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Cancer Care and the Butterfly Effect


What you do matters, even in the waiting room of the oncologist's office.

When we are discouraged, depressed and ill, it is easy to feel insignificant and meaningless. We are only one of billions of people on this earth. I truly believe this is one of the reasons for the high suicide rate.

While we are in bed nauseous from chemo, recovering from surgery or facing yet another doctor’s appointment, it is easy to feel sorry for ourselves or that we are worthless.

Way back in 2009 a wonderful book called The Butterfly Effect: How Your Life Matters was written by Andy Andrews. The message is one of the most powerful ones I have ever heard.

In 1963, a man by the name of Edward Lorenz presented a hypothesis to the New York Academy of Science. Basically, his premise was when a single bitterly flaps its wings and moves molecules of air, which continues to move more molecules of air, eventually a hurricane can develop on the other side of the planet. He was ridiculed for 30 years for this idea until his theory was proven scientifically accurate!

Andrews continues in this book to cite several examples of one “little” event that changed world history. A colonel in the Union army won a battle against the Confederates with only 80 men. If he hadn’t won, historians believe there would have been two countries and years later, the USA would not have been powerful enough to defeat Hitler. History would definitely have changed for the worst.

I prefer to think of this on a smaller scale. I go to the doctor and am told the wait will be over an hour. I sit in the waiting room fuming and grumbling. Pretty soon my mood permeates, while patients begin to complain to the nurses who aren’t allowed to say anything back to the patients. They begin to grumble to each other. The doctors pick up the mood of the nurses, so everyone is upset and having a horrible day. Then all these staff and patients go home and take it out on their spouses or kids or cats or dogs. Anyway, you get the picture.

Or you can sit there like I did today when my cell phone went off playing a local (Ohio State) fight song, because I forgot to shut off the ringer. I poke buttons to stop the sound immediately while people around me were chuckling. I start laughing and asking if they wanted to play the rival’s (University of Michigan) fight song. The person sitting across from me says she would like anything to break the monotony and soon people were chatting and not complaining. I noticed when I went back to the room for the doctor, the staff was all happy and greeting me by name while the doctor was fantastic. She always is — I never have seen her in a bad mood!

We don’t need to fight in a war and win a battle to be mighty. Andrews reminds us, “every single thing you do matters…you have within you the power to change the world... your life and what you do with it today…matters forever.”

If you are lying there and doubt this do think of the little butterfly and the hurricane. If we say one little positive comment or read one positive sentence — it matters. And you do too!

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