Recently, my mother ran across an ad for some special arthritis gloves in the paper’s Sunday supplement. She pointed it out to me.
“It says they relieve arthritis pain!” Mom exclaimed. “Do you think they’ll work?”
I hesitated. The arthritis pain I’ve been coping with in my hands and wrists, pain that isn’t relieved by prescription analgesics, handfuls of pills, or even an injected biologic drug, deeply disturbs my mother. Even though I’m only a couple of years shy of 60, I’m still her little girl and always will be. She wants to make my pain go away with every fiber of her being.
I love her for it. But …
“They might work, you know,” she said. “I’ll get them for you, honey.”
I’m a never-say-die optimist. I can–almost always–find a bright side, a silver lining, or something good in just about anything, anyone, or any situation, even when I have to work for it. But I have to say that Miraculous Remedies for rheumatoid arthritis leave me cold–and sometimes, angry.
You’ve seen them. They’re in magazines and newspapers, on TV, and on the Internet in the form of special, “natural” pills and elixers, copper rings and bracelets, Amazing Diets, and Magical Items like these very gloves my mother was excited about that day.
I get angry about them because they’re fraudulent. They don’t work. Rheumatoid arthritis–or rheumatoid disease (my preferred name for it)–is incurable. There is no “remedy.” And while there may be some treatments and items that can soothe pain and discomfort, none of them–not one–is permanent. To claim otherwise is to lie–and the makers of many of them do just that. They steal money from people, preying on their desperate need to find something that will make them feel better.
I looked at the ad. The gloves were beige and made of a spandex combination so they’d fit tightly. They covered the wrists and knuckles, but left the fingers free.
I already own several pairs of therapeutic, fingerless gloves. I bought them, like these, in the hope that they’d relieve my arthritis pain. The best of the lot are compression gloves. I wear them frequently on my sore, tender hands and wrists for the warmth and mild, supportive compression they offer. They’re sometimes soothing–and that’s worth a lot, some days–but they don’t actually relieve pain. They don’t cure my rheumatoid disease. They won’t–and can’t–make me all better.
The gloves in the ad were different from my others in one major way. Arranged in rows around the wristbands and in cicles and lines over the knuckles and lower parts of the fingers were small black dots. These, it turned out, were tiny magnets–and it was these that made these gloves special and unique.
I’m sorry, but magnets don’t have even a small effect on rheumatoid disease. Its out-of-control inflammation is the culprit that causes its pain and disability, and magnets can’t draw it away from the joints. It can’t disperse it and send it flying off into the universe.
But instead of saying, “No thanks, Mom. Those gloves are useless,” I said, “Thank you, Mom. Maybe they’ll work. Worth a try.” I just didn’t have the heart to tell her what I really thought. She wanted to help me, to take away as much of my pain as she could.
And, perversely, I was afraid that if I turned the gloves down, she might think I wanted to remain miserable and in pain. She might think I wasn’t willing to try everything I could to relieve it, to cure myself of this affliction, that I wanted my rheumatoid disease for the attention it brings me.
Now, I know how ridiculous that sounds. But that niggling little fear was real in my mind as I accepted her offer.
The gloves came in the mail yesterday. I put them on immediately. They fit snugly around my wrists, dotted with their wee black magnets. They’re loose in the palm. And they’re a little too tight and constricting around the base of my fingers, so that I’m often pulling at them to allow my blood to flow into my fingertips.
Do they work as advertised? I wish I could say yes, I really do. I would love it if, against all science and biology and credible, critical thought, they made my pain disappear. But alas, it’s still there, like it always is.
But the gloves do do something: they keep my hands warm, which is nice for achy joints. They offer a little compression around my wrists and fingers, which is also somewhat soothing. And most of all, they’ve allowed my mom to do something active, something tangible to help me fight the pain of this disease, even if it’s just a little bit.
For that, I’ll keep wearing the gloves with their little magnets she bought for me. They can’t do any harm. And I find that my optimism is winning out after all: these gloves have brought my elderly mother and me just a little bit closer to each other in love, caring, and companionship. That’s the good, real gift that counts.