Lotteries in life may have to do with suffering, disability and death

Winning the lottery — yes, I’ve heard the horror stories of how people’s lives have taken a turn for the worse after it’s happened. But, like many others, I still wonder what it would be like. I’d be willing to take my chances with the win!

But this post is not about money. Not at all. Actually it’s about gratitude.

It’s about the many ‘lotteries’ in life that have nothing to do with money and everything to do with suffering, disability, and even death. It’s the lotteries we don’t want to ‘win.’

Recently someone I know had a screening ‘virtual colonoscopy,’ a procedure utilizing CT scans instead of a the traditional colonoscope to screen for colon cancer and other intestinal abnormalities. There are pros and cons to having the virtual colonoscopy instead of the traditional colonoscopy. What’s interesting, fortunate, and tragic all at the same time is that she was found to have renal cancer (not colon cancer) during this routine screening procedure.

So, as an aside it was very fortunate in her case that she had the CT-based procedure instead of the traditional one. The traditional colonoscopy would not have picked up the kidney cancer.

But the point I want to emphasize is that she was asymptomatic and taking care of herself by seeking preventive health care when out of the blue the screening test she had done was positive for cancer. I’m sure that nobody diagnosed with cancer every expects it, but many people do develop symptoms or, in the case of breast cancer, find a lump. Maybe they don’t expect to be told it’s cancer, but many times they know something is wrong. It must be a total shock when a seemingly healthy person has a routine screen and his or her life is forever changed with the results coming back positive for cancer.

None of us is immune from this scenario. Any of us could receive a dire diagnosis at any time. The fact that most of us are as healthy as we are is nothing short of a miracle. There is so much that must go ‘right’ for the human body to function properly that I never cease to be in awe about it all.

I look at it this way:

Of course cancer is only one of many possible types of medical illness that could strike. Factor in the risk of heart disease, other medical illnesses, and risk of accidents and we’ve got a lot to be thankful for when we and our families get through another year healthy and safe.

Winning the MegaMillions suddenly seems less exciting.

Jeffrey Knuppel is a psychiatrist who blogs at The Positive Medical Blog.

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