14 January, 2008

I Don't Need Another Reason to Dislike the New York Times, But Here's One More!

Dear Mainstream Media,

When you care to shine your lovely spotlight on chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia, please employ journalistic discretion in order to make sure you're not doing it wrong, unlike the New York Times.

Let's go through this article line-by-blame-y-line!

But other doctors — including the one who wrote the 1990 paper that defined fibromyalgia but who has since changed his mind — say that the disease does not exist and that Lyrica and the other drugs will be taken by millions of people who do not need them.

OH MY GOD, EVERYBODY PANIC. Certainly, diseases can be misdiagnosed. Does this mean that everyone who's been diagnosed with fibromyalgia has been misdiagnosed? No.

As diagnosed, fibromyalgia primarily affects middle-aged women and is characterized by chronic, widespread pain of unknown origin.

Damn those uppity women and their bitching! Hey, NYT, you forgot to mention fatigue, muscle pain, joint pain, difficulty sleeping...et cetera. You've got to be able to do better than this horseshit that you call "reporting." Oh, you can't? :(

Those figures are sharply disputed by those doctors who do not consider fibromyalgia a medically recognizable illness and who say that diagnosing the condition actually worsens suffering by causing patients to obsess over aches that other people simply tolerate.

HAY GUYS WE'RE SUCH REBELS IN TEH MEDICAL COMMUNITY CUZ WE SAY FIBRO DUZN'T XIST. UR PAIN IS NOT REAL SO QUIT UR BITCHING, K THX. Also, take note of the special, piping-hot side of crispy "othering" present in this excerpt! Mmmmm-mmm, good!

And drug companies are aggressively pursuing fibromyalgia treatments, seeing the potential for a major new market.

Not this "all drug companies are EVIL!!!11" stuff again. Also, just because they're marketing to me doesn't mean I'm automatically going to switch to their new meds immediately and without planning or consideration. As GOB Bluth might say, "Come ON."

Ms. Matallana said she had suffered from fibromyalgia since 1993. At one point, the pain kept her bedridden for two years, she said.

I like how they only interview one person with the condition, and one doctor who "believes" that it exists. Also, note the "she said." Not "she experienced pain," but "she said."

But doctors who are skeptical of fibromyalgia say vague complaints of chronic pain do not add up to a disease.

Yes, because the described experiences of thousands of people with this condition are all "vague." These "debunkers" need to get a copy of Elaine Scarry's The Body in Pain and read it, stat.

The diagnosis of fibromyalgia itself worsens the condition by encouraging people to think of themselves as sick and catalog their pain, said Dr. Nortin Hadler, a rheumatologist and professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina who has written extensively about fibromyalgia.

Oh, really? I actually felt quite a bit *better* when I got a diagnosis after almost a year of not knowing what the hell was the matter with me, and going to doctor after doctor--none of whom could figure it out. For those of you who have never experienced serious pain, "cataloging" it can help people deal with and manage it. This is not the same thing as your life revolving around your pain.


“These people live under a cloud,” he [Dr. Hadler] said. “And the more they seem to be around the medical establishment, the sicker they get.”

No, this doesn't sound like the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome as "yuppie flu" debunkers AT ALL. And Dr. Hadler, I suggest YOU try living with an illness that makes you feel like you're either being crushed by a giant hand or too tired to stand. Take your pick.

Most people “manage to get through life with some vicissitudes, but we adapt,” said Dr. George Ehrlich, a rheumatologist and an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania. “People with fibromyalgia do not adapt.”

Awesome! I was wondering when our old friend, "If You Do Not Live JUST LIKE ME, There is Something Wrong With You" bias was going to show up! People who say this sort of thing never seem to take into account that different people adapt in different ways, OMG. And hey, Dr. Erlich? I have fibromyalgia, and I think I have managed to "adapt" to things just fine. Let me give you a few examples from my own life: I go to school full-time, have a job as a writing tutor, am on the Dean's List [at a school that has made the U.S. News & World Report list of top public universities in the U.S., no less], am currently working on an honors thesis which examines, among other things, media "othering" and bias, AND I HAVE FIBROMYALGIA. HOLY SHIT! I'M, LIKE, A STATISTICAL IMPROBABILITY! TEE HEE!

There's another page to the article, but it mostly covers the theme of "DRUG COMPANIES ARE TRYING TO PREY ON PEOPLE WHO THINK THEY HAVE THIS ILLNESS THAT ACTUALLY MIGHT NOT EXIST."

This article stands as incredible proof of the sometimes "hidden" bias of the supposed bastions of our democracy, the mainstream press. Yes, I know this makes me sound like some sort of tinfoil-outfitted conspiracy nut, but if you just take the time to look, I'm pretty sure this sort of biased language pops up in all kinds of articles about various health conditions--including other invisible illnesses, and everyone's favorite scapegoat, the obesity "crisis."

So, MSM, please take this as a cautionary warning. The NYT, in this article, went about portraying fibromyalgia as the distinct medical domain of whiners, potentially drugged-out misdiagnosees, and uppitee wimmins. For your sanity, and the sanity of those who are affected by invisible chronic conditions, please approach this topic with some degree of sensitivity and neutrality.


EDITRON 5000! Lindsay has more.


Lindsay said...

When i read that article this morning, i was not awake enough to come up with the correct vocabulary to adequately voice my displeasure. I was tempted to throw something, but my back's been bothering me and lifting things is not a great idea right now.

Oh, but i must be just imagining the pain. Or i have a low pain threshold and just am too wussy to cope. Right. Me, the woman who had a dislocated ankle that three weeks and thought was a sprain. Three weeks of having my ankle dislocated. Thought it was a sprain. Low pain threshold. Riiiiiiight. Or how about me as the woman who doesn't need novacaine when i'm getting a cavity drilled and filled? Or how about me as the woman who fell asleep when getting a tattoo on the back of her neck? Yeah. Low pain threshold. No doubt.

You know, when i first read about Lyrica being prescribed for fibro a few months ago, i was ecstatic because it was a heaping pile of validation. This article was a complete slap in the face.

I was glad as HELL to be diagnosed with fibro, because before that, i was misdiagnosed with a potentially fatal auto-immune disorder. Sure, fibro has no cure and it really sucks, but hey! It won't freaking KILL ME.

As far as "being around the medical establishment" is concerned? PEH! Since i'm fat, most doctors told me to "just lose some weight" and then i'd be fine. So i said to hell with the medical establishment; between my chiropractor and my daily supplements, i somehow seem to manage pretty damn well. :P

“People with fibromyalgia do not adapt.”?!?!?!??!?!??!

Um. I want to slap this asshat in the face with a small swordfish and tell him, "i'd like to see YOU hold down a full time job and have a successful marriage when YOU have my symptom list." I'll spare you the long and gories, but let's just say i'm on day #15 of my back threatening to go out, and i HAVE had a migraine last for 12 days. And i still went to work with said migraine. I'd like to see HIM adapt to that shit.


I was so mad, i didn't even make it to the second page. :P

Bob said...

It seems the only thing worse than the practice of medicine these days is the practice of journalism.