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Monday, July 25, 2011

Dave Cameron: When Statistics Are Not Helpful

Here on USSM, we talk a lot about probability and likely outcomes. When making a decision, we think it’s generally wise to understand historical precedent, and to learn from history rather than repeat it.

But, there are times in life that you’re not making a decision, and knowledge of the probability of outcomes just doesn’t help at all. You are just rooting for one specific result, even if you don’t have any control over whether it occurs or not.

I’m now in one of those situations. Last week, I was informed that I have Acute Myeloid Leukemia, a particularly nasty member of the cancer family. History has given my doctors all kinds of data about cure rates and life expectancy, and statistical analysis is helping them decide just what kind of chemotherapy I’ll be taking in a few hours, which I’m really thankful for.

But really, those numbers do nothing for me. I’m not going to be making very many decisions over the next few months. I’m just going to be rooting like crazy for the drugs to work. I need reasons for hope, and I won’t find much of that in the harshness of raw data.

As GCH, points out…“This is terrible news that I was completely unprepared for, and I hope he makes a full recovery.”

Repoz Posted: July 25, 2011 at 12:56 PM | 74 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: site news, special topics

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Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: July 25, 2011 at 01:12 PM (#3884637)
Best of luck to Dave and his family and friends.
   2. Anonymous Observer Posted: July 25, 2011 at 01:21 PM (#3884647)
Cancer sucks ass.

Get better Dave.
   3. Der Komminsk-sar Posted: July 25, 2011 at 01:22 PM (#3884648)
Indeed, best of luck Dave and company.
(Odd note: he's the only baseball writer ever to pop up in one of my dreams, once having dreamt that he and I watched a game in Winston Salem.)
   4. RJ in TO Posted: July 25, 2011 at 01:27 PM (#3884650)
I'd also like to offer my best wishes to Dave, and to express my hope that he'll be able to beat this extremely unwelcome diagnosis.
   5. Swedish Chef Posted: July 25, 2011 at 01:33 PM (#3884654)
Get well.
   6. Bernal Diaz has an angel on his shoulder Posted: July 25, 2011 at 01:38 PM (#3884659)
Cancer can go #### itself. Good luck. Stay strong.
   7. JE (Jason Epstein) Posted: July 25, 2011 at 01:47 PM (#3884664)
   8. Devin has a deep burning passion for fuzzy socks Posted: July 25, 2011 at 01:53 PM (#3884668)
Good luck, Dave.
   9. Mattbert Posted: July 25, 2011 at 01:55 PM (#3884671)
That's awful news. Get well soon, Dave.
   10. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: July 25, 2011 at 01:55 PM (#3884672)
That really sucks. Get well Dave.
   11. SoSH U at work Posted: July 25, 2011 at 01:56 PM (#3884673)
Best of luck Dave.
   12. Andere Richtingen Posted: July 25, 2011 at 02:06 PM (#3884680)
Indeed: it doesn't matter what the odds are when you simply have to win, no matter what. Good luck and good medicine.
   13. Tricky Dick Posted: July 25, 2011 at 02:13 PM (#3884688)
16 or 17 years ago, I had a step son diagnosed with childhood cancer. The standard probability of recovery, based on the type of cancer and stage, was shockingly low. The oncologists told us to ignore the probabilities because the odds are dependent on so many individual factors. They were right; after chemotherapy and radiation, the cancer was gone and he completely recovered. Sometimes the probabilities based on past history don't reflect rapid progress in treament regimes. Hopefully, Dave has a similar treatment outcome. It's a long hard road, and I wish him the best.
   14. BDC Posted: July 25, 2011 at 02:25 PM (#3884695)
If looking at baseball stats has taught us anything, it's that the odds mean little in individual situations. That's a really nice essay on that idea, Dave. All the best wishes from your readers and fans.
   15. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: July 25, 2011 at 02:28 PM (#3884698)
All the best for a full recovery Dave.
   16. Vrhovnik Posted: July 25, 2011 at 02:30 PM (#3884701)
Best wishes and best of luck, Dave.
   17. plim Posted: July 25, 2011 at 02:34 PM (#3884706)
Dave: the 2004 ALCS, Super Bowl III, 1970 NBA Championship, and the 1980 Winter Olympics have nothing on you.

