A male breast cancer survivor reveals some startling statistics.
It's not always easy being human. When you stop and think about all of the things that can go wrong in our bodies, it's a staggering and eye-opening revelation.
According to the World Health Organization, there are approximately 30,000 known diseases worldwide. If every disease represents one mile, you could easily circumnavigate planet Earth with the list. The National Safety Council reports that your odds of dying of cancer are 1 in 7.
But if you're afraid of flying, you can rest easy. The odds of you being killed in a plane crash are just 1 in 205,552. As much as I hate to say it, we are much, much more likely to die of cancer.
It's not my intention to make this a depressing discussion. To the contrary, I started thinking about this with a positive attitude, realizing that we do pretty well in this very dangerous world, with most of us living to the ripe old age of just under 30,000 days. The average human life span is about 79 years.
That may not seem like much, but I find that when we think of our lives in days, it really hits home. As an example, I am just about to turn 68. If I am one of those "average" humans, I have about 4,000 days left.
This way of thinking about our lives is based on Japanese Psychology known as Morita Therapy and Naikan. I was first introduced to the concept a decade ago through the ToDo Institute, an organization based in Vermont. That simple number changed the way I think about my life.
I am a man with breast cancer.
My diagnosis was a real slap in the chops, and it startled me in such a way that it changed my perception of life and death and helped me to appreciate the gift of surviving one of those 30,000 known diseases (male breast cancer in my case) while living my 30,000 days on Earth.
In the Bronze Age and the Iron Age, life expectancy was just 26 years. And depending on where you live in the world, your odds of living a long life change considerably.
I invite you to calculate your own life expectancy in the days remaining, and take a moment to really absorb that news. As cancer survivors, we learn pretty quickly to take little for granted and to treat every day with the greatest reverence.
How many times have we heard, "Live each day as though it is your last," and how many of us are actually able to apply that? It takes effort to start and end every day with a mindful, positive approach to surviving, especially when cancer is on the front burner. On some days my mastectomy scar or the numbness under my left arm is troubling. And on some days my uneasiness over an upcoming MRI or ultra-sound is distracting. But as I look at my 4,000 days remaining, which just now dropped to 3,999, I can pause for a moment and consciously make this day a good one. Or not. After all, we always have that choice.
If you'd like to hear my song "Thirty Thousand Days" on YouTube you can do so here: