Thursday, April 4, 2013

A-Z Challenge: D is for Defiance

Defiance: Defying the Odds

By JccKeith

At only 13, Sean Swarner was diagnosed with Stage IV Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  He was given three months to live.  He survived.  At 16 he was again diagnosed with cancer, this time advanced Askin’s sarcoma, a rare lung cancer originating in the chest wall.  Only 6 % of people diagnosed survive.  Sean Swarner defied the odds.  He then defied the odds again years later by climbing Mt. Everest with only one functioning lung. 
Swarner spends his time now climbing mountains and traveling around the world doing what he can to inspire others to not just fight but to survive.  As much as I admire Swarner’s devotion to motivating, I thought I would mention a few others, famous and not famous, who have also defied the odds.

A famous example is Professor Stephen Hawking.  In 1963 he was diagnosed with Amylotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.  He was given only a few months to live.  Only 5% of people diagnosed with ALS survive for ten years after diagnosis.  He has survived what will this year be 50 years since his diagnosis and he has made a habit of defying odds.

Regarded the world over as the most brilliant theoretical physicist alive, he holds 12 honorary degrees and
Sean Swarner
has several awards including an Eddington Medal, Pius XI Gold Medal, Dannie Heineman Prize, the Maxwell Prize, a Hughes Medal, the Albert Einstein Medal, the Julius Edgar Lilienfeld Prize, the Copley Medal, the Fonseca Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Fundamental Physics Prize.

You don’t have to be famous to defy the odds.  Both of my grandparents have done it.  My grandmother was diagnosed in January 2011 with Stage IV colon cancer that had already spread to her liver.  She had a large tumor in her liver as well as the cancer in and around her colon.  

A 2010 article in the International Journal of Cancer Research and Treatment lists the average survival time after diagnosis of Stage IV colon cancer as 12.8 months.  Here it is April 2013 and after a few surgeries and chemotherapy, my grandmother’s PET scans show no cancer activity. 

She is in her 70s and when she was diagnosed had just undergone a very traumatic event.  In the winter of 2010, the very night they arrived at their house in Florida to spend the winter months, my grandfather collapsed from a massive coronary and went into cardiac arrest.

According to a 2011 article in the New England Journal of Medicine, survival rates of a cardiac arrest suffered at home were a mere 12%.  This means that of all people who suffer cardiac arrests at home, 88% do not make it.

Unfortunately, only 4-8% of those people who make it to the hospital following a cardiac arrest survive to be discharged.  Many suffer irreversible brain damage as a result of the brain’s lack of oxygen during the arrest and subsequently die anyway. My grandpa was one of the 8% of the 12% (that's a small number) who made it to the hospital and made a full recovery.

While I present examples here of people who have defied the medical odds, you don’t have to be sick to defy odds.  Anyone can stand in defiance and decide to not give in to stereotypes, statistics or the status quo.

We as individuals must realize that statistics are based on averages.  So take away the lesson from this post to stop being average.  Don’t resign yourself to being a statistic.  You don’t have to climb mountains, you don’t have to be a genius, you don’t even have to be a grandparent; you just have to believe it is possible. You have to say to yourself, “I can do it.” 

If you feel like a laugh, if you remember SNL, you can repeat the phrases,
“I am smart enough.  I am good enough.  And doggone it, people like me!”

  • Now go out there and defy some odds.

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  1. Thank you so much for this uplifting post. There are so many problems in the world, but there are also amazing and wonderful things going on around us all the time. We just have to look in the right places.

    1. I think you are right Heidi and I think we see what we want to see.

  2. I can relate. I have a 1 1/2 year battle ahead of me to hopefully walk when most think it won't happen. Guess what I think ;)

    Images by Bil
    Paintings and Sketches of the beauty that surrounds us.

    1. I simply love your paintings Bill! They were uplifting all on their own. So breathtaking

    2. *goes to check Bill's paintings*

  3. What a wonderful inspiring post. Thank you for sharing these stories!

    1. Your welcome Kimberly. I wish more people shared their inspiring stories

  4. This is such a great inspiring post, and the image is captivating - literally it captured me. I'm working on my F for freedom post, and have ended up writing about an old lady too - I think she was just as determined as Mandela :)