You have plenty of reasons for hope. Get well soon!
   18. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: July 25, 2011 at 02:37 PM (#3884707)
Whoah. Hope the recovers completely as swiftly as possible.
   19. Bob Tufts Posted: July 25, 2011 at 02:42 PM (#3884710)
Dave - Since I went through this 1 1/2 years ago with multiple myeloma, if you want to talk about the process, treatment, autologous stem cell process et al, I'd gladly do so.

My only immediate suggestion is that you get a referral from your physician to a teaching hospital, as they are up to date on all forms of new and advanced treatment.
   20. The_Ex Posted: July 25, 2011 at 02:44 PM (#3884715)
Good luck Dave.
   21. Forsch 10 From Navarone (Dayn) Posted: July 25, 2011 at 02:48 PM (#3884719)
Kick its ass, my friend.
   22. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: July 25, 2011 at 03:04 PM (#3884732)
Good luck Dave and stay strong. We're all pulling for you.
   23. Mark Armour Posted: July 25, 2011 at 03:05 PM (#3884734)
Aww, crap. You will beat this, Dave. Fight the good fight, and take heart that you have a lot of people on your team.
   24. Accent Shallow Posted: July 25, 2011 at 03:07 PM (#3884735)
Best of luck, Dave.
   25. Norcan Posted: July 25, 2011 at 03:23 PM (#3884740)
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is one of the most common types of leukemia among adults. This type of cancer is rare under age 40. It generally occurs around age 60. Ugh.


On a positive note from that same link:

With treatment, younger patients with AML tend to do better than those who develop the disease at an older age. The 5-year survival rate is much lower in older adults than younger persons. Experts say this is partly due to the fact that the body of a younger person can better tolerate strong chemotherapy medicines.

Good Luck.
   26. fra paolo Posted: July 25, 2011 at 03:35 PM (#3884751)
mrs fra paolo has so far successfully won out over a cancer diagnosed three years ago, despite some horrific treatment, thanks to scrappy determination and a positive outlook. It's a constant battle, but every day I wake up and have a moment of gratitude that she was blessed with those emotional and mental resources.

So here's a heartfelt wish that Dave Cameron enjoys similar success. Good luck to you, Mr Cameron; you and your fight are in my prayers.
   27. Morty Causa Posted: July 25, 2011 at 03:45 PM (#3884755)
Leukemia is now one of the most treatable cancers. The chemotherapy regimes are advancing rapidly across the board for all leukemias, especially since the development of directed-effect chemotherapy in the form of pills, such as Gleevec, Sprycel, and Tasigna. Many chemo therapies for leukemia aren't the old carpet-bombing type. FWIW, I personally know a lady--and she's in her late sixties--who has AML and she is doing quite well. It's overwhelming at first, just the thought of it, so it takes time assimilate and come to grips. Give yourself time, Dave. When you feel up to it, scope out a support group site. They're not only good at bolstering your spirit, many people who participate are chock full of information and knowledge. Best of luck.
   28. Ray (RDP) Posted: July 25, 2011 at 03:54 PM (#3884759)
Best of luck, Dave. Hoping for a good outcome.
   29. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: July 25, 2011 at 03:55 PM (#3884760)
I'm not a fan of Dave's work, but when it's cancer vs. anybody, Go Team Anybody!

