Sensational Headlines and False Hope
I think of myself as an optimistic-realist. I know that there is no cure for my MS, but I am certain that there will be one someday. I am confident that we will soon be able to treat all types of MS more effectively, and to even repair some of the damage that has been done. I am optimistic that, within my lifetime, we will learn why and how this disease has latched on to so many of us, and finally be able to protect future generations from it.
Coming up short
A cure, or even just an effective treatment, would mean the world to me. I obviously want to beat my MS once and for all, but above all I want to be able to offer that option to my patients. As a clinician nothing makes me feel more helpless than watching someone I’m treating or a friend with MS deteriorate. I can help them adapt, encourage them, and treat their symptoms with a variety of therapies, but there are times when I pull out every tool in my arsenal and still come up short. Practicing medicine has made me feel like a hero and a complete failure, often all in the same day.
The frustration of being on the outside
The way I feel about the people with MS that I treat has given me a small glimpse into what it must be like for our friends and family. In the beginning they look on as MS steals some of the “small” things from us- like our ability to stay up late on weekday and still function the next day, or to lay out on the beach on a hot day. Then over the years they have to watch MS take bigger and bigger chunks of our lives like our ability to walk smoothly, hold a job, or get through a day without being in pain. I get how frustrating it is to be on the outside looking in, and how helpless the people around us can feel at times. Unfortunately, when you couple desperation with a catchy headline like “Surprisingly Simple Cure for Multiple Sclerosis Discovered”, “Cure Multiple Sclerosis with the Paleo Diet”, or “Vitamin D Proven to Cure MS”, things can get a bit sticky.
The extra burden of irresponsible journalism
I know many of us get annoyed with people constantly telling them how to cure their MS with some diet, supplement, or exercise they heard about. Personally I don’t get frustrated when people reach out, because I understand where they are coming from. It usually comes from a place of compassion and concern, which I am always grateful for. To me it is encouraging that I have so many people in my life who are kind enough to keep an ear out for something that could potentially help me. Getting angry at them would be misguided, but I do get angry at the people writing those sensational headlines. I’m furious at them for making me break the bad news that MS is still incurable over and over. It angers me that they get the hopes of my friends and family up, only to deflate them. How do they continue to get away with dashing the dreams of the millions of people living with MS, just to get more page clicks? Maybe I’m being overprotective, but in my opinion MS is more than enough to deal with on its own, and we definitely don’t need the extra burden of irresponsible journalism.
Holding on to hope
Hope is what keeps us moving forward, but false hope can be as crushing to the spirit as MS can be to the body. When (not if) we do finally find the cure to this disease I will be shouting it from the rooftops. Until then lets keep the journalism honest and responsible, and focus our efforts on coming together to end MS forever. I look forward to celebrating our victory with the entire MS community.
Have you ever heard someone say the following: