Monday, May 26, 2014

Magazine Monday: Dangerous Language

from the June 2014 issue of Good Housekeeping

I have a pretty big issue with this story from Good Housekeeping. Language is important, and it can be dangerous. I get it, it's a great headline - "How I dropped 165 pounds, beat multiple sclerosis and found love" - but is it truly accurate? Beating something in this context generally means fixing it completely, curing the disease, getting over it, moving forward without it. Did Tabitha do this? No!!

The supposed miracle solution Tabitha used was adopting a healthy lifestyle, including improving her diet and adding an exercise regimen. Great! I'm happy for her, and I think this should be a part of absolutely everybody's life, whether they have MS or not. But the dramatic improvements to how she felt after losing 165 pounds - and the fact that she wasn't currently experiencing any flareups - did not at all mean that she had beat the disease! It did not mean she was cured! In fact, at the very end of the article, she admits to "experiencing occasional aches and tingles." She still has MS, and who knows how the disease will progress!

I could go into a secondary rant about Tabitha's decision to completely stop any kind of MS drugs, and her statements suggesting that a healthy lifestyle is slowing the progression of the disease, but I will refrain. I don't judge or begrudge her personal decisions, and I'm happy for her success and happiness. How to manage the disease is a personal decision and I don't think there is one right answer for everybody.

If I were to go into a secondary rant, it wouldn't be about Tabitha and her decisions - it would be about the danger of this kind of story in a major publication, without some well-rounded perspective. I think this kind of article, with it's sounds-too-good-to-be-true copy is dangerous both for people with MS but also for the general public who don't have any experience with the disease. There are enough well-meaning but clueless people out there who constantly suggest to people with MS that they should try a low-fat diet or an emotional cleanse or some other kind of maybe-helpful-in-some-general-way-but-NOT-A-CURE piece of crap. I'd just like to see an article in a magazine like this that tells a more helpful story about the disease. It's a subtle thing, but the language chosen to tell a story is SO IMPORTANT!!! Okay, end rant.