my kind, caring colleague wants to heal my MS

A reader writes:

I was recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis after a long period of treatment for increasing pain, joint deformation, and immobility.

After the diagnosis, I told my boss, HR, and the team of four that I manage. Since I don’t want this to be seen as weird or embarrassing or something to tiptoe around, I made clear that the diagnosis is not a secret — and when it was evident that I couldn’t move around very well and my cognitive functioning is deteriorating, it couldn’t really be hidden anyway.

HR has been supportive and proactive in searching out coping techniques for me, including my not traveling to gatherings (I work remotely) and looking for processes that will help ameliorate my memory and understanding glitches.

I’m also trying to help manage this through diet, physical therapy, working with my doctor, changing my home layout, etc. The prognosis is scary and I do my best to not let my fear and grief creep into my work interactions. I’m upbeat and matter-of-fact about it as much as possible.

Meanwhile, I have the kindest, most caring friend and co-worker imaginable. She’s on the other side of the country and not part of my team or even my work entity (we are under the umbrella of a much larger organization). She has added me to her prayer chain, which makes me cringe but I know is coming from a place of love so I just ignore it. But now she’s pushing an online naturopath who she says will absolutely heal me, and says that even though he’s really expensive, all my problems will be solved. She even names what she (and he) think the real problem is, and it’s not MS. The guardian angel emails, prayers, etc. are bad enough but don’t cost me anything and makes her feel helpful and heard. This is now in uncomfortable territory.

I am not interested in her suggestions, even though I have an open mind toward naturopaths in general. But I’m broke, don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to work or even be mobile, have no family to support me, and basically have to be super judicious about where I spend any money I have on treatments.

I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to hurt her or make her think I don’t appreciate her concern. A flat “no” would feel so hurtful and dismissive, and my biggest worry is that I might insult the genuine love and compassion that’s behind this. Any advice you can give would be most appreciated!

I’m going to take your word for it that she’s kind and caring because you know her and I don’t … but this behavior is not kind!

It’s hard to believe there are people who still haven’t gotten the memo that it’s rude to push unsolicited medical advice — particularly when it’s contrary to an active treatment plan that person has formed with their doctor. And telling you that what you haven’t isn’t really MS?!? You are a better person than I am for worrying about sounding dismissive after that.

Your coworker can be a generally good person while still having a huge blind spot that’s leading her to behave wildly inappropriately here. You’re being extremely generous about it … but one day she’s going to do this to someone who isn’t going to give her as much grace and it is not going to go well.

In any case, please remember: if she genuinely wants to show you love and compassion, then you will be doing her a favor by letting her know the best way she can show it for you.

The scripts I’d normally suggest for a situation like this are more blunt than it sounds like you want to use. So here are some softer ones:

 “I am handling this with my doctor and feel confident about our plan. The best thing you can do for me is to just be my colleague so work can be a place I don’t need to discuss this.”

 “You’re kind to be concerned, but the best way to support me is to let me manage it privately. I’ve got it covered with my doctor, and it adds to my stress when people outside my treatment team offer advice.”

 “I know you’re worried and I thank you for that, but what I most want is for my work relationships to be a place where I’m not thinking or talking about it.  Thank you in advance for understanding.”

If she is coming from a place of genuine caring, as you believe her to be, then she should respect this. If she doesn’t respect it — if she blows by your clear request and pushes her own agenda anyway — then this isn’t about love and compassion, and you should feel freer to set a firm boundary.

{ 342 comments… read them below }

  1. Richard Hershberger*

    “Naturopath” is so vaguely defined as to be nearly meaningless, making it hard to generalize. But in this specific instance, this guy is rejecting the diagnosis by practitioners who have actually examined you, and offered his own diagnosis based on third-hand information. Oh, and he wants you to send him money, and lots of it. He does not merit anyone keeping an open mind, as he is at best obviously misguided, and likely simply a grifter.

    1. Helen Waite*

      Before the practitioner of expensive speudoscience entered the picture, I was just thinking of a well-meaning but misguided co-worker. The letter writer is much more patient than me. I’d be asking for credentials and publication records of peer-reviewed research. Oh there isn’t any? This is my surprised Pikachu face.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        I wouldn’t suggest engaging on that level. They might just take it as an invitation to provide their own “research”

        1. pally*

          Yeah- probably right.
          It’s just soooo tempting when folks like this push quackery.
          In fact, if this naturopath is claiming he cures MS, I’d let the FDA know.

            1. Purpleshark*

              It’s going to be Lyme….everything is Lyme. Oh, and he will determine you need a lot of vitamins/supplements.

              1. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

                That’s what some banana pants said to my late wife, when she was diagnosed with ALS. She said she was going to “force” her to be tested for Lyme, at which point Mrs. NoIWontFixYourComputer and I laughed in her face, and told her to get lost.

              2. Lenora Rose*

                I’ll grant them this; Lyme disease is underdiagnosed and has some very nasty effects… but first you need to be bitten by a tick, and second, you want real medical treatment for it, and third, if I want to be tested to rule it out on the off chance I somehow missed a tick, it’s not going to be on a naturopath’s word.

              3. Freya*

                It’s always fun when it’s definitely Lyme, as diagnosed by someone on the other side of the world where, unlike where I live, it exists. Unless I’ve been overseas recently to somewhere with ticks infected with that specific bacterium, It’s Not Lyme!

          1. Lime green Pacer*

            Sadly, the FDA and similar regulatory bodies have a lengthy track record of being ineffective against any but the most egregious long-term conduct.

        2. xylocopa*

          Yes. Engaging about the qualifications, science, etc.– that’s just walking into the rabbit-hole. You’re not going to convince the coworker if she believes in this guy, you’re just opening up more conversation about it. The only thing OP needs to convince the coworker of is that she is Really Not Interested, Thanks, So Please Stop.

          1. Lenora Rose*

            It’s not enough for anyone who starts pushing this. Pure shut-down is much better than asking for evidence, peer-reviewed or not.

            Unless and only unless, you are genuinely yourself curious what the evidence says. Most of us aren’t.

            1. linger*

              Plus, “peers” of naturopaths are, at most, as reliable as that field is as a whole, so “peer-reviewed” here counts for less than nothing. Just don’t engage with the quackery at all. And as for your remote colleague? As a friend you could be (loudly) concerned that she is herself at financial risk through being associated with this obvious fraudster. Possibly mention you’re praying for her clarity (eye-roll). The Desiderata (“…and the wisdom to know the difference”) comes to mind.

              [I do not rule out the remote possibility that some self-styled naturopaths may genuinely believe their methods work, and may seek evidential bases for their claims. But this is not one of those. Aggressive opposition to a diagnosis and treatment regime supported by conventional medicine, without ever examining the patient, is a wildly waving vivid red flag of quackery. And that’s before we get to the money-grubbing.]

          2. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

            It’s not the magic bullet. There are a ton of peer-reviewed journals of naturopathy and other alternative healing practices. Honestly, you’re unlikely to convince someone who’s open to naturopathy on the basis of “the science”, I think Alison’s scripts are more likely to work.

    2. ferrina*

      Right?! No halfway decent partitioner of any kind will diagnose a patient that they haven’t even met. Third-hand information through a mere acquaintance? Absolutely not!

      I’d be tempted to tell my coworker “if I wanted a guesswork and assumptions, I would have gone to Reddit”

      1. Nea*

        One of the biggest red flags to me is that this “caring” coworker is making a habit of discussing OP’s private life with third parties. Church. This naturopath. At this rate it’s going to be the coworker posting to Reddit!

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          That’s a great point, and I would be very upset if a ‘kind and caring friend’ did this to me.

    3. notscarlettohara*

      I would even think it would be good to be fully honest with coworker about money to lay on the guilt. “Thanks for the recommendation, unfortunately I’m in a situation where [graphic details about being poor], it’s sad how these people with such ground-breaking, game-changing ideas insist on charging so much to keep their solutions out of the hands of those who need it most. Perhaps you might be able to pray for this person to lower their fees, or send money in addition to prayers?

      1. MsSolo (UK)*

        If friend puts themself in debt paying for the naturopath on OP’s behalf (because that’s that the naturopath is going to propose!), that doesn’t solve any of the problems here.

