I was scrolling through my social media pages, catching up on posts and responding to comments, when a new message alert popped up. A friend of mine had discovered a link on a website and sent it along “Hey Julia, I read that this water takes away the pain of arthritis. A woman posted that her mother takes it and it completely eliminates the pain – but only if she takes it every day…” I read it, and immediately brushed it off as a scam…but now I had a small snag. I had to acknowledge her considerate message and I was at a loss as to how to respond…
When I started blogging about life with RA, I had no idea that I would become a new target for spam, emails, ads, remedies and treatments of every kind. The moment our diagnosis is publicized, we are vulnerable to companies and strangers who are positive they know more about our condition than we do – and in the beginning, I thought they did. After all, they have been struggling with this disease for years so they must know the right way to treat it.
It was easy to be guilelessly seduced by some of these recommendations in the midst of trying to absorb the onslaught of statistics about my disease. I eagerly read each new message trying to soak up as much information as possible. It quickly became evident that many of them were scams. After several weeks, the novelty began to wear off…after months, I developed a healthy skepticism of any message that flashed across my screen. Who has the time and money to explore all of these options? And if these treatments were so astounding, why wasn’t everybody using them? And then came that fateful day when a friend emailed me one of those dubious ads.
It’s easy to brush off the unwanted advice of strangers, but friends and family deserve a response. How do I politely dismiss a friend’s thoughtful, albeit ludicrous suggestion? I tried to be kind in my response. I thanked her for thinking of me, but I thought I would be a good idea to follow my specialist’s recommendations. Almost immediately she responded “I’ll cease my suggestions”. Uh-oh. Had I offended her? I couldn’t tell. Emotions can’t be interpreted in the text of email. I immediately tried to correct my faux pas by ineffectively explaining that I didn’t mind if friends sent me suggestions. Another enigmatic response. I felt myself sinking into a cavernous hole I would be unable to climb out of, so I let it go.
It bothered me for a few days. Was I so arrogant and stubborn not to open my mind to the possibility of wellness? I don’t discount every option – RA, and the many types of arthritis, are intensely complex and one treatment does not fit all. I have no doubt there are many alternatives that offer great benefit. It takes months to understand how the disease manifests in your own body and just as find the therapy to help control the symptoms.
I grew indifferent to the links and recommendations filling my media pages, rejected the ongoing testimonials to “miracle” water, and trusted my health care team to guide me. And that’s when it struck me. My friends and family were completely unaware of the onslaught of unsolicited advice I received from complete strangers. It’s easy to ambush a suggestion when you are constantly bombarded by them, but my friends weren’t doing this to sell a product or make a fast buck – they were doing this because they genuinely cared.
I love my friends for doing this. I can’t expect them to understand what it’s like living in the world of RA, but I can keep an open mind, graciously accept their suggestions, and cling to the vague hope that hidden in the gravel of one of those absurd remedies a gem is waiting to be discovered.