For people living with chronic conditions, the prospect of a cure can both inspire and dishearten. After diagnosis, some organize their lives around a search for healing. Others focus on living well with their condition, refusing to be defined by sickness and cautious lest the hope for a cure distract them from the life they have.
That’s why, for this week’s Community Round-Up, we asked Folks’ followers: How often do you think about a cure? To what extent does it shape your daily reality? Some responses have been edited for clarity.
I do sometimes think about a cure, mostly when I hear about people with rheumatoid arthritis who went into remission. I allow myself to imagine what it might be like to be fully mobile and pain-free again, but then I have to put that out of my mind. Because this is my life, this is my body, and I go forward into each day with joy only if I love and care for the skin I’m in.
I never thought about my illness, Crohn’s, having a cure. I’ve only known what it is to be “sick.” But I live as a “healthy sick person.” I never considered myself to be “that” sick. I only knew a hospital bed for 20 years and I still didn’t think I was sick. Maybe that’s why I’m still fighting. If there was a cure, I wouldn’t be who I am today and I love the person I am today. I am Crohn’s. Crohn’s isn’t me. I am everything before I am a person with Crohn’s.
A cure? Preposterous! I never think about a cure. I am solid in the fact that Ankylosing Spondylitis is incurable. They barely have a genuine treatment right now. I think we are far far away from a cure. Thinking about what may be causes a lot of grief. Like dreaming of living comfortably in a huge house when you are barely making a living. A cure is a fairy tale and getting ones hopes up for Prince Charming is only going to lead to a huge letdown. I don’t need this kind of depression in my life. So, I don’t even dream of a cure.
Jed Finley is a Special Education teacher in his mid 30’s who was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis at 12 and created the Facebook-based support group Living With Ankylosing Spondylitis. He can be found on Twitter at @JediMaster941.
Honestly, I don’t think about a cure that often. It will occasionally burst into the forefront of my mind, but I try to push it right back out. There may never be a cure for my illnesses in my lifetime. If I were to hold onto the belief that a cure is coming, I feel I would end up putting my life on hold.
Pretty much every day. I think about it in terms of my own research for a cure and about what I will do to get my life back when cured sufficiently to regain my movement. It’s my single most motivating thought.
On a personal level I have resigned myself to the fact that there is no cure for the conditions I have (Fibromyalgia, Ehlers Danlos, and more), and that there probably won’t be in my lifetime. In fact, doctors and scientists don’t even fully understand (and some “don’t believe in”) my conditions, so the idea of a cure seems unrealistic. Dwelling on it really doesn’t help me any, as it doesn’t change anything or move me forward in life, rather it exacerbates my depression and brings me down.
But on a professional level, it’s a different story. When I got my first diagnosis (fibromyalgia), the fact that my doctors so nonchalantly told me they didn’t even understand the mechanism behind my pain, that it would just get worse and worse, and there was no cure, good luck, flabbergasted me. So much so that I have spent the last 9 years in school for Natural Medicine. I now am completing my doctorate, in hopes of finding a better understanding of what’s happening on a neurological and cellular level in the body, as well as possibly developing either natural or integrative options to help manage symptoms. I work every day for a cure for my conditions and others, but am aware that while my work is important and will hopefully be beneficial, likely we will not see notable results in my lifetime.
So, in conclusion, the answer is two-fold. It is both an ever-present dream and goal, but one that I do not place any hope in for myself. I hope I am surprised by a development that can benefit me. That would be life changing! But for me personally, clinging to an unlikely dream does more harm than good. But working towards making things better… that’s the key.
Farrah can be found at Twitter at @FarrahGarland and Facebook at @FarrahGarland. She blogs at www.workshark.me
I don’t think about a cure very often. Partly this is because my illness (Type 1 Diabetes) has become so manageable that it’s rarely a source of great suffering. Partly it’s because I don’t want to get my hopes up. Now that I think about it, I realize that I actively avoid thinking about a cure. Here’s why. With T1D, discipline is essential to self-care. Your body is a daily science experiment, and that means you have to be a good scientist (rigorous, detached, thorough, empirical). The promise of a cure, however distant, would erode those virtues—especially the discipline—by making them seem less necessary. So I approach cure-talk with a lot of caution and skepticism. I dream about a cure, but I try not to feel entitled to getting one.
Having worked as a cartoonist and a factory hand, Forester McClatchey is currently an MFA Candidate in Poetry at the University of Florida.
Living with Crohn’s disease has been one of the biggest battles I have ever faced. With a cure, my entire life would be different. I am used to the pain, sadness, worries, and what feels like loneliness. Every six weeks I arrive at the hospital for my treatment. I stay for a couple hours and wander the halls rolling my IV stand by my side. On the days I lose hope for a cure, I remind myself how I must live life as much as possible right now. I imagine my twelve-year-old self, lying in a hospital bed for an entire week. I was thin, frail, confused, and standing on the cliff of death. These experiences shaped me into who I am today. I aim to live in the moment more. I never forget to remind those I love how much they mean to me. Not knowing when and if a cure will come is how I power through the day. People who share the same chronic illness create their own empowering community together.
Amy is a sophomore in college studying Wellness and Alternative Medicine. She loves animals, music, and the outdoors. She can be found on Twitter at @SmileFighter1.
I only really think of a cure when I am in a dark place, or when the frustrations and reality of living with a neurological condition become evident. For example, the times when I run out of ingredients while cooking. It is times like this when I consider the reality of how these symptoms affect my life and wish I was ‘normal’ so that I could simply shop by myself instead of being so dependent on others just to get out of the house or to go shopping for me. However, in my opinion, it is not particularly productive to allow thoughts of a cure to influence or shape your daily life. For me, doing so would only set up myself for endless disappointment and would leave me with more negative feelings and resentment toward my neurological condition.
That is why I instead to focus on the present. By doing so, I can live the best life possible despite the neurological condition I live with and the symptoms that can cause many disruptions in my life. A promise of a cure comes with many different words such as ‘possible,’ ‘chance’ or ‘might.’ Words which are only mere possibilities and no real definites. I prefer definites, and so I prefer the present rather than to dwell on the future and what it may or may not bring.
I will sign off with one of my favorite quotes: “Yesterday’s history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is gift, which is why we call it the present.”
Rhiann is a Psychology graduate who was only recently diagnosed with Functional Neurological Disorder (with a host of other issues!) and who shares her experiences with living with a neurological condition at My Brain Lesion and Me. She can be reached at Twitter at @serenebutterfly.
Do you have thoughts on this issue? Follow us on Twitter @FolksStories and tweet us to add to the conversation.