Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Illness Wars

I ran across an article the other day, maybe you saw it too?  Here's a link: http://thoughtcatalog.com/lauren-anne/2014/08/what-its-really-like-to-be-chronically-ill/, Many readers thought the writer was trying to say that those of us that have chronic illness have it so much worse than those with cancer. Maybe that wasn't the author's intent, but it was how many people took it (be sure to read the comments below the article). Here's the part that I think most people objected to:

 "I think the reason why people today love to hear about cancer stories is because they are just that. They are stories. They have a beginning, middle, and an end. While that end may not be a happy one, people are satisfied with closure. But my story doesn’t have an end. And most people don't seem to like stories without an ending."

I do not see how you can compare the two. More importantly, why should you even try? I think what the author may have been trying to do was to point out how little support those of us in the chronic illness community get. It's true that when a person is diagnosed with something like cancer, family and friends often rally around to offer support. But, this isn't always the case. There are probably many cancer patients who don't get that support. Don't get the understanding from family, friends and co-workers. Or, maybe they initially get the support, but it falls away after the initial flurry. I will say that one thing I agree with is that getting a diagnosis of something like cancer is usually, not always though, straight forward. Blood tests, scans, etc usually show what the cause of the patients symptoms are. With some chronic illnesses, many patients have had to see dozens of doctors over many years before they receive a correct diagnosis. That in itself can cause a bit of defensiveness.

The conversation that needs to be had should be about what we can do to unify us. What we can do do spread awareness of all diseases. Really, how can we relate to and offer support to all of those with all illnesses. This should start at home. Parents should talk openly with their children about chronic illness in an age appropriate way. TV can be a great conversation starter in this case. Perhaps finding an age appropriate TV show or movie that deals with illness can open up communication, especially if there is no one the family knows who is chronically ill at that particular time. There's a good chance there will be in the future. When that time comes, parents can suggest or even ask what their child thinks they can do to help a neighbor, classmate or family friend dealing with a chronic illness. Then, the child can be involved in helping. They can help prepare meals, offer companionship, help with fund raisers. The possibilities are endless. Another place learning can take place is in the schools. Books, lessons, and presentations regarding chronic illness all can be a place to start that awareness. Our own communities can also help spread the word. Churches, through chronic illness ministries such as HopeKeepers, offered through http://restministries.com/, can be a place of awareness and support. Besides offering support groups, churches can have greeting card, visitation and meal ministries. Newspapers can features stories about chronic illness, TV stations can air reports; this should be done in an informative, accurate way, without belittling or objectifying the person or the illness.

We all need to come to turns with the fact that we don't know what our future holds. That is a scary thought. Most certainly, that's where some of the animosity and misinformation comes from in the "chronic illness wars." Relinquishing a little bit of control in some areas and perhaps gaining some in others, could go a long way with helping us deal with this reality.

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