Feel better, Dave.
   30. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: July 25, 2011 at 04:10 PM (#3884768)
Jesus god. Here's to you, Dave -- best of luck.
   31. birdlives is one crazy ninja Posted: July 25, 2011 at 04:27 PM (#3884780)
Best of luck Dave.
   32. chemdoc Posted: July 25, 2011 at 04:28 PM (#3884782)
Here's hope for many happy years of healthy living to come.
   33. CrosbyBird Posted: July 25, 2011 at 05:33 PM (#3884790)
Best wishes and best health, Dave.
   34. Swoboda is freedom Posted: July 25, 2011 at 05:34 PM (#3884791)
I hope the cancer does as well as the Mariners. Make it lose 15 straight Dave.
   35. base ball chick Posted: July 25, 2011 at 05:39 PM (#3884795)
dave,

it ain't the size of the Dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the Dog

as you know, all those Predictions don't always work out the way they are projected

no matter what the odds there is no reason you can't be one of the people on the good side of the odds. SOMEbody got to be the survivirs and no reason it can't be you

hang in there boy
   36. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: July 25, 2011 at 05:48 PM (#3884800)
I just now realized that this wasn't just another pinata post about sabermetrics. Best of wishes, Dave.
   37. madvillain Posted: July 25, 2011 at 06:04 PM (#3884808)
Having seen my father succumb rather early in his life to cancer, I have a first hand hatred for it.

I don't really like Cameron's writing, but the hell with that petty stuff: get well man. Hope is a powerful thing. It will keep you and your family going long past the chemo and cancer's ability to sap it away. Hang in there and seek out those who are dealing with the similiar. There is strength in numbers.
   38. AROM Posted: July 25, 2011 at 06:06 PM (#3884809)
Best of luck Dave. May you live to see Felix Hernandez inducted into the Hall of Fame.

And I'm not talking about Felix lasting 10 years, putting a few Koufaxian peak seasons up, and retiring before he's 30 to go in first ballot.

May you live to see him pitch 20+ years, win 287 games, sit on the ballot for 15 years while his lack of run support/not knowing how to win is debated, and he finally gets in on his last try around 2040 or so. And then a few more years after that.
   39. whoisalhedges Posted: July 25, 2011 at 06:13 PM (#3884812)
Best wishes, Dave. Get well.
   40. asinwreck Posted: July 25, 2011 at 06:15 PM (#3884814)
As a Mariner fan, Cameron is no doubt aware that Seattle is home to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Here's hoping his treatment is pretty straightforward, but that is one amazing place should he require more innovative care.

On a baseball note (aside from the fact that the center is named after Fred Hutchinson), I watched Barry Bonds hit HR 756 on a TV in an extended stay Marriott adjacent to the Hutch while acting as caregiver for my uncle.
   41. robinred Posted: July 25, 2011 at 06:21 PM (#3884819)
I cruised by USSM, and one guy there put it well, saying that this makes a 15-game losing streak totally meaningless.

Indeed.

Best wishes to Mr. Cameron.
   42. scotto Posted: July 25, 2011 at 06:26 PM (#3884821)
Best of luck Dave. May you live to see Felix Hernandez inducted into the Hall of Fame.

And I'm not talking about Felix lasting 10 years, putting a few Koufaxian peak seasons up, and retiring before he's 30 to go in first ballot.

May you live to see him pitch 20+ years, win 287 games, sit on the ballot for 15 years while his lack of run support/not knowing how to win is debated, and he finally gets in on his last try around 2040 or so. And then a few more years after that.


Almost perfect. Seconded with the caveat that all of the above occurs with Felix in a Mariners uniform.
   43. shoewizard Posted: July 25, 2011 at 06:27 PM (#3884822)
Arom, I loved how you put that.

Dave, best of luck. You can do it.
   44. Steve Treder Posted: July 25, 2011 at 06:35 PM (#3884826)
Horrible news. David, I took great delight in meeting you for the first time, earlier this month at SABR. Every best and sincere wish for your swift and full recovery.
   45. Dan Hirsch Posted: July 25, 2011 at 06:42 PM (#3884831)
Get well Dave!
   46. Repoz Posted: July 25, 2011 at 07:15 PM (#3884851)
Seattle papers chime in...

Geoff Baker

Larry Stone

Ryan Divish.
   47. Walt Davis Posted: July 25, 2011 at 08:16 PM (#3884943)
All the best to Dave and his family.
   48. Mike Webber Posted: July 25, 2011 at 08:27 PM (#3884965)
Dave, best of luck.

