There are lies, damned lies and statistics. ~ Mark Twain

A statistic defying plant

It’s been, I think as I harvest some chillies, a statistic defying sort of year.

We had our first cold snap of winter this weekend, a full month before the average date. My chilli plants, supposed to be frost tender, are defying the odds. Each day I expect to wake and find them black, slimy and done for the year. In defiance of gardening statistics they are producing more heavily than at the height of summer.

It’s not just the plants

Four months ago my son was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma. The probability of this diagnosis in a teenager? About one in four billion. Based on statistics, his first oncologist predicted he’d be gone within two months. She withheld treatment based on those same statistics.

His second (and current) oncologist predicted a one percent chance that he would respond to chemotherapy and survive. For her that was enough to initiate treatment and we love her for it.

Contrary to her warnings, Joshua seems to feel great on chemotherapy days. He had treatment yesterday and  headed out for  Thai food directly afterwards.  So much for the chances of chemo induced nausea. And  hair loss, neuropathy and potential hearing loss for that matter.

Herein lies the paradox

Statistically Josh and the chilli bush should both be long dead. The thing is, though, that they aren’t. They are both healthier than we have any right to expect. Statistics haven’t made my chillies any less fiery or Josh any more sickly.

But they do inform the way we feel and the decisions we make.  Would my chilli bushes keep on investing in their fruit if they listened to the weather report?  Do I still put aside savings for Joshua’s education, even when he might not be there? Herein lies the limitation of statistics.  If it was only about statistics we’d give up any thought for the future. But I find I can’t do it. Instead I find myself planning for a future which may or may not be rosy AND paying more attention to today.

The prognosis for both Josh and the chilli haven’t changed, but this defiance of odds has made the chilli seem somehow redder, lusher, more vibrant and fruity. In my relationship with Josh, it has imbued every shared smile,  every moment sitting in a sunny patch, every hug, every conversation with a sense of wonder and love that I could not previously have appreciated.


the chilli that defied statistics

if i believed the statistics, Josh would already be gone