A Pop Quiz for Autoimmune Disease Awareness Month

Your immune-compromised friends will thank you, really!

Betsy Denson
The Haven
Published in
3 min readMar 26, 2021

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Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels

O.K. Let’s get to it.

Your friend tells you that they have just been diagnosed with an auto-immune disease. Do you:

A.) Tell them about someone you know with the same disease who had to have their colon/spleen/brain removed and are now a literal shell of their former selves?

B.) Give them the full benefit of your internet research on diet and exercise as well as that one book that Oprah was raving about. Bonus points if you talk about the People Magazine article you read about how Gwyneth Paltrow’s sea kelp smoothies have actually restored her digestion system to that of a newborn baby. Finish with a thinly veiled judgment that if your friend had been living better, maybe they wouldn’t even have a disease?

C.) Say, “That really sucks.”

If you answered C, you are in the ballpark so congratulations on being a good friend!

In honor of Autoimmune Disease Awareness Month — which exists each March because seven percent of the U.S. population has an autoimmune disease — I wanted to share the following as one of that number. Crohn’s people — represent!

a.) We already know all the horror stories about our particular disease because we Googled them in a fear-induced panic the week we were first diagnosed. We also talk about all the gross and awful things in our support groups but that’s because we are all in the same club and we’re cool like that. You know how you were allowed to torture your little brother but no one else was? It’s like that.

I get your impulse. I really do. Whenever I’m talking to a pregnant lady, I have to hold my lips shut to avoid telling her about my 10-hour labor and my kid’s subsequent stint in the NICU. But I do it because I don’t want to freak her out any more than she already is. You can too!

b.) I don’t know exactly how I ended up with my disease and — newsflash — you don’t either, no matter how much we both like to think we do. There is probably a genetic component as well as an environmental one and although I wish I could erase my teenage love affair with McDonald's and Little Debbie Snack cakes, alas I cannot.

I know good food matters. I eat good food. I also take some super powerful medication which helps me to function in the world.

c.) My disease does suck. So do a lot of other people’s—some much, much worse. Nobody gets to pick a lot of the things that happen to them in this life. We all just have to grease the joints and keep going. But what you can pick is your words. Make them the right ones. Or at least the ones that make you sound less like Doomy Von Judgerton. I’ve given you the blueprint. You just have to follow it. Thank you for reading!

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Betsy Denson
The Haven

Always looking for the interesting. Read an article from my pub (Smorgasbord of History) and put me on your short list for kidney donors.