As someone who has been through cancer let me give you a tip, I always found bribing the girl at the reception desk with chocolates could get you bumped up in line to see the doctor. Of course I was working for a candy company at the time, so such bribes were easy to come by. Not sure a color coded graph of Ichiro's batting average by month would be as effective at getting to jump the line.
   49. Don Malcolm Posted: July 25, 2011 at 08:41 PM (#3884983)
I will speak for Joe Sheehan (which will probably get me sued...) and hope that you outlast your rich uncle by at least five decades.
   50. North Side Chicago Expatriate Giants Fan Posted: July 25, 2011 at 09:31 PM (#3885043)
Damn. This sucks. Best of luck to you, Dave.
   51. Joe Kehoskie Posted: July 25, 2011 at 09:40 PM (#3885049)
Horrible news. Best of luck to Dave and his family.
   52. Phil Coorey is a T-Shirt Salesman Posted: July 25, 2011 at 09:59 PM (#3885058)
Best of luck Dave - there are people in Australia pulling for you as well
   53. Joe Bivens, Minor Genius Posted: July 25, 2011 at 11:27 PM (#3885100)
I'm doubly disappointed. First, because he has this disease (get well), and secondly, I thought he was going to bash statheads in TFA. Damn.
   54. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: July 25, 2011 at 11:47 PM (#3885114)
Jesus.

May you live to see the Mariners win a World Series (and Robby Cano inducted into the Hall of Fame).

Get well.
   55. tfbg9 Posted: July 26, 2011 at 12:01 AM (#3885121)
Dig in and fight Dave. All prayers...and BTW, I enjoy your work.
   56. ellsbury my heart at wounded knee Posted: July 26, 2011 at 12:39 AM (#3885140)
As a Mariner fan, Cameron is no doubt aware that Seattle is home to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Here's hoping his treatment is pretty straightforward, but that is one amazing place should he require more innovative care.

On a baseball note (aside from the fact that the center is named after Fred Hutchinson), I watched Barry Bonds hit HR 756 on a TV in an extended stay Marriott adjacent to the Hutch while acting as caregiver for my uncle.


As awesome as the FHCRC is (and I should know, as a researcher here), the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance next door are really the ones who do the actual excellent patient care. We just do the research. AML is indeed particularly nasty, with a particularly tough treatment course, but you sound like you're ready for a good fight, and your wife will be a great help. Seattle has several good hospitals though - no matter where you are, you're probably in one of the best cities in the world to treat AML.

BTW, If anyone finds themselves waiting around in that area, there's a neat little collection of baseball memorabilia in the Thomas building - right next to our Nobel Prizes :).
   57. Cowboy Popup Posted: July 26, 2011 at 12:51 AM (#3885147)
Absolutely horrible news. Best of luck Dave.
   58. tshipman Posted: July 26, 2011 at 01:32 AM (#3885193)
Best of luck.


May you live to see the Mariners win a World Series (and Robby Cano inducted into the Hall of Fame).


This made me laugh.
   59. Benji Gil Gamesh Rises Posted: July 26, 2011 at 01:33 AM (#3885197)
Look, Dave, the chemo might light you up like a pinball machine for a while, all right?

Don't worry about it. You stay cocky and confident, even when it's hard to. You gotta play this game with cheer and arrogance. That's the secret.

Dave [to cancer]: Good luck...Meat.

