diagnosis. Some don’t last very long at all.” he said, pointing at lines that stopped in less than a year. “Yours on the other hand” he pointed at a nice long line “You were caught early, you’re young, you’re strong. I would have every confidence of us never seeing it again for decades, a whole lifetime easily.”

“But that is not guaranteed” I said bluntly “No!” he conceded “There is a chance. But we here, and your doctor at home will try everything in our power to keep this line as long as we can, to keep the percentages in your favour. You may never need us again, god willing, but if you do, rest assured we will be here for you.”

He put his book back on the shelf and discussed with me about what was going to happen in a more business-like manner, I  forgot the details soon after but it helped to think again that he was on the job. That there was certainty in my life, that it wasn’t in reality a question of numbers, of percentages. Like some big lottery, with the grand prize some more precious years and the forfeit, well, life itself.