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          Yeah, I absolutely would not do that, because there is a real danger that the colleague would offer to help pay for it or worst case scenario, set up something like a gofundme or send around an e-mail to the rest of the workplace asking people to help the LW pay for the naturopath’s treatments (I don’t think the latter is at all likely, but I’d still prefer not to risk it. Especially since the naturopath appears to be in their ear, pushing them to get the LW as a client).

          1. Lime green Pacer*

            Agreed. There are far too many charity drives for quackery without potentially adding another one, plus OP doubtless could use help with far more legit expenses. In fact, if OP felt bold enough, they might suggest the co-worker could help by raising funds to retrofit the home, get mobility aids, or whatever else would truly help.

        2. Garblesnark*

          Yeah. Somebody once did pay for me to go to a naturopath because I played the poor card instead of going for form boundaries. I was diagnosed with multiple organ failure based on my plantar fasciitis and the treatments caused permanent damage to my body.

          1. Kiv*

            If you don’t mind my asking, how did that happen? I had no idea that was even possible! I’ve been having some foot issues I assumed were inherently minor and local. What are the warning signs of it becoming more serious or systemic?

            1. Garblesnark*

              The treatments were pills and, as far as I can tell, sold based on the presumed organ failure and otherwise unrelated to the foot issues. The permanent damage was not to my feet. I’m not aware of a way for plantar fasciitis to become systemic, but I’m also not a doctor.

            2. Michelle Smith*

              They didn’t have a systemic problem. They were diagnosed by a quack with a systemic problem and prescribed a treatment that caused one.

      2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        This person unfortunately needs an information diet.
        Any information will be manipulated and weaponized in the “friendly colleague’s” war on modern medicine.
        “Well, you probably can’t afford all the poison that the doctor prescribes, but my Whatever offers payment options.”
        “You think that it’s about money, but Whatever really just wants to help people. Your doctor gave you a death sentence. Whatever will give you a new life. That’s worth budgeting.”
        Yes, I’m speculating, but self-serving do gooders do not like their largesse to be rejected. They are going to help you, dammit.

          1. Venus*

            If it doesn’t work, it’s probably because I didn’t believe in it enough, or because I did something too sinful earlier in life. Because illness is clearly a moral issue rather than bad luck.

            That way of thinking is the biggest pile of bs, and the “I was cured because I prayed” mentality really bothers me because it implies that someone else’s bad situation is deserved.

            In future if I’m not cured from something, it’s probably because I listened to Tim Minchin’s Thank You God (directly related to this topic) and enjoyed it too much!

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              A friend of mine died from Stage 4, very aggressive and hard-to-treat cancer. At his memorial service, someone from his work had the gall to say, ‘(deep sigh) If only he’d prayed more…I just know he would still be with us…’

              I’m told I gave her the dirtiest look and a small growl before I stalked off.

              1. GrooveBat*

                I am always tempted to ask people like this why they would pray to an entity so spiteful and vindictive that not praying hard enough warrants death.

                1. saddesklunch*

                  I also wonder if people do not understand that we all will die eventually. Like, you can pray as hard as you want and even if it works, you’re not going to be immortal!

              2. Dancing Otter*

                Maybe a peaceful death WAS G*d’s answer to his prayers.
                Was it Mark Twain who said everyone claims to want to go to Heaven, but not yet?

            2. Really?!*

              Let me add my story…
              former co-worker attended the funeral of their friend’s husband. Co-worker told me she hoped that the husband was not burning in hell because they last time she had spoken the couple, the husband had not [done the things required not to go to hell]*. She walked away before I could ask if she’d actually said that t0 the spouse.

              *being vague on purpose

            3. Bruce*

              You expressed this more completely than I did. A lot of “blame the patient” out there…

          2. TinLizi*

            I hate this! I was raised in a religion that doesn’t believe in medical care, but I’m no longer a member. When my spouse was diagnosed with diabetes, we started insulin and other medications. A family member tried to get me to pray instead. I told them that we wanted something that would actually work.

            1. Bruce*

              Good for you. Delayed treatment of diabetes sucks, there’s a lot of it in my family and we are doing a much better job of it than a couple of generations ago…

            1. goddessoftransitory*

              The late, great Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Bright Sided” covers this mentality beautifully.

    4. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      Alison’s scripts are more kinder than mine would be. Since “the kind and caring” colleague has no real connection with the LW’s work, I would send one final email stating that I’m under a doctor’s care and don’t want to engage in any other treatment. Full stop. If they don’t then consider contacting HR, no one going through a chronic illness needs this form of harrassement and it is exactly that no matter how much the “kind” colleague claims to care about them.

      1. Typing All The Time*

        I agree. Sometimes you have to be the opposite within reason. Even loudly saying my answer is no and stop it can be more effective. But OP consider bringing in HR. Being persistent in giving unacceptable advice is not being kind.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        It’s like trying to pet a cat or rabbit that has had enough handling. It doesn’t matter how much you want to cuddle–they do not.

    5. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      People like this make my blood boil, After my late MIL passed away we found copper bracelets, prayer cards (all with notes that sending money would help cure her) and other related flim flam. Grifters under the guise of caring.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        The most successful grifters always play the “caring” card; it helps them suss out the marks that feel neglected as well as desperate.

    6. 1-800-BrownCow*

      The “naturopath” sounds similar to the mega-church preachers who get people to send them lots of money, I’m sorry “donate money to the church”, by convincing people that they’ll be rewarded in heaven one day. Give your money first and then you will be blessed.

    7. Euphony*

      Normally I would agree with giving naturopaths a wide berth. However the neurological symptoms and markers on an MRI for MS are near identical to those for vitamin B12 deficiency, and both are notoriously difficult to diagnose. Particularly as the blood tests for vitamin B12 deficiency and pernicious anaemia are unreliable, and this condition has a long history of being dismissed by some areas of the medical profession.
      So I can see that this might not be all snake oil in some circumstances. But this is no way excuses the coworker’s behaviour- you can explain why you think it might be worth considering alternative diagnoses, but then you have to back off and leave the person to make their own decisions. No matter how hard it might be to see.

      1. Lenora Rose*

        When the person who is doing the diagnosing has not ever been in the physical presence of the person with the diagnosis, I find myself having NO interest whatever in giving them the benefit of the doubt.

        1. Freya*

          If they’re willing to diagnose without having spoken to the patient, then I doubt their having even the most rudimentary of professional indemnity insurance (the having of which should be a requirement for anyone giving advice that might potentially be catastrophically wrong for reasons that aren’t anyone’s fault)

      2. NeedsMoreCookies*

        True that Vitamin B12 deficiency is common and can be confused with (or complicate) other neurological issues. I have personal experience with that! But B12 supplements are cheap, safe, and widely available, and don’t require a naturopath’s (or nosy coworker’s) intervention.

  2. Genevieve en Francais*

    Thank you for opening with this in a clear, succinct, and factual way. Because my itchy thumbs were all set to type something a lot less helpful and kind.

    OP, I’m sorry for your situation and wish you the best. I hope you can find a resolution for this that preserves *your* peace of mind. That’s what’s most important and what you deserve. Alison is right – if your friend truly cares about you, she’ll listen to your boundary.

    1. SusieQQ*

      > Because my itchy thumbs were all set to type something a lot less helpful and kind.

      I am so curious about this now, because I didn’t read anything about this letter (even without the opening) that I think would warrant an unhelpful and unkind response.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        This comment mis-nested, Genevieve en Francais meant for it to be a reply to Richard Hershberger’s comment. Because Richard Hershberger’s is the second comment, I read “opening” as referring to “opening the comments section.”

        I think Genevieve en Francais was ready to say things about the neuropath that were less helpful and less kind than what Richard had to say about the neuropath.

        1. Genevieve en Francais*

          Absolutely! My unkind comments were about naturopathy and people who try to push it on others. But I recognize that I tend to get a little…worked up…about this particular issue, which is not usually helpful.

      2. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Having witnessed a friend fall victim to a cancer-quack charlatan myself, I think the “unkind” and “unhelpful” might have been addressed to the “caring friend” recommending a naturopath to the LW. Because, again, having watched a charlatan in action before, I have thoughts. None are kind to the thieving snake oil salesman.