******
Okay that's pretty bad. But seriously, I've known a fair number of people who've survived various forms of cancer and they've always been some combination of unrelentingly positive and just plain stubborn about beating it. Stay strong, Dave.
   60. ProudLake Posted: July 26, 2011 at 01:53 AM (#3885221)
Dave, my sincere best wishes for a fast recovery, and an easy time with the chemo. My dad has CLL (Chronic Lymphatic Leukemia, I think?) and he's told me that every time he's had to be treated, the chemo has been better and better tolerated-the researchers out there are doing amazing work. Know hope-we're all rooting for you.
   61. Scott Ross Posted: July 26, 2011 at 02:09 AM (#3885243)
Get well, man.
   62. Shredder Posted: July 26, 2011 at 02:17 AM (#3885254)
Best of luck, Dave. My dad was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma about 8-10 years ago (been so long I can't remember), at a time where even the best prognoses weren't that great. He's been in remission for a couple years now, and he keeps getting great test results. Stay positive, and great things can happen.
   63. Zeba Zeba Eata Posted: July 26, 2011 at 02:31 AM (#3885268)
Sobering news - best of luck to Mr. Cameron.
   64. Moeball Posted: July 26, 2011 at 02:44 AM (#3885280)
Dave - looks like I've got some more walking to do. I do several various cancer fundraiser walks each year (notably ACS Relay for Life). Sorry to hear about your diagnosis but look forward to hearing you've been traded to a new team - the "Cancer Survivors".
   65. MikeTorrez Posted: July 26, 2011 at 03:52 AM (#3885341)
Sending good thoughts and karma to you and your family, Dave. Get well soon.
   66. JoeHova Posted: July 26, 2011 at 03:54 AM (#3885343)
Terrible news. Get well Dave.
   67. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: July 26, 2011 at 05:51 AM (#3885487)
I've said a lot of crappy things about Cameron over the years. Here's hoping I get to keep saying crappy things about him for many, many years to come.
   68. Hugh Jorgan Posted: July 26, 2011 at 06:17 AM (#3885516)
Bad luck mate, fight hard and get well. Best thoughts to your family.
   69. joyjoykid Posted: July 26, 2011 at 12:46 PM (#3885587)
As someone notice, I don't think leukemia's 5 years expectancy, something like 40%?, is applicable in this case. Dave is still young so it should be way more than that. So I just wish chemo is easier treatment for him. best of luck.
   70. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: July 26, 2011 at 01:26 PM (#3885608)
Best of luck Dave.
   71. Guapo Posted: July 26, 2011 at 01:56 PM (#3885629)
On October 16, 2001, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the St. Louis Cardinals played Game 5 of their Divisional League Playoffs. With a runner on 2nd base and 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th, the score was tied, 1-1. Tony Womack was at bat for Arizona and Steve Kline was pitching for St. Louis.

Womack hit .188 against lefthanders that season.

Kline held lefthanded hitters to a .149 average that season.

I remember watching that at-bat with those statistics in mind and thinking Womack had no chance. Of course, Tony, with 2 strikes on him, lined a single to left-center field to drive in the series-clinching run. And the Diamondbacks went on to win the World Series.

I now live my life in accordance with the "Kline-Womack Rule." It essentially holds that all statistics are bullshit some of the time.

If you don't believe me, believe Han Solo.

Good luck to you!
   72. Dingbat_Charlie Posted: July 26, 2011 at 02:05 PM (#3885636)
good luck, get well.
   73. Dan Szymborski Posted: July 26, 2011 at 02:07 PM (#3885637)
All the best to Dave. As tough as it was too lose Doug Pappas and John Brattain, from a personal standpoint, I know Dave better. Plus he's slightly younger than me, which is always a mortality eye-opener. I guess that's kinda selfish in a way.

Hopefully he'll be OK as age does seem to matter for this. I speculated on that, but I'm glad it turned out to be true - I really know nothing about biology outside of generally how babies are made and that we have to eat food so as to not die.
   74. Dan Szymborski Posted: July 26, 2011 at 02:13 PM (#3885644)
I now live my life in accordance with the "Kline-Womack Rule." It essentially holds that all statistics are ######## some of the time.

I don't know that a parallel thought of Tony Womack doing something good is quite the reassurance that a stathead needs.
   75. bunyon Posted: July 26, 2011 at 02:15 PM (#3885647)
I'm doubly disappointed. First, because he has this disease (get well), and secondly, I thought he was going to bash statheads in TFA. Damn.

This is my thought. I didn't look at this thread yesterday because I wanted to wait until some posts got going and for a time when I'd be able to savor it. I knew something was up when there were so few responses (well, relative to the PETCO level disaster I had anticipated).

Dave, I don't know you at all but I enjoy reading your work. Good luck and God Bless.

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