The Miracle Cure!
When I was a brand new mom simultaneously dealing with a post-birth RA flare and learning how to take care of my weeks-old newborn, I was lucky enough to find a great new parents support group. Every week we would go around the room and each of us was given a chance to talk about the parenting challenges we were currently facing. Some mamas talked about sleep issues they were having with their babies. Others talked about disagreeing with their husband’s different parenting styles. Some struggled over choosing whether to stay home or go back to work. After each person shared her concerns, the facilitator and the others in the group offered up any suggestions they had for facing that particular challenge.
After attending the group for a few weeks and feeling a bit more comfortable, I finally took a deep breath and opened up to the other moms about having RA and struggling with some of the more physical aspects of motherhood. Nobody had any particular suggestions for me, but they did listen to me and it felt nice to acknowledge my struggles out loud.
When the facilitated part of the group was over, the new moms would often hang around and talk to each other for a while. At the time I didn’t really know anyone with kids, so I was excited for the opportunity to make friends with some other moms. On the day I spoke up about my RA, one of the moms asked me for my phone number and email address. I was delighted! I thought she wanted to arrange a play date or maybe go out for lunch or coffee or something.
But, as it turned out, she didn’t really want to get to know me any better. Instead, she wanted to talk about my RA. But she didn’t want to hear about my experiences or share her personal experiences with arthritis. Nope. Instead she wanted to offer me the miracle cure.
“Rheumatoid arthritis,” she told me with extreme authority, “is caused by bacteria. You just have to get the bacteria out of your system. I can email you some information on something you can take to get the bacteria out of your body.”
I was flabbergasted. I had heard stories about “miracle cures” (my favorite being to eat seven gin-soaked raisins every day!) but I had never been offered one so blatantly or in person. I had zero idea how to respond. I mean, while there is actually some scientific evidence that bacteria could be linked to triggering RA, it is certainly not as simple as “just get the bacteria out of your body and then you’ll be fine for the rest of your life hooray!!” Because if there really was something so simple and foolproof, don’t you think my army of doctors would have mentioned it by now?!?
I reminded myself that I was at a support group and trying to make new friends, so I tried to be polite and keep the friendly vibe going. After taking a few deep breaths, I told her I had never heard that theory and asked how she had heard about it. She said a homeopathic doctor had told her about it. I responded that while natural remedies are certainly worth looking into, and while I have even heard of them working for some people, RA is actually quite a serious disease. I told her that even kids can get similar types of arthritis and that most people with RA require serious medications to keep their symptoms under control.
Despite my attempts to politely educate her based on fact, this woman was adamant. She responded I wouldn’t need to take dangerous medications if I just got the bacteria out of my body. She said it was a matter of me being willing to do it, and if I didn’t want to try it was my own choice to have a lifelong condition. It was at this point that I thanked her for her information – yes, for some reason I actually thanked her – and I changed the subject to how cute her daughter was.
I left the support group feeling extremely out of sorts. I felt frustrated that I hadn’t been able to do a better job educating her about the realities of life with RA. I was offended that she thought she could manage my health better than I could. And while I knew the logic was completely absurd, the implication that my struggles with RA had been some kind of “choice” on my part left me feeling pretty awful. No one chooses to have a lifelong illness.
Of course, I was also a vulnerable new mom at the time – overwhelmed, under-rested, and looking for support. I’d like to think I would do a better job standing up to someone like her today.
Have you ever been offered “the miracle cure”? How did you respond?