        I have nothing but kind thoughts and good wishes for the LW though.

        1. Feotakahari*

          I just had a horrible realization. It’s easier to con people if they won’t be around to complain later.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            Sure is. That’s why so many of these con artists are so brazen–they know the mark isn’t a long term investment, and even if their loved ones catch on, they won’t have the time or resources to go after them.

            The people who deliberately sell this snake oil (as opposed to well meaning but misguided ones) are sociopaths, full stop. They look at a dying, terrified human being and see a source of cash.

    2. Nesprin*

      Beautifully said.

      It may also help to give OP’s friend a task that would be helpful vs. the prayer chains + collecting unwanted health advice. An actual helpful friend with some desire to help could be channeled. Could friend bring over dinner some night? Or take OP out for a cup of coffee and a talk about whatever terrible TV? Or run some minor errand regularly?

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        Those are nice suggestions, but not really doable here because the meddling friend lIves far away from the LW: “She’s on the other side of the country and not part of my team or even my work entity (we are under the umbrella of a much larger organization).”

  3. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Ah, I’m reminded of when I told my mom about my ADHD diagnosis. She denied it and insisted that I get treatment for depression and anxiety even though I have neither.

    Since then, I’ve learned to say “okay” or “sure” or “thanks” while I keep playing Candy Crush and silently ask myself why I tell her anything anymore.

    Your coworker’s response is *about her*, not you. I know that’s cold comfort, but it may be easier to not take it so personally because who does that in the first place? She’s trying to reassure herself at your expense. That’s not okay!

    Also this person isn’t kind and caring at all. Please give those adjectives a rethink. Just because she’s not overtly rude doesn’t mean she’s being nice.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Also this person isn’t kind and caring at all. Please give those adjectives a rethink. Just because she’s not overtly rude doesn’t mean she’s being nice.


      1. Anonym*

        Her intentions may be positive as all get out, but the effect of her words and actions (choices!) on you is what counts. Intentions are only a tie breaker for assessing behavior. Don’t give them more space than that.

        If you tell her what support you really need, and she complies, wonderful. If she doesn’t, she can good-intention her bad behavior right out of your life.

    2. Bird names*

      “Your coworker’s response is *about her*, not you.” Absolutely agreed. It reads to me like the flailing response that some currently abled people have when they first face someone with a disease like MS. It’s usually based in the just world-fallacy and the underlying need to reassure themself that their health is always perfectly in their control.
      If this is indeed the first flail of facing the uncomfortable, hopefully she manages to catch herself and treat LW graciously going forward.

      1. sparkle emoji*

        Yes, this needs to be emphasized. OP, I hope this coworker is the only person who does *this* at you, but that may not be the case. Knowing that she is doing this to assuage her anxieties about her own stuff may be helpful to not feel guilt about not accepting her “help”.

    3. Merci Dee*

      I read a letter last week on one of the WaPo advice columns, where someone had heard that a friend was diagnosed with some kind of illness. The LW said that the diagnosis made her feel bad, so she started giving the ill friend all kinds of useless advice and basically haranguing the friend about not following through. The LW was extremely irate that the ill friend wasn’t taking any of her advice about managing the illness.

      This situation feels a lot like that WaPo letter — it doesn’t have anything to do with our OP’s actual illness, and has everything to do with the coworker not being able to handle her feelings of sadness, discomfort, etc. at hearing the news about OP’s diagnosis. As soon as the coworker starts putting her own emotions over the actual health and well-being of the OP, all bets are off.

      1. Danielle Kempe*

        I was looking for the link to reference that advice column – it was in Washington Post

        1. Nea*

          I remember that one! It was either Carolyn Hax or Ask Amy in the last 3 months, but I’m not finding it on searches.

            1. Limotruck87*

              It was a Carolyn Hax column from 3/14, letter # 2. The LW’s friend had fibromyalgia, was under the care of a doctor, and had *not* asked for advice. LW was constantly sending suggestions for “alternative treatments” despite being told by the friend to knock it off; they finished off the letter with an astoundingly tone-deaf “I am starting to wonder if she even wants to feel better.”

      2. Nea*

        Found it! It’s the second Carolyn Hax letter on March 14, after “His version of respect for women results in few second dates.”

        It’s quite the jaw dropper, starting with “my friend’s fibromyalgia makes me sad” moving through “I like to find alternative treatments… I’m only trying to help and I think she should be more willing to listen” and ending with the spectacular dismount “I feel really unappreciated and am starting to wonder if she even wants to feel better.” (The friend, all this time, is following medical advice and asking the Hax writer to knock it off.)

        Direct link to WaPo (I haven’t found a non-paywall version):

    4. MPerera*

      “Also this person isn’t kind and caring at all.”

      Agreed. I’ll bet that although the OP is worried about upsetting or insulting the coworker, the coworker isn’t nearly as concerned about how her approach affects the OP.

      1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

        Exactly, this is how those people operate; by running roughshod over people who are too polite to tell them to take a flying leap.

      2. oranges*

        Although I’m sympathetic to LW who states they’re broke with no family to support them. I know it can feel scary to start making cuts when the safety net is precarious at best, but this co-worker is not part of the solutions right now. They’re firmly part of the problems, and unless they can cut the “help” and move back to solutions, they gotta go.

        LW’s energy, time, and money are far too valuable right now.

      3. Jessica Clubber Lang*

        Just fyi, the description of the coworker being kind or caring came from the OP themselves.

        “Meanwhile, I have the kindest, most caring friend and co-worker imaginable”

        If OP feels that way we should take them at their word

        1. Cicely*

          Agreed. Co-worker is being tone deaf about this situation, but certainly there is more to her than what she’s doing here.

        2. Happy*

          I’ve been in situations where I incorrectly assumed others were interjecting in my life based on kindness…it was helpful to realize eventually that those people didn’t actually deserve the benefit of the doubt.

          I feel like this is a case where we can take OP at their word that they perceive the friend as kind and caring…but it might be helpful for OP to hear that outsiders think the friend doesn’t actually sound so kind or caring at all!

        3. Parakeet*

          Yeah, I understand where people are coming from when they push back on LWs who describe someone doing something wrong as kind, caring, etc. But it’s the LWs who actually know the person they’re talking about. Commenters have limited information about the person and a tendency (not just on AAM, everywhere) to treat the people described in online personal narratives as stock characters, elements in a set piece with a moral.

    5. Venus*

      I disagree that the coworker isn’t kind and caring at all. It sounds like she’s been really supportive in the past, and dismissing that doesn’t help LW navigate the situation now, especially when they don’t have a lot of support and anyone who is part of that is valuable.

      I’m guessing that she was really supportive in the past because her coping mechanisms lined up with what LW needed. My experience is that humanity copes well if the health problem is temporary and can be fixed with a casserole or a conversation over a cup of coffee. The people who can cope with supporting a friend with chronic illness are sadly rare. It isn’t kind or caring behavior, but it is typical, and I think it’s important to the LW to try and keep the best parts of their relationship without destroying it completely. Yet I agree completely with Alison that if the friend insists on bringing any of this up after LW has told them not to then that crosses a huge line for me and I wouldn’t want to be around them.

      Not that I think the friend’s behavior was at all okay, because it was really bad to push any of these suggestions or to talk with a clearly money-hungry liar. But LW needs to be clear with their friend that this needs to stop, and then decide if they are a good person or not based on their response.

    6. not nice, don't care*

      My maga neighbors think that acting ‘nice’, aka publicly polite, negates their less-public actions of voting (and praying) to strip millions of Americans of our basic human rights.

    7. Twix*

      Your coworker’s response is *about her*, not you.

      Speaking as someone who’s been living with a debilitating chronic illness for over a decade, I 100% agree with this.

      Also this person isn’t kind and caring at all.

