“Your illness is one that cannot be cured.
We hope it will improve by itself in time.”
I have heard these words, time and again, from dozens of doctors over the years, so imagine my surprise when, within hours of diagnosis, someone sent me the cure.
A week later it happened again, then again, and before long I was inundated with leaflets, books, emails and websites all purporting to offer a sure-fire cure for my ills.
•Supplements • Homeopathy • Acupuncture
• Reiki • Hypnotism • Yoga • Pilates
• Lightning Process • Reverse Therapy
• Mickel Therapy • Neuro-Linguistic Programming
• Detox Diets • Chinese Herbalism
You name it, I’ve heard them all.
It seemed that everyone (except my doctors) had an opinion on the cause of ME or knew somebody who’d been cured through means that were sure to work for me as well.
Initially, in my desperation, I looked into almost anything no matter how unlikely or bizarre it might seem if there was a chance it could work. However, every miracle came at a price and for every success story, there were dozens of patients who claimed that the treatment made no difference or even made them worse.
Well-meaning friends, colleagues and total strangers would tender a cure, convinced that all my problems had been solved. When their solutions didn’t work, or I rejected their proffered cure, it was seen as a personal affront; more than one friendship ended over my reluctance to try rhino horn or beetle dung or some other such marvel.
Some of the cures made a strange kind of sense while others were simply laughable but the final straw came when my parents holidayed in France one summer. An English couple they met there produced the phone number for ‘Roger’, yet another bloke who knew the fool-proof cure. If I could obtain a recent set of blood results from my GP, Roger would provide the carefully calculated supplements I would need to rebalance my system and return to full health. It had worked for their neighbour’s daughter so was guaranteed to work for me.
Given only his first name and mobile number my parents asked for a company name so we could look him up online. Roger turned out to be, not a doctor or nutritionist, but the owner of a factory that made animal-feed, running an unofficial (and legally dubious) side-line selling bovine supplements to desperate humans.
It was a sobering example of the dangers of seeking an unlicensed cure and the wake-up call I needed to realise that if anyone really should find a cure, I would know it by the international acclaim they would receive. I am still happy for friends to suggest anything interesting they might find, especially if it allows them to feel they’ve done something to help. Some suggestions have helped me to manage my symptoms but I no longer put much hope in finding an alternative cure.
I turned my focus back to medical science instead, scouring the media for news of clinical trials. Every promise of a breakthrough caused my hope to soar; every dead end brought it crashing down. Then one day I realised that while friends with ME waited with bated breath to learn if the XMRV retro-virus might hold the answer to finding a cure I couldn’t muster any excitement at all. I had ridden the rollercoaster too many times and it had simply made me cynical. I still keep half an eye on medical literature and occasionally come across something that piques my interest, but a pharmaceutical cure is certain to take decades and there are no guarantees of a cure within my lifetime.
So with nowhere else to turn, I asked God for a miracle. As a Christian, I believe that God can and sometimes does heal: anyone capable of creating the entire universe and all life within it must be capable of curing disease as well, right? I’d heard stories of Christians like Jennifer Reece Larcombe who was instantly healed of severe ME in answer to prayer. I’d even encountered a couple of Christians who’d been healed themselves so it didn’t seem unreasonable that God might heal me.
I prayed fervently for healing, and asked others to pray for me too, but while my symptoms slowly improve year on year, far exceeding the doctors’ predicted prognosis, I didn’t get the instant healing I was looking for. Other people claimed to have answers as to why this might be: perhaps God isn’t real, or I must be hiding some secret sin, or I simply don’t want to be healed badly enough or my faith isn’t strong enough. At times my lack of healing threatened to shatter my faith, but slowly with time I grew to accept the limitations of my illness and learned to carve out some quality of life within those limits.
I am often told my faith is nothing more than placebo, but when facing a lifetime of chronic illness I will take any help I can get. Anything that helps to make life worth living is worth hanging onto with all of my strength. I don’t pretend to know why others are healed while I remain sick, any more than I claim to know why I should live when others have died, I simply try to make the most of each day that I am given and cling to the promise of better things to come.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes;
and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow,
nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain:
for the former things are passed away.
Revelation 21:4 (KJV)
Over to you:
If you suffer from chronic illness, what alternative forms of treatment have you tried? How useful were these treatments?
Do you believe you will ever fully recover from ME or do you think you’ll be ill to some extent for the rest of your life?
What is the strangest treatment anyone has ever suggested to you?