As I discussed in my World MS Day Video, I’m a big fan of throwing things at the wall until something sticks when it comes to improving my physical condition. If a treatment is safe, reasonably priced, and promises not to be too painful, chances are I’ll give it a try. I love it when friends send me articles about new MS-related drugs or procedures. I cannot be bothered to keep up with every MS-related development. I have recipes to make and tv shows to watch, dammit! Information is good, and it’s nice to be thought of. A friend got me to try acupuncture, which wasn’t my jam but was definitely worth pursuing. A friend, who also has an auto-immune disease, recommended cryotherapy after trying it herself. It sounds a little bonkers, but I may give it a shot (especially since I have a coupon). 

Advice from friends is easy to take because I know it comes from a loving place. And because my friends are not preachy know-it-alls.

Yesterday at work, I told a colleague that my recent fall was the impetus for our new kitchen first aid kit. He immediately replied, “You know what you need to do. You need to seal up that gut! I’m telling you, look at the GAPS diet. Cut the carbs. It’s all leaky gut!” I smiled and said, “Well, I’m working on lowering my sugar intake for now.” “Yes, sugar is bad! But the carbs . . . ” I have heard this speech before. Every time I smile. Feign interest. Thank him for his thoughts. I know his need to share this information comes from a kind place, a desire to share what has worked for him . . .  so why do I find this conversation so frustrating?

A few reasons. First, we are not friends. A friend would know that the day I give up carbs will be the day cryotherapy is offered in hell. Also, his tone is awful – this is what you need to do. I don’t mind being presented with an alternative therapy, but phrasing it as a suggestion rather than a foregone conclusion goes a long way. Finally, we’ve done this dance before. If I haven’t cartwheeled to his office shouting about the wonders of bovine colostrum by now, perhaps it’s time to let it go.  

This is an “empathy card” from Emily McDowell. You should buy her stuff. It’s awesome.

A different and yet same-ish encounter happens every twenty or so Uber/Lyft ride. The driver will look in the rearview mirror and say, “What is wrong with your leg?” I explain that I have Multiple Sclerosis. And then the fun begins. “I have an aunt who had Multiple Sclerosis, but she had faith and prayed. And the family prayed. Now she is well. You must pray!” “Jesus will take care of you! You have to pray! And He will care for you!” “You know, scripture says . . . ” I smile. Thank them for their kindness. Exit the car carefully.

I know people say these things (Everything happens for a reason; God will not give you more than you can handle; Jesus take the wheel — just kidding about the last one) because they believe them and believe they will comfort the listener. And I imagine many listeners are indeed comforted. But if, like me, you’re one negative news report from making the transition from agnostic to atheist, these interactions are awkward at best.

I am happy to accept strangers’ (and friends’!) prayers, blessings, and even wacky treatment suggestions. I do so with an open heart. Just please don’t tell me what I should do with my body — or my spirit.

More from Emily McDowell. Seriously, her cards are the best.

2 thoughts on “Leaky Guts and the Power of Prayer: In Which No One Is a Real Doctor, But They Play One in My Life

  1. Oh my goodness I know so much about this! In my case, people are constantly telling me that if I don't do X, I'll die. \”I knew women who didn't give up dairy/red wine/ sugar/ having any fun at all and they ALL died from breast cancer so fast!\”I will pray for you, and I will listen for anything I hear on my cancer journey that might be helpful, and I will be around for hugs/ complaints/ weeping/ laughing whenever you want…


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