Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Accepting MCS and other Chronic Illness

Carefully folded into each of the almost-100 cards sitting on my desk and waiting to be mailed is our annual family Christmas letter. It's no secret that I like to write, and what could be better than writing about my own family? This year I've also mentioned the success we've had in working toward fragrance-free church buildings. MCS is so much a part of my life it makes sense to mention it in this letter. However, I did hesitate, because bringing up the subject will likely solicit the response of some well-meaning friend or family member who has heard of some miracle cure for all my ills. I understand the love and concern that comes with these recommendations, but I still don't appreciate them.

Those who know me know that I am no fan of medical doctors, and I am always open to new ideas for improved health and well-being. However, I will be forever indebted to the doctor who, eleven years ago, gave an honest reply to my question, "When will I be completely better?" Looking me directly in the eyes, but with a note of sadness in his voice, he explained that I would never be "completely better," that I had incurred permanent damage to organs and body systems (particularly my adrenal glands). Anyone with chronic illness knows the sobering feelings and thoughts that were mine that day and in the days to come. Yet, there came a time, not long afterwards, that I decided to accept what I couldn't change and work on what I could. That was a turning point for me.

Some make the accusation that accepting illness is giving up hope, but I would contend that it is quite to the contrary. By focusing on the things I can change (like diet, exercise and daily schedule) and accepting the things I cannot, I open myself up to hope for a life that can be full and sustaining, albeit different from the norm. By appreciating the things I do have (like supporting family members, a safe home and productive work I can do at my own pace) and putting aside what I have lost, I can move forward and enjoy my new life one day at a time.
There is a wonderful article on The Canary Report today about "The false promise of miracle cures for MCS," including ten characteristics of false cures for any illness. I wholeheartedly agree with the authors that such "cures" are a waste of our precious time and energy. I prefer to use what little residual energy I have on education and activism to lower the amount of chemicals in the environment and make the world, even if it's just my little corner of it, safer for everyone.


Becca said...

Good post Mom :). Reminds me of the Serenity Prayer (?) -- God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

Anonymous said...

Aloha Catherine, thank you for the shout out. I agree with you wholeheartedly about focusing on what is, rather than being stuck wishing for what isn't. I've never had much use for the concept of hope, it's much to passive for me. I greatly appreciate your comments about the post on miracles cures-- we've caught a little heat today about it and I really appreciate your support. I always enjoy and respect your perspective on things. Aloha, Susie xoxo

MCS America said...

This is so very true. I heartily believe that the failure to accept the illness leads to situational anger, anxiety, and depression. The more well adjusted people seem to have one major difference... they have accepted their illness. In order for us to find solutions, we must first accept the problem. This does not mean one does not have hope for a cure. It just means that one does not view their life as useless in the meantime, rather there is value and productivity in life... even with chronic illness. As long as we are above ground, we must never stop living!

CatherineWO said...

Thanks for the comments. It's good to know others feel the same way.