February 15, 2015

Rector’s Reflection

Call it the perfect storm. Okay, if you call it ‘the perfect storm’ it would be a bit of an exaggeration. It was more like a coincidence, but as I was waiting to pick up a prescription at CVS the other day, two women behind me were talking about a commercial they had seen on TV. I knew I would have plenty of time to listen to their conversation because, after all, CVS isn’t known for its fast-moving lines. (I have often wondered if that isn’t a part of the pharmacy’s healing philosophy… you know “time heals all wounds.”)

The commercial was for a law firm that somehow links to judgments against giant corporations and offers the viewer the opportunity to call a toll-free number to see whether said viewer might be entitled to a share of a settlement should any of the scrolling list of symptoms, side effects, or ailments (including death) apply to the viewer or the viewer’s loved one. There are a number of these law firms and they usually have catchy slogans like ‘One Call, That’s All’ or ‘dial 1-800-BECAUSEIT’SSOMEBODYELSE’SFAULT, extension $$$.’

Anyway, the ad that had these women in a tizzy said that there is an indisputable link between the use of talcum powder and ovarian cancer. I had seen an ad like that a few days earlier and I had gone to a couple of websites to see if that were true. Evidently there is a link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer, although the strength of the link is debated in the medical community. What concerned me more than this link, however, was how genuinely upset these women were. Evidently they had been baby powder users and had used baby powder on their girl babies and now they were castigating themselves for contributing to, not only their own demises, but to their daughters’ as well. One woman noted that the ad said she had a 33% greater chance of developing ovarian cancer. There’s nothing like the terror brought on by a statistic.

Now, I hope everyone knows that I am not minimizing the seriousness of cancer, ovarian or otherwise, or any other disease for that matter, but there’s enough we know about in our lives to frighten us without a TV ad giving folks the impression that one sprinkle of Johnson & Johnson and you’re a goner.

As near as I can figure, if we look at all the ads out there that reveal stuff that’s bad for us (and for which we deserve compensation), we would find that environment, lifestyle, and behaviors account for a lot of cancers and cancer deaths. What else is there? We’ve got air pollution, sunlight, and workplace hazards; tobacco, fatty foods, soft drinks, obesity, infections, radiation, stress, lack of physical activity, and environmental pollutants; hair dyes, asbestos, cell phones, and genetics – and that’s not the complete list.

I have, therefore, come up with my own statistic: 100% of deaths are directly attributable to life. I hope God has a good legal team…