      I do not necessarily agree with this. My mother is one of the nicest people on the planet and loves me unconditionally, and I still had to be pretty frank about setting boundaries with her around this, and even then she still occasionally does it. Some people do it patronizingly, but in many cases it’s a way for people who are kind and caring to feel like they’re helping in a situation that’s out of their control, which can be extremely frustrating to be on the receiving end of but generally does come from a genuinely good place. And I think that’s an important distinction because those people can also be a very real source of beneficial support if you can set boundaries with them without alienating them.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I think the disagreement here might be around our own definitions of “kind”

        1. Melissa*

          I think it’s more the idea that someone can be a kind and caring person, and they can do something unkind and uncaring, whether it’s because they have a blindspot about how their behaviour is received, or they are struggling with something of their own that is skewing their judgement or a whole range of other reasons. A short period of unkind behaviour doesn’t erase who someone is at their core.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            People who are willing to cross this many boundaries with a work colleague are rarely the kind of people for which this is short-term behavior

          2. Cicely*

            “A short period of unkind behaviour doesn’t erase who someone is at their core.”

            Beautifully stated.

        2. Twix*

          I actually don’t think it is. I think it’s about how much to weigh outcome vs intentions in judging someone’s actions.

      2. Typing All The Time*

        Same. Being kind is also about respecting boundaries and the word no. I had an ex-friend who would offer advice about how to change my life; I wasn’t what I wanted and she’d a fit when I wouldn’t listen.

    8. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, not exactly the same, but when I was pregnant years ago I expected a lot of unsolicited advice. The best method I heard of was to say, “thanks, I’ll consider it” and then never think of it again. It won’t work with someone as pushy as LW’s coworker who would undoubtedly demand follow up information, but it can be useful for general well-wishers about a medical diagnosis.

    9. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      This. Nothing OP says will be accepted. This person is on a war to “spread her goodness.”
      Any reply other than, “thanks” or “yes” is an invitation for a dialog.
      send her one of Alison’s scripts the next time, then honestly, can you just ignore her?
      If not, just “ok, I got the message.”

    10. Hrodvitnir*

      I’m sorry your mother is like that. I wonder if one day we (society) will settle into mostly accepting ADHD as a real thing that’s utterly morally neutral. Sigh.

      It also feeds a pet hate, that increased “awareness” of clinical depression and anxiety has lead to people thinking of them as mental illness lite. Yep, treatable clinical depression that is significantly due to external factors is a thing! But for some of us it is not ever “fixable” and probably will need medication forever, or at best, constant vigilence around non-medicinal interventions. Eugh.

      1. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

        I was fortunate. I fell into the “treatable due to external factors” category.

        Even so, I am extremely aware of how debilitating it can be for anyone.

    11. Pizza Rat*

      I think many of us are conditioned to think that someone praying for them is a kind thing, and in some cases it truly is. This person, though, has gone so far over the line they’re in another ballpark.

      1. Jasmine*

        I am a missionary and sometimes people ask me to pray for them or a relative because they are sick. I pray for them to have a calm mind and heart and wisdom to make good decisions for their healthcare.

  4. CityMouse*

    Trying to get you to spend large amounts of money on an online naturopath, undermining your doctors, and telling you that your illness isn’t real isn’t remotely kind behavior. That’s controlling, an invasion of your privacy, and, potentially putting your health at risk (were you to actually listen to her). None of this is okay.

    Talk to your boss, this is massively horribly inappropriate.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Agreeing that the OP should discuss this with her manager and HR. She doesn’t have to ask for intervention, at this point, but just giving them the heads up that she is having to manage this co-worker’s suggestions and request that they lay off is a good idea.

      The OP needs her colleague to treat her as a coworker, not as a health improvement project. She needs the colleague to keep focused on the WORK they do together. If the colleague isn’t able to do that or refuses to do that, that’s something the manager or HR can address.

      1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

        I love the wording: this is a co-worker not a”health improvement project”. I have a chronic condition that is sometims visible and if I had a dollar for every time someone gave me a sure fire cure I could have retired by now. My go to response is “No thanks, I take the advice of my medical board certified specialist over your snake oil.”

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Yes, tell the coworker to stop. Then when she (probably) doesn’t, take it to HR. This is harassment based on her medical status and is probably illegal. Document what she has been saying and save any emails she sent.

          Use the words “Harassment about my medical condition” in an email and if HR is even the least bit competent, this should get their potential-lawsuit senses tingling.

    2. allathian*

      Yup, this sounds like harassment based on the LW’s medical status and sounds like it would be illegal. At the very least, it’s horribly inappropriate.

    1. Beth*

      I think that’s when a tiny trace of information is watered down repeatedly until no actual knowledge can be detected any more by any form of instrumentation. The resulting emptiness is then poured into the ears until the brain melts.

      1. Kindred Spirit*

        The ultra-diluted substances is homeopathy. Naturopathy utilizes herbs, massage, accupressure, nutritional supplements, that sort of thing.

    2. HatesQuacks*

      Yes. It is 100 percent useless quackery that dates back to just before humanity began to develop drugs that actually work. Medications that work (“conventional medicine”) are what naturopaths specifically oppose and will advise their unfortunate patients to avoid.

      Like its cousin homeopathy, naturopathy is pernicious nonsense.

      1. Part time lab tech*

        100% is harsh. Honey is effective at reducing infection (peroxide, antimicrobials so a sugary substance doesn’t ferment). A large number of drugs are derived from plants (aspirin from willow I think.) Certainly plenty of drugs have made it to commercial sale and have turned out to have more harms than good. There are also a number of drugs that are as effective as a placebo and I am someone who appreciates that placebo and nocebo are genuine effects.

        1. Humble Schoolmarm*

          It’s hard, though. I had a friend who swore by her naturopath and her family history had some scary medical things in it so her medical anxiety made sense (not that it had to). I also started out with a “hey, if the placebo effect is woking for you, so much the better” attitude, but then she started contacting me with desperate texts about how her naturopath had diagnosed her with under-active adrenal glands and she needed me to make a 45 minute round trip and tide her over $70 for the miracle supplements until payday… and then there was the $50 for the special bath to draw the toxins out of her feet (massive scam, the current in the bath oxidizes the metal and changes the water colour). It really strained my “you do you” attitude. If you’re selling things that people need to borrow money to obtain because you’ve convinced them that they desperately need emergency supplements, I have very little that’s positive to say about you (you the naturopath, not the posters).

  5. ChemistryChick*

    The fact that this “naturopath” has given his own “diagnosis” leads me to believe coworker has been giving info about OP’s medical condition to a complete stranger; as Alison said, this behavior is definitely not kind.

    OP, please do not feel bad about setting a boundary with this coworker, regardless of what her intentions are. You have absolutely no obligation to explain yourself beyond “this makes me uncomfortable and I no longer wish to discuss it with you.”

    1. turquoisecow*

      any “medical practitioner” who gives a DIAGNOSIS without even seeing the patient is not to be trusted, IMHO. Even if the coworker knows EVERYTHING and EVERY bit of symptom that OP has experienced over the last few years (which I doubt), a competent medical practitioner of any sort with any kind of ethics would not make a diagnosis without seeing the patient themselves, even if just over a video call.

      1. animaniactoo*


        A diagnosis without examination of the patient or review of any test results, etc.? No. Nope. I am not even going to grant them an appointment to do such things at that point. Much less spend a single dime on any of their remedies. Okay, not a single penny. Is there a unit smaller than a penny? Not even that.

        1. Turquoisecow*

          Not even a “oh it might be X instead of Y, look into that,” but a definitive DIAGNOSIS with 100% certainty. Without even speaking to the patient! Complete quack.

        2. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

          Smaller than a penny? Farthings. Four of them to a penny. I think they had a little robin on the coin, but it’s 60 years since I saw one!

    2. Conscientious OP who does the things*

      I know this is hardly the point of this letter but I would love to know what this naturopath has diagnosed OP with. Is it some strange condition that isn’t really a thing? Or is it some other actual medical diagnosis? Either way, it’s utter nonsense. If it’s a real illness then that’s shady because as others have pointed out, no real medical professional would diagnose anything without examining the person directly, and if it’s some made-up condition then that’s just doubly shady.

      1. Galentine*

        As someone said above, a good guess is chronic Lyme. They love to trot that one out and blame it for anything and everything.

    3. Piehole Closure Request*

      It could even be language the OP wants to incorporate. “You’ve always been so kind. The fact that you would share my medical information with someone I don’t even know is frankly shocking to me. It’s not how I need you to support me at all.” Or some suchlike.

