5/25/16 Nefarious Numbers


Are numbers ever nefarious? Do numbers themselves have a wicked agenda?

I reckon numbers don’t care what they are. They are just numbers. It is, I suppose, their significance to us in certain arenas that render them nefarious or not.

Seven is a lucky number on a craps table, but only on your come out roll. After your point is established, seven is not too lucky. Once your point is established, seven becomes nefarious, even nefariously likely, just waiting to do you in, to cash in your chips, as it were.

74 in miles-per-hour (MPH) on interstate highways in most places is a good number, just right above the speed limit, but not enough to get you a ticket. In some places out west, it is below the speed limit. In some urban areas, it may be above the speed limit, but you are a traffic hazard if you drive that slow. To the other drivers, you are entertaining a nefarious number.

74 as a constant wind speed in MPH means you have a hurricane, not a particularly nefarious one on the Saffir-Simpson scale, but a hurricane nevertheless. Boost that on up to 156 and you have a Category V hurricane, and that is more than nefarious, though either one is nefarious enough if you are in its path.

I don’t like nefarious numbers, but a number becomes nefarious only in reference to what we are gauging.

Take me, for instance: In April of 2013, Big-as-Texas Cancer Center with all their sophisticated equipment measured my blood and found 0.0% aberrant cells, or in other words, there was no detectable evidence of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia in a peripheral blood sample, which is blood drawn from my arm. 0.0% is a good number when you are talking about the amount of cancer cells in your bloodstream, though if you are talking about the amount of this month’s mortgage payment you are able to pay, 0.0% is quite nefarious…but we are talking leukemia, not mortgage payments. I don’t have a mortgage, but I do have leukemia. I hope all of you can get rid of your mortgage payments, but I don’t want you to get leukemia in the process, though I doubt the two things are connected in any way.

I had had a 0.0% detectable cancer presence after my first three of the six rounds of Chemotherapy/Immunotherapy (FC-R – Fludarabine/Cyclophosphamide/Rituximab) they had me scheduled for. Even though I was in complete remission in November of 2009, they continued the entire six-round course to really kick the cancer back. If the cancer had its own mind, and I swear sometimes I think it does, it likely thought that six rounds of the chemo was nefarious since the first three did it enough damage to make it disappear. It worked, though, the chemotherapy. For five years, I was cancer-free, or with CLL, not really cancer-free, but in a state of no detectable residual disease; it was still there lurking, sulking, licking its wounds after having been dealt a nefarious number of chemicals that poisoned it without poisoning me, mostly, though it did poison me a little bit. The poison numbers were non-nefarious for me, but nefarious for the cancer. I could live with that. I could literally live with that.

Five is a good number. Five years is about the maximum I could expect to remain cancer-non-detectable. Nurse Alice had told me that if I could stay in remission for five years, my chances of success were very good for obtaining a second remission when I needed to be treated again. The numbers were good. The numbers were non-nefarious.

In May of 2014, my formerly 0.0% of detectable cancer cells in a given sample of peripheral blood had turned somewhat nefarious, since I was no longer in a non-detectable state. 0.21% of observed white blood cells were aberrant, expressing undesirable proteins on their surface, or cancer cells. Now, 0.21%, or two-tenths of one percent does not sound too nefarious and it reads even less nefarious than it sounds, but measure the percentage of increase against the April 2013 number and you will see the essence of nefarity. Now nefarity is not really a word but making up words is one of my great pleasures in life and I make up a nefarious number of them, all of which serve me well, perhaps better than they serve you.

So, there was the evidence of the awakened giant. My remission had failed. The cancer that had never really left was back after five years. My formerly cocky, confident self got a little small-childish-momma-wanting-ish-ness going on, but I am mostly too manly for that, so I just choked it back like freezer-burned chopped liver on stale rye bread and went on about my business as best I could, even though some symptoms of complications were more than lurking…in fact, their mounting number was turning nefarious. Nefarious numbers were not what I had in mind.

In May of 2015, my aberrant number of blood cells had increased to 0.9%. That’s nine-tenths of one percent for those of you who view decimal numbers as nefarious, though when you count money you don’t likely think of them as nefarious. Again, the increase of 450% is more than a little nefarious even if the numbers are still small.

On May 16, 2016, just a couple of weeks ago, the aberrant cells were measured and discovered to be 9.4% of the cells in a peripheral blood sample. Now I think that is flat-out a nefarious number, and the 1000% increase is about as nefarious as you can get. While I think that these cells are not necessarily full-blown cancerous lymphocytes, they are cells that are expressing surface proteins such as CD20, CD38, and others, which indicate that their aberration, and aberrant numbers, are more than merely aberrant….they are nefarious.

So, I am along for the ride now. I was more than fortunate to have enjoyed the five year remission and the two years of near nothingness, and near nothingness is not a nefarious number unless you need to buy groceries out of it, the thought of which needs no further explanation.

I am thankful for what I have. With CLL, you cannot possiblyroll a seven on your come out roll, yet, but you can roll a six (One can also roll a twelve, or a two, both of which are extremely nefarious). Even with a string of sixes, you are bound to roll some nefarious sevens, sooner than later. And later, seven is a doubly-nefarious number, just waiting for its chance to spoil your plans. And it may yet spoil my plans, but it will not spoil them today.

Is today a number? Perhaps, since it is ONE day. But today is the day number that means something, since it is the only number of days I have any control over, and whether that control exists or not, there is the illusion of it, and that is my illusion for the day from which I will proceed accordingly, all while avoiding nefarious numbers. I will not think about nefarious numbers that may come up tomorrow.

Tomorrow is another number.

You got any nefarious numbers of your own? If you have too many, maybe your gauge needs changing.

©2016 Mississippi Chris Sharp


One thought on “5/25/16 Nefarious Numbers

  1. I don’t think I have any nefarious numbers. Maybe my weigh if it goes up. But, I have control over that nefarious number. My age is getting to be also nefarious but am still grateful to be getting older. Many people didn’t get that opportunity. Thanks for always giving me food for thought. You are loved, Chris Sharp.


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