A Family History of Fear
I got a D in math and my sister got cancer. These aren’t causalities, only things that happened one right after the other.
Translated from the German by Jane Marchant.
Statistics is the science of probability. The discipline connects theory with historical experience to predict likely futures. An auxiliary science, statistics is used extensively in medical practice. Statistics does not make predictions concerning individual human cases but, rather, analyzes empirical data to show broad connections.
Avoid: Lead, nickel, ozone. Formaldehyde, oxazepam. Benzoyl, cobalt chloride. Plutonium, vinyl chloride. Dimethyl phosphate, arsenic. Acrylamide, malathion. Diazione and busulfan. Carbazone and benzofuran. Acetaldehyde and treosulfan. Parathion and auramine. Cocamide diethanolamine, radon, phenacetin, and chromium. Isopropanol and azathioprine. Polychlorinated biphenyl. Beryllium and myleran. Cadmium and cyclosporine. Chlorpromazine and butadiene. Erionite and ethylene oxide. Cristolite and tamoxifen.
Statistics does not make predictions concerning individual human cases.
The risk of developing lung cancer is significantly higher among tobacco users. One’s risk of developing lung cancer is heightened if one lives in a smoking household or a home heated by coal, so it is therefore inadvisable for smokers to heat their homes with coal. It is also inadvisable to smoke. Cases of lung cancer among coal miners are extraordinarily high. Automobile exhaust can be carcinogenic. Increased rates of lung cancer are found in inhabitants of houses built between 1960 and the 1970s because the possibility is higher that asbestos is concealed within the houses’ walls.
The likelihood of developing leukemia, thyroid cancer, or lymphoma is very high if one lives within a radioactive zone near the site of a nuclear disaster. One’s likelihood of developing cancer is exponentially higher if one ingests fruits and/or vegetables contaminated with radiation. The probability of developing cancer is extremely high in individuals who touch uranium. Those exposed to elevated doses of ionizing radiation have a higher likelihood of developing acute radiation syndrome than those unexposed. Electromagnetic radiation such as radio waves, microwaves, infrared waves, X-rays, and gamma rays, in effective doses, are likely to cause cancer.
One’s likelihood of developing cancer is substantially higher when a family member has had cancer. The probability that someone in one’s family has had cancer increases the larger one’s family is. In many cases, cancer will skip a generation, although sometimes it passes directly from parent to child. One’s chance of developing cancer grows with age. Certain cancers are found almost exclusively in children and teens.
Why all of a sudden?The sun shines like a pink rose in the middle of the night.
The chances of developing cancer are higher if you are a cisgender man. Colon cancer affects cisgender men at much higher rates than cisgender women. The likelihood of developing breast cancer is significantly higher if you are a cisgender woman. In rare cases, breast cancer can also affect cisgender men. Your probability of developing breast cancer doubles if someone in your family has been diagnosed with breast cancer. You are unlikely to develop testicular or prostate cancer if you are a cisgender woman. You probably will not develop cervical or ovarian cancer if you do not have a cervix or ovaries.
This time, we are ready.
Elevated cancer rates are observed in workers processing industrial chemicals such as aniline, tar, nickel, cobalt, and chromium, and likewise for farmers working with engineered fertilizers. There is sound evidence that the agricultural pesticide glyphosate induces cancer. Winemakers, carpenters, and copper and tin foundry workers are at high risk of cancer. Your likelihood of developing cancer increases when you eat processed meats preserved with sodium nitrate. Evidence suggests that red meat encourages the growth of cancer. Without exception, you should avoid ethanol in alcoholic beverages. In large quantities, caffeine will feed cancer’s growth. Abstain from fruits and vegetables treated with pesticides. The carcinogenic fungus aspergillus flavus often infects corn, pistachio, and cereal crops. Do not eat it. Avoid contact with toxic fabric dyes, children’s toys, and packaging material. You are strongly advised against licking yogurt lids, as this can lead to cancer.
I will stay healthy! I’m doing good! I feel great!
Your likelihood of developing skin cancer increases when you sunbathe unprotected under ultraviolet radiation. Your chance of developing skin cancer is higher the lighter your skin is. The highest rates of skin cancer are in Australia, where the ozone layer’s protection is thinnest. Sunscreens can contain carcinogenic chemicals.
Autoimmune diseases can increase the risk of cancer. Some viruses can be cancer inducing, such as HIV or mononucleosis. Your likelihood of developing cancer is higher if you already have cancer.
There is a probability of developing cancer. There is a possibility of dying of cancer. Statistics show that every third European will develop cancer in their lifetime.
When two things lie side by side often enough . . .
Originally published in German by BELLA triste.
Margarita Iov was born in Kiev in 1993, grew up in Berlin and studied at the German Institute for Literature in Leipzig. She has received invitations to the Klagenfurt Literature Course and to the Open Mike. Her texts have been published in various anthologies and magazines, including Edit and Bella triste.
Jane Marchant is a writer, photographer, and book artist from Northern California. She earned her BA and MFA from Columbia University and was previously the PEN America Literary Awards Program Director. Her work has appeared in Guernica, Apogee, Columbia Journal, Facility: A Magazine about Bathrooms, and elsewhere, as well as anthologized in The Beiging of America: Personal Narratives about Being Mixed Race in the Twenty-First Century (2Leaf Press). She is at work on a memoir in the form of an Encyclopedia of Botany of the San Francisco Bay Area, which considers themes of motherhood, racial passing, and interconnected root systems. Follow her unfocused instagram @jane_marchant.
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