What are the Chances?
My brother died of a brain tumor in 2002. This March marked the eighth anniversary of his death. Sometimes it feels like he was here just yesterday. Other times it seems like a lifetime ago; in many ways it was. Since his death, I’ve worked at three companies, met and married my husband, got a dog, bought a house and had two children, one of whom has special needs. Today, I identify more with “mom” than with the person I was when he died: recent MBA grad, focused and serious but willing and able to jump on a plane to New York City at a moment’s notice.
A year ago, as we were going through the diagnosis process with my son for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), I thought a lot about my brother. My first thoughts were what I’ll call “the fantasy of the law of averages.” Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that an average of 1 in 110 children have ASD. I didn’t know what the chances of getting a brain tumor are, but it had to be pretty rare, right? So I held out hope by asking myself “what are the chances that my brother would have a brain tumor and my son would have autism?” That has to be really rare. So I figured it wouldn’t happen to me.
Before you start wondering what kind of two-bit business school gave me my degree, let me assure you that I do understand that this is not how things work. I’m not going to go through a lesson in probability here, (although you can find a nice explanation here) but suffice it to say that the chances of my son having autism are the same whether or not my brother had a brain tumor.Continued on the next page