  6. Peanut Hamper*

    She has added me to her prayer chain, which makes me cringe but I know is coming from a place of love

    I very much doubt this is coming from a place of love–these things always seem so self-serving to me. I would have shut it down at this point. It would have made me do more than cringe. LW has a level of patience I could not match in a case like this.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Oh, people can decide for themselves how to feel about this kind of thing. I might roll my eyes personally but I wouldn’t be truly bothered by this. It sounds like OP isn’t either. I don’t think we have to assume the coworker is malicious and attention-seeking necessarily just from that line. Sometimes in our haste to reassure the OP I think we find ourselves playing AITA with the assumption that someone in the letter must clearly be bad, but just as often people are simply incompetent and need a bit more direction to be helpful.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      Prayer certainly can be used in a noxious way: “Dear Lord, help this sinner to repent” is not come from a loving place. But prayers for healing are rarely done this way. In any case, it isn’t something you can really shut down. At most you can shut down discussions about it.

      1. ferrina*

        There’s a difference between praying for someone and praying FOR someone. You can wish for good things for people in your own religious and spiritual ways, but at the point where you start actively trying to involve them in that conversation (including when you want them to listen to the religious practices you’ve been following “on their behalf”), they need to consent to that. If you say “I’ll pray for you” and they say “yeah, I don’t like that”, then that’s the end of the conversation. You don’t involve them in your religious/spiritual practices again, even in conversation.

        If you need someone to know that you’ve been praying for them against their wishes, then you don’t actually respect their right to make their own religious and spiritual decisions. That’s not okay, and that’s something I’d go to HR about.

        1. Double A*

          As an atheist, when someone says they’ll pray for me, I translate it into what I say to people in those situations, which is “I’m thinking of you” or “I’m sending you healing vibes/wishes/thoughts.”

          I’m sure there are people to whom I say such a thing who are somewhat miffed I don’t pray for them. But in my mind we’re both doing the same thing, and it wouldn’t be honest to say I’m praying. Just like it wouldn’t really be honest or accurate for a praying person to say they’re “thinking of you” when they’re praying, and I don’t need to be protected from someone thinking at their God on my behalf, rather than just thinking about me generally. It indeed can be a kindness and it’s easy to accept it as such.

          1. Huttj*

            Yeah, for me it helps that it most often comes from my mother on the other side of the country. So for her it’s definitely from a place of “I really want to help but there is nothing I can do, get well soon.”

          2. Eldritch Office Worker*

            I think that line gets crossed when it involves sharing information with other people in a prayer chain. Individual thoughts are one thing.

            1. Double A*

              Good point! I actually have no idea what a prayer chain is but it does sound more invasive.

              1. Cheshire Cat*

                It’s a group of people who agree to pray for others (usually other members of their church, or relatives of members) when they are sick or going through hard times.

                The term comes from pre-internet days; there was a list of all the people in the chain. When someone requested prayer they would call the first person in the prayer chain; the first person would call the second person in the chain, second person would call the third, etc. That way everyone on the prayer chain would be notified without getting multiple phone calls.

                Nowadays the “chain” is more likely to be an email list but the old name is still used.

                1. Emily Byrd Starr*

                  Oh, in THAT case, it’s not a great thing to do without someone’s consent, especially if you use their real names (as opposed to “Lucy’s granddaughter’s co-worker’s brother.”

          3. Emily Byrd Starr*

            I’m religious, and I know that many people are not, so I have been known to say “thinking” when I really mean “praying.” To me, prayer is a kind of thinking, because I don’t do it out loud.

      1. Firebird*

        Our prayer group often used initials if people weren’t comfortable with using names. God knows who we mean.

    3. straws*

      Yes, adding someone to a prayer chain does not automatically translate to kindness. My child was hospitalized with essentially no prognosis for days (aka they just didn’t know if Child would survive). We didn’t communicate this to anyone, but didn’t hide that they were in ICU. My MIL added Child to a prayer chain, which was… ok whatever, we’re not religious, but it’s not hurting anything. Well, an entire year later, my boss came to me with concern asking me if Child was sick again. Apparently she had added them to a prayer chain for people with terminal illnesses at her church – my boss’s elderly relative attended the same church and he helped her with her papers/mail on weekends. My child has a unique name, so it was pretty jarring and brought up some pretty awful memories. This move was absolutely not about my child, who survived and was completely fine a week out from the hospitalization.

    4. Rara Avis*

      I am not religious, but I have a number of friends who are, and they all walk the walk — my friend who has dedicated her free time to serving low-income children in her church, for instance, can pray for me all she wants — it doesn’t hurt me, and she believes it will help.

    5. kalli*

      It’s okay to pray for someone – it’s basically ‘I wish you the best’ framed in pretty language.

      It’s not okay to add someone to a prayer chain without their active consent. That’s the problem, whether it’s self-serving or of a genuine belief that the more people thinking positive thoughts in a general direction will actually help, because it requires disclosure. Even if it’s just ‘my friend who is sick’, that’s not their information to share.

      Being patient when someone’s telling strangers a version of your personal medical information (and prayer chains aren’t usually vague info, there’s usually names and conditions at least, not ‘friend’s friend who is sick’) isn’t usually patience, it’s just ‘this is too exhausting for me to deal with right now so I’mma focus my energy on stuff I can control’.

    6. Freya*

      Fun fact: in Australia, if a church is big enough or is affiliated with a big enough organisation, then the privacy laws we have mean that a prayer chain under the aegis of that church which shares sensitive information (eg health information) about a reasonably identifiable person may be breaching those laws.

      One example: If my mother requested prayers be said for me, and provided information about my health, then a church covered by the Privacy Act is required to destroy or de-identify that information. The church and their representatives may not hold onto that information, as I have not consented and it was not collected directly from me. If the prayer request was written, this would involve redacting or shredding the paper where the sensitive information was written – my mother absolutely can request prayers be said for me, but the church (if an APP entity) is not allowed to retain the reasons why (they have no evidence of my consent to that sensitive information being given).

  7. Garblesnark*

    LW, when I was new to being disabled, I also thought this garbage was care. It is okay if you later come to the conclusion that it is garbage. People offer us this garbage because they want to believe that if they do the right things, they will not become disabled. Maybe they won’t. But you, like me, are disabled, and you don’t have to accept garbage about it.

    Also, maybe block her number and the prayer chain emails. They are not free. They are very rudely taking up your severely limited emotional and mental capacity.

    1. The Terrible Tom*

      “People offer us this garbage because they want to believe that if they do the right things, they will not become disabled.”


    2. Elsewise*

      Exactly! This comes from a place of ableism. People like to believe that something as life-changing as an MS diagnosis could never happen to them, so they come up with reasons why, usually boiling down to what YOU must be doing “wrong” to have had this happen to you. It comes from a place of insecurity, but it also comes with a hefty amount of victim blaming. And grifters come in to use that insecurity to get money out of people like your coworker, telling them that their instincts were right, if you do (buy) all the right things you won’t be disabled.

    3. Ariaflame*

      You mean as well as bothering god they also bother the person who they are meant to be trying to help? Yeesh.

    4. Uisce Chick*

      I think a subset of this is what my brother in law described to me last year when my husband was going through a horrific series of spinal fractures as “make me feel better about your back pain,” a phenomenon that resulted in my m-i-l asking my husband way way too often, “how do you feel?” as a way to alleviate her own deep anxiety about the situation. He felt terrible! It didn’t change with the asking.

    5. Yeah...*

      This logic is not limited to medical conditions.

      Whenever anything “bad” happens there is always a subset of people who want to know the details so they can tell you what to do what not to do in a way that assures them they control the outcome should the same thing happen to them.

      1. Garblesnark*

        That’s true. It’s difficult to grapple with the reality that bad things happen not just to good people or to bad people but to all sorts of people and generally regardless of their decisions, as a category.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Yeppers. Melissa Blake said something in her book Beautiful People: My Thirteen Truths About Disability to the effect that disability is the only protected class that anyone can join at any time, and that really freaks some people out.

    6. Rick Tq*

      I suggest you start an email filter on Coworker’s address that deletes or refiles messages from her that include ‘prayer’, ‘treatment’, ‘naturopath’, and any other common words in her emails relating to your MS treatment.

