Tetraphobia is the dislike of the number four, which is a homonym for “death” in both Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese. I’m not especially superstitious, but I slightly dread the time 4:44 when I notice it on a clock, and would have preferred a home address without 4s in it.
Since my cancer diagnosis, it seems like I’ve been surrounded by 4s. My leukemia symptoms began shortly after my 44th birthday. My eight-digit patient number for UCSF (which I have to wear on a wristband and is used to identify all my medications, procedures, and transfusions) contains five 4s. The clinic I go to as an outpatient is on the 4th floor. My consolidation therapy comprises 4 rounds of chemo. But instead of hating 4 more than ever, these coincidences have made me immune to the power of 4. It’s a number that can just as easily have positive associations.
44 is the age I went into remission. The 4th floor clinic allows me to be outpatient for most of my consolidation therapy. And the 4 rounds of chemo are eliminating the last of my cancer cells. These are all good things. Also, April 4 is Qīngmíng Jié, a festival for remembering family (like a Chinese Día de Muertos) and celebrating springtime.