What are the Odds?



Odds are, I’ll survive. In fact, my cousin Ted who had essentially the same kind of stupid cancer as I have, and had the same surgery to get rid of it, says the survival rate is 90%. Wahoo!

I’m not celebrating this.

But I should. I remember one night when my odds of survival were less than if I’d been playing Russian roulette.

It was dusk. I had just landed my Cessna 182 at Paso Robles, California, and hopped into the car I kept there to drive over to our coast house in Cayucos. I was rounding a curve on Highway 46 – the same 2 lane highway where James Dean died many years before. I could see the glow of oncoming cars before they appeared around the bend, and then – I not only saw the oncoming traffic – I saw that there was a car passing all of them and heading straight for me in my lane.

No time to think. The shoulder was wide. I immediately pulled over to the right and cursed the idiot. As quickly as I moved into the shoulder…so did he.

We are converging at at over 100 mph. Let’s pause and assess the odds.

I stay, he stays – everyone dies. I move he moves – everyone dies. I move he stays, we all live. He moves, I stay, we all live. The odds of survival are exactly 50/50.

I don’t why, but I moved back into my lane, and he stayed on the shoulder. No time to think. No time for adrenaline. Just….whoooooooooooosh.

I ended up stopped  in the right lane, my lane. All the other traffic had passed behind me. The idiot was long gone. For some  reason the lights were off in my car. I’m not sure now, but I think the car had stalled as well. All I remember was that I was staring into a black void. There was no sound. Just me, thinking. No time for adrenaline. No time to get excited or worried. Just me, sitting there in the dark. Thinking…

I almost died.

So cancer? It’s nothing! I survived driving from Paso to the coast!

So let’s party! As the pilots said in WWI, “here’s to the dead already, and here’s to the next man who dies!”

Their odds were way worse than mine. The life expectancy of a pilot in WWI was 69 flying hours. I have something over 1,000 flying hours, and I’m still alive.

Really though, odds are not real. If you die, the odds were 100% against you. If you survive, they were 100% you’d survive.

Odds are irrelevant. What is relevant is that you spend every day as if it is your last, you do what you can while you can because you never know what truck will run into you or what enemy fighter will shoot you down or what kind of cancer will choose your body to mutate in or what else will happen tomorrow.

So party on, love your friends and your family, and lift a toast to me and you and everyone else: “here’s to the dead already, and here’s to the next one who dies.”


4 thoughts on “What are the Odds?

  1. I like your odds!

    I was in a similar situation once, except I was the car being passed. Pulled over as far as I could and all three of us passed on the highway. Scary as hell.


  2. Hi Ken, I have read this post 3 times already! What I am most impressed with is that you have opened your musings to the rest of us! Thank you! We will learn from you if we dare! We see a provocative, mystical, intelligent & transparent man reflected in this post. (So put that in your pipe and smoke it!)

    It is a privilege to hear your experiences in this crazy journey called cancer. Warmly, Irene


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