      Deleting the messages gets them out of your inbox. Refiling them preserves them for you to forward to HR when her ‘help’ becomes an issue or you are done with her suggesting the $$$$$ quack for treatment.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        I think this is a great idea, either with or without the “it’s not something I want to dwell on any further; support me by just discussing work instead!” message. If OP doesn’t see the cringey messages, OP magically won’t have to cringe, get second hand embarrassment, or manufacture politeness in response to ignorance. Also, do any of these messages really warrant a response? The colleague is simply scratching her own itch.

    7. Busy Middle Manager*

      *not saying this applies to OP* but the “garbage” word is a bit much – This topic comes up a lot and is so heated because people fail to realize there are indeed “two sides.” It doesn’t mean this is work appropriate to discuss nor does it change the advice, but it should change the way we think about the issue. It’s not “garbage” to care about someone and offer advice. Other common reasons for coworker to be like this include:

      Having been the caretaker of one or more relatives, and having or feeling like they have advice to offer from all of the experience they have (this is where the “you’re not a doctor” will fall flat, if you’re active in taking care of someone and going with them to all of their appointments, you learn a lot, and you don’t actually need to go to medical school to regurgitate something you learned)

      Having lived with or around people who aren’t doing much beyond self-care. I think the commentariat here leans towards a certain personality type that does yoga, incorporates veggies and organic food into their diets, etc so for them, it will seem more crazy if they suddenly fall ill. You fail to realize how bad some peoples’ lifestyles out there are. For example, I was at a family gathering this weekend and a conversation devolved into “you know you don’t need to wait for the cardiologist to tell you how blocked your heart it to know that huge bowls of iced cream are not healthy.” Be around that long enough, and your view on what’s appropriate or not gets warped

      Having become disillusioned with our medical system. People forget medicine is still evolving. Ever been to a doctor completely exhausted with pain, only to be told you’re healthy as a horse? Yeah, that’s why people seek alternatives. It’s not because they are bad people offering “garbage.” Look at all of the stigma around food allergies and how it’s changing for the better recently, as an example.

      1. Garblesnark*

        I have been to many doctors and told I could not have my multiple life changing disabilities because I was young, pretty, or married. I have also been permanently harmed by quack fake practicioners, who unlike doctors, can’t be sued for malpractice or have claims filed against their licenses, because they aren’t practicing medicine and those licenses don’t exist. None of the things you listed are at all relevant to MS. Not pizza, not yoga, not ice cream.

        It’s really not a bridge to far to call hanging out on the borders of the law to prey upon disabled people’s desperation and deprive them of their last pennies by offering them fake medical care that poisons them “garbage.”

        1. Busy Middle Manager*

          I mean, if we can’t have a normal conversation with reasonable talking points, there shouldn’t be a comment section and OPs like this shouldn’t write here since there isn’t anything to discuss. Also I have no clue who the person is I am responded to, you can’t chastise people for commenting to eachother. I don’t memorize the user names and read every comment section to know who has what issue

          1. Garblesnark*

            1. You can be expected to read the comment you are replying to. The comment you replied to included me saying I was disabled.

            2. This is not a “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” situation. There are unacceptable things to say because we live in society. That does not eliminate the value of conversation. You are being weird and mean.

          2. Kella*

            You responded to a relatively short comment that included the information that they are disabled TWICE and then talked at length as if they were unfamiliar with realities that are constantly relevant to disabled and chronically ill people and acted surprised to learn they were disabled. In order to have a normal conversation with reasonable talking points, it’s necessary for you to read what the other person wrote. Talking *at* people is not a conversation.

        2. Garblesnark*

          Also, on the note of self care – an example of something that makes it hard to go above and beyond with, sorry, what were you prescribing? Yoga and organic food? would be being disabled. My permanent tendon damage is not compatible with yoga and dramatically increases the difficulty of preparing organic food, which is both more expensive and mostly comes totally unprepared.

          If there are two sides, one is wrong. Hope that helps.

      2. Juicebox Hero*

        I’m about as far away from a yoga-doing, organic (“so is formaldehyde!”) vegetable-eating health nut as you’ll find. None of my health issues have come as a surprise given my family history. I don’t eat huge bowls of ice cream, but I still have diabetes and high cholesterol. I was diagnosed with endometriosis right before I hit perimenopause, which is because every other doctor I saw about it for decades blew me off. I took care of my mother in her final illness, and trust me, I know the US medical system blows chunks.

        However, naturopaths and other quacks ARE garbage, because they offer false hope and suck the money out of the wallets of people who are sick and scared. Medicine is still evolving, yes, but so many of the “treatments” espoused by these quacks have been proven time and again to be either totally useless or actively harmful – ivermectin, anyone? – that filling up these theives’ pockets is the opposite of evolution.

      3. 1-800-BrownCow*

        It’s “garbage” because it’s unsolicited advice, and in some instances, damaging. None of your reasons make it acceptable.

        If it was reason 1, then the coworker could simply just say they’ve had previous experience as a caretaker for someone for someone going through a debilitating illness and IF LW needs advice, feel free to reach out. But pushing advice on the LW, as this person did, is garbage, it’s unsolicited.

        For reason 2, there’s never an appropriate situation to tell someone how to care for themselves. I would be livid if someone said that to me while I was eating a huge bowl of ice cream, they would get quite the earful back because anyone who knows me well would know I rarely eat ice cream, because frankly, I’m not a big fan of it. But maybe once a year, I might enjoy some ice cream as a rare treat and someone commenting that I’m blocking my heart because I was eating ice cream that one time is extremely rude and uncalled for. Regardless, even if I regularly ate ice cream or indulged in whatever less than healthy habit, it’s not anyone’s business to push their agenda on me. If people want to know what to do to be healthier, then they seek out that information. My FIL knew he was going to die early from congestive health failure after years of battling diabetes. He knew what he needed to do to control his diabetes and live longer, but he didn’t care. He didn’t want to change his eating habits, he didn’t want to exercise, he didn’t want to do anything to live longer. It was HIS choice. People need to stop policing and stop worrying about other peoples’ lifestyles. What YOU see is a moment in that persons’ life, you don’t know what they do every other minute of their day. And it’s not your business to tell them how they should be living to “be healthier”.

        As for your last reason, I don’t know if people actually forget or don’t know medicine is evolving. This seems to be fairly common knowledge with those I know, or maybe it’s just common amongst the people I know. I agree that some things are slow to change, the stigma with mental health and food allergies that you mentioned, are a couple of examples. But there are better ways to help people learn and gain knowledge of those changes beyond pushing it onto someone going through medical treatments for something specific. And pushing a diagnosis from a “naturopath” who’s never met or assessed the LW in person sends up lots of red flags. Besides the fact, a lot of “medical breakthrough” knowledge shared by naturopaths have not even been scientifically studied. If you start researching some of the information shared in some of these communities, you find lots of misinformation and wrong conclusions based on questionable results from a study conducted incorrectly. Or better yet, the studies paid for by a company that would grow financially if the results went a certain direction.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Yeah, I would also be livid if someone said anything so rude as that to someone simply because they’re eating a lot of ice cream. People need to learn to be much more quiet than that if they haven’t yet learned basic manners.

      4. AGD*

        It’s not two-sided. It would be two-sided if there were any reason to believe naturopathy helps. Mainstream medicine as a system has its problems, sure, and we can and should discuss them (fatphobia, misogyny, racism, lineups, cost in some countries), but that doesn’t make bogus “complementary” treatments suddenly any good. Medical treatments are medical treatments. Other stuff isn’t, unless it can meet the scientific standards for efficacy (and safety!).

        1. Nesprin*

          You know what they call alternative and complementary therapies that work?

          Mainstream medicine.

      5. Keymaster of Gozer (She/Her)*

        You’re doing the EXACT thing multiple people have said is so darn annoying and condescending.

        Don’t you think we’ve heard that old ‘eat better, exercise’ mantra before? I’ve been disabled for over 29 years and been obese at the same time. If I had a quid for every time I’ve heard that ‘you’d be in better health if you lost weight’ thing I’d be getting a new car.

        There are no ‘two sides’ to unsolicited advice. We don’t want it, it’s insulting and you have no idea what it’s like to live in my body.

      6. actual cat herder*

        i am disabled. it is garbage. i have been sick my whole life and am just now narrowing down some diagnoses. i’m 41. i did spend years in pain but like garblesnark, was young, attractive and married. you have had the experience of going to a doctor exhausted and in pain – some of us have done that for decades. yoga won’t cure anything i have – in fact, it is very easy for me to injure myself and my doctors have banned me from yoga. i have six doctors on my team – i do not need advice from people who do not know my entire medical history. not even my family has all of my medical history! please, stay in your lane and let disabled people live.

      7. Ellis Bell*

        Look, I definitely seek alternatives and I definitely dabbled and self diagnosed when I couldn’t get a doctor to pay attention to my food intolerance. In my case, it helped and I was able to bring some evidenced things, like a food diary, back to my doctor. BUT this is not that, and it’s not just because of the pseudo science at all. There’s a huge difference between what you do to your own body when seeking solutions and being patronising and ableist to someone who has been dealt a raw deal but who is happy with the medical advice they’re getting. You’re also suggesting that it’s okay to comment on what’s a good lifestyle or a bad lifestyle; it’s horribly inappropriate to speak to other adults that way unsolicited. If they really want to know, they will ask, or preferably, see a doctor.

      8. Kella*

        Another disabled/chronically ill person here: Offering unsolicited medical advice is garbage because it involves placing yourself in a position of authority, expertise, and power *over* the person dealing with health issues, when in fact you don’t have anywhere near enough information or context about this person’s health situation to evaluate what is needed or what suggestions would be remotely helpful. It’s interrupting class to explain to a professor how they’re teaching the class wrong. It’s walking into an auto-shop and telling a car mechanic what is *actually* wrong with this car you’ve never set eyes on before. It’s a power trip and not in any way helpful.

        In the example of the OP, the unsolicited advice has gone a step further past the already annoying suggestions of the most basic health knowledge that all chronically ill people are already devoting themselves to. This coworker is telling the OP *her diagnosis is incorrect* based on the “expertise” of an unlicensed stranger who has never examined OP. I don’t care if you’ve lost all faith in our medical system. The coworker is suggesting the services of an expensive, unethical conman. That is not caring or helpful. I say this as someone who has always used a combination of alternative and western medicine to treat my many health conditions.

        Lastly, please drop the idea long-term serious health conditions are caused by the individual’s “lifestyle” choices. Health is complicated and there are a million conditions that are not in any way caused by the choices of the person who is sick.

        1. Andromeda*

          To add to this: my habits around food and exercise are all pretty terrible, but I’m not disabled. I do have a family history of diabetes, so I’m working on trying to exercise more etc, but I may still never get it. My dad *is* diabetic, and if anyone in the family said to him, “you know you wouldn’t be diabetic if you didn’t eat X food,” we’d all correctly see it as really rude! And even if I didn’t change anything about my habits at all, and that caused me to become diabetic, I still wouldn’t deserve to be that way.

          Also — “organic” food is not the same thing as “healthy” or “nutrition rich” food. It may have *marginally* more health benefits than the same amount of non-organic food. But even then it’s not medication — it’s vanishingly rare that you can say “we 100% know that this person did not get ill because they ate organic rather than non-organic fruits and vegetables”. This kind of fuzzy logic is exactly the reason people don’t want others who aren’t medical practitioners giving advice on what they should do or could have done to relieve symptoms. Like OP says, they have limited mental space and “put more effort into X thing!!!!!” is unhelpful, thoughtless advice.

          Maybe if you have a cold, “spend a few extra quid on organic oranges — I swear they cleared it up for me last week. Must be all that vitamin C” is acceptable (albeit scientifically unsound). But it’s just not for a debilitating chronic illness.

          1. Garblesnark*

            Well and a cold is fundamentally different because we all get them, they mostly clear up, and little things like an extra orange or some hot broth can actually make a difference.

            This Busy Middle Manager individual has done the exact thing we’ve warned about and fallen for the trap of believing permanent disabilities are all based on easily controlled personal choices, like a libertarianism of the body. I do hope they don’t have to learn through experience how little their choices matter.

      9. Julian*

        It’s garbage because the person offering it has thought about my condition for a whole two seconds while I’ve been thinking about it my entire life. Also, the disabled person didn’t ask. It’s rude to offer advice that has not been asked for, so I’m comfortable labeling that advice as garbage.

        Yoga and health food are not going to cure my heart arthymia, my hypermobile hip joint, or my IBS. I know because I’ve tried them! Yoga in fact makes the hip joint worse. I still eat pretty damn healthy, but that just takes me from debilitating gastric pain once a day to once a week.

        Please take a minute to put yourself in the disabled person’s shoes. They’re not just hearing this unhelpful advice from you, they’re hearing it from their coworker, their dentist, their aunts and uncles twice removed. It’s exhausting. It’s not that you’re necessarily a bad person, but you’re doing a bad, hurtful thing. Please reflect on that instead of defending your good person-ness.

      10. Cheshire Cat*

        It’s garbage because it’s unsolicited advice. You may suggest treatments to me that helped your family members, but those treatments may not help me even when your relative has the exact condition that I have, because we are two different people. I may have other health issues that you know nothing about that contradict your suggestions. Or maybe it’s an option that my doctor recommended but didn’t work for me.

        Try to frame the response as “you’re not *my* doctor and don’t know my full medical history” and maybe it will rankle less.

      11. Lightbourne Elite*

        You presume I’ll care about your dire warnings about ice cream. Even if you could 100% prove without a doubt that a bowl of ice cream a day will take ten years off my life…worth it.

      12. Esmae*

        There’s a huge difference between seeking an alternative FOR YOURSELF and shoving one at a coworker who hasn’t asked for one or said anything about being unhappy with their current treatment.

  8. Ashley*

    I really like the one that mentions the stress, because stress is the last thing anyone needs especially people with chronic illness.
    Don’t forget to take advantage of muting and silencing notifications from this person so you can deal with them on your schedule and not theirs which will also hopefully minimize some of the annoyance.
    Best of luck as you navigate this. And if you are US based don’t forget to talk to your medical teams about navigating social security disability system and other support resources they may know of for people in your condition because sometimes approvals take time but will hopefully give you more long term security.

  9. Sloanicota*

    Oh no, I’m sorry, OP, this all sounds incredibly difficult. This is a case where you may just have to be incredibly direct. “I realize you are trying to help, but this is making it more difficult for me, so I need to ask you not to bring this up again. Thanks for understanding.” It may feel unkind in the moment but that’s not actually inappropriate to ask for. She needs to take a big step back.

    1. bamcheeks*

      I really like this– it definitely includes the kindness that LW was asking for, but still sets a very firm boundary.

      LW, I think sometimes it can feel quite overwhelming when you ask for advice on how to manage someone you think of as kind and caring, and the commentariat responds with anger and indignation on your behalf. I hope you can take the anger and indignation as a sign that it is PERFECTLY ALL RIGHT to set the boundary, and to do so in much tougher terms that you are currently planning, if you want to. Don’t let the fact that your co-worker is mostly kind and caring prevent you from setting a boundary at all, even if you do it in a fairly gentle way.

    2. JustaTech*

      And LW, if it helps you, here’s another framing for why it’s not only perfectly reasonable for you to ask your coworker to step back, but it’s going to help her as well.
      If she’s doing this “helpful” (not helpful) thing to you, she’s probably doing it to a lot of people, and chances are very good that most people will not respond with your grace, so you are offering this coworker the opportunity to learn that most people do not find this helpful before she does it to someone who is at the end of their rope and gets screamed at.

      To be perfectly clear, you do not *have* to go the “gentle education” route, and you are well within the bounds of reason to be very clear and blunt with her. But if part of you is balking at even a gentle correction, remember that it will help her in the long run.
      (And also you have literally anything better to do with your energy other than deal with this person’s “help”.)

    3. Emily Byrd Starr*

      And if she continues to bring it up after you’ve asked her to stop, then she’s an a-hole.

  10. Czhorat*

    First, I’m sorry you’re going through this. Chronic illness – especially with chronic pain – makes life difficult in ways few people understand. Good luck dealing with it, and my sincere sympathy.

    Alison’s advice, and this situation, feels like something that comes up often here. Someone is pushing past what should be a clear boundary but one doesn’t want to smack them down because that makes things feel weird and hostile. The best and most important thing to remember is that it’s the boundary-pushing colleague making things weird, not you. It is one thousand percent fine and normal for your healthcare choices to be off limits; if someone tries to tell you how to handle it then it’s THEM who are making it weird, not you.

  11. ReallyBadPerson*

    I would argue that the emails and prayers, etc., which you say don’t cost you anything actually do. And you recognize that she is sending them to “make her feel helpful and heard.” This suggests that it really is all about her.

    You don’t owe her anything except the debt of civility. Alison’s suggested scripts would serve nicely here.

  12. Powerpants*

    As a chronically ill person with a similar diagnosis, I would have no problem telling her that I believe in a purely scientific approach to my care and see this sort of stuff as snake oil salespeople preying on the ill and I would prefer not to hear about it.

    1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Wonan*

      My husband has a chronic condition that still doesn’t have a full diagnosis. Many people will suggest things like supplements or some kind of “natural” treatment. As if we jumped straight to seeing multiple (expensive) specialists without ruling out simple causes. It’s been years of appointments and testing. If it was something easy to treat, we’d be there.

      It would be wonderful if he could just take some vitamins or see a chiropractor and be healthy. Unfortunately that’s not the situation. Let us and the medical team handle it. If you really want to be supportive, just treat him normally. He’s not just his condition, and unless he’s with his doctor, he wants to just live best he can.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      At this stage, so would I. But being newly diagnosed is so overwhelming, I am not surprised the OP hasn’t hit the “shove your thoughts and prayers at someone who wants them” stage yet.

    3. Blomma*

      Yeah, I’ve been living with my chronic illnesses for a little over 30 years. The phrase in my back pocket (which I fortunately haven’t had to use yet because most of the people in my life are generally respectful) is “I have been dealing with this for so long that at this point I only want medical advice from someone I have vetted and paid for that medical advice. Otherwise, I’m not interested.”

  13. Ell*

    Ugh. Her intentions may truly be positive – I would have a hard time seeing it that way but it’s not impossible – but the impact she’s having is the opposite, and it would be for most people.

    A prayer group is intrusive enough, but pushing an expensive pseudoscience person on you is really unconscionable. I hope Alison’s advice and the comments here help you push back without feeling rude, OP. Any reasonable person would be grossed out by this and setting a boundary is perfectly acceptable.

    I’m sorry about your diagnosis and sending good thoughts your way.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      This is very similar to the dynamics of colonization or missions….the people imposing themselves on others often do it cheerfully, with great intentions, and being cheerfully oblivious to the invasiveness of their actions even when they are actively destructive.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        And honestly, that has always bothered me more than the actually insulting stuff because it’s so disrespectful. Somebody hating you is one thing, but somebody thinking you are so stupid that you need them to “be nice to you” and force you to do what they want “for your own good” is both much harder to push back on and feels like it’s coming from a place of greater disrespect.

        Not that I want to be invaded or imposed upon for any reason, but being invaded because I can’t manage my own affairs and “need a grown up to do it for me” feels more disrespectful than being invaded because I am a dangerous enemy that must be retaliated against before I invade them.

        As a teenager in the 1990s, the “aw, isn’t it cute that Ireland is doing something like a real country?” typed articles in the British media annoyed me far more than the “OMG, Irish terrorists!!” ones. Not that the latter weren’t seriously harmful, because they were, but the former just seemed so patronising.

        1. JustaTech*

          It’s so much easier to push back against an obvious jerk and not take anything they say seriously, as opposed to a “nice” person who is “only trying to help”.

          I have a friend who ended up down a scary pseudoscience rabbit hole and the only reason she was able to see what had happened and get out was because one of the people reeling her in insulted her horribly (“your child’s condition is all your fault”) and she was so offended she was able to look at it all again and see the disfunction for what it was and leave.

      2. Engineery*

        “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” – C.S. Lewis

        1. Jerusha*

          “She scarcely knew what she wanted. She knew what she feared–to be locked up in some dark, narrow place by people who loved her. An enemy might drop his guard, weary of his task, turn his back; love would never falter.”

          –Paladin of Souls, Lois McMaster Bujold

  14. Spicy Tuna*

    Ugh, I have nothing to add that is germaine to the OP’s situation but I do want to share my sincere well wishes. My 81 year old mother has lived with MS for nearly 50 years and is still quite active. I wish the OP the same good prognosis as my mom. I know it can be scary because severity varies, and also can wax and wane, but it sounds like OP has a great medical team and a plan to manage it.

    1. New Mom (of 1 7/9)*

      I was also debating on whether this would be useful for not…my grandmother was diagnosed with MS in the late 70s, AFAIK, and lived with it for 45+ years. She used a wheelchair for most of the last 20 years but still loved to go out to the theater. It was almost a dark joke to us as her family–many people would say “poor her, she’s so brave” and, uh, they would precede her in death.

    2. MS Newbie*

      Not the OP but I loved hearing this. I got a diagnosis for MS in January. After reviewing my medical history, the neurology team is pretty confident it is a relatively mild case I might have had since 17 (I’m 34 now). I do sports four times a week and work full-time, so I like hearing stories of people having a good time with the disease.

      1. MS five years in*

        I’m five years in and knock on wood, I just had my initial symptoms so far which have completely gone away with treatment. I’m 32, working full-time and training 3-4 times per week! Hang in there, the first two years were rough on my mental health – also the panini didn’t help things. Much love to you!

      2. MS Oldie*

        Just chiming in here to share that I have MS and have been totally stable on disease modifying therapy for 10+ years!

      3. No name yet*

        Good luck with your diagnosis!

        For good/hopeful stories – my mom and my wife both have MS. My mom was diagnosed 28 years ago (definitely had earlier episodes that were dismissed as psychosomatic), and my wife was diagnosed 11 years ago. Both of them have always worked full-time (in cognitively challenging jobs), and exercise regularly. My mom has had some intermittent MS-related difficulties over the years, but has always been able to get around and generally do what she wanted to do. My wife has basically had no symptoms since her initial diagnosis. (Disease-modifying therapies for the win!) Definitely make sure you have a neurology team that you trust.

      4. Fanny Price*

        I was diagnosed with MS 18 years ago and have been stable on disease-modifying therapy ever since. My neurologist tests me and tells me I’m an underachiever, and then we chat about our kids in college.

  15. New Mom (of 1 7/9)*

    So sorry to hear this, OP.

    Perhaps Susan Silk’s ring theory might be helpful for you–there’s a Wikipedia article for “Ring theory (psychology)” or you can read her original LA Times article. TL;DR, you should not have to manage the feelings of someone who is (much!!!) less affected by this than you are.

  16. Juicebox Hero*

    I swear the worst part of having a chronic illness is the unsolicited advice, unwanted prayers, and endless and possibly dangerous nonsense about supplements, fad diets, essential oils, MLM snake oil…

    It all comes down to how she reacts to you telling her to stop. If she gets offended or persists, I’m nth-ing the people asking you to reconsider how kind and caring she is.

    1. edj3*

      This is so true. I never experienced as much unsolicited advice and not very subtle judgment as I did after my second cancer diagnosis. People asked all kinds of questions about what I did or didn’t do to get this dx, or what my family history was. It was exhausting and not at all helpful.

      OP, save your energy for your own journey. You definitely don’t own anyone any explanation about your disease or your treatment.

      1. JustaTech*

        The unsolicited advice is something that everyone mentions, and I try really hard to take it to heart.
        Sometimes, with really close friends, I might say “hey, I read a really interesting paper in the scientific literature about [their condition], would you like me to send it to you? Or do you not find that useful, and I won’t bring it up again.”

        But only really close friends, and when it’s in my (general) area of expertise, and they’ve expressed an interest in the past. Anything else is just way too intrusive (and super arrogant on my part to think I could understand the literature that well).

  17. Nea*

    “It’s kind of you to be concerned, but I need to see both your medical degrees before I have confidence in your diagnosis.”

    Or maybe without the first eight words.

    Let’s count the red flags that make her whole course of actions very unkind and extremely uncaring:
    1) She’s not part of your team, she’s not part of your group, but by George, she’s going to be an unsolicited part of your life!
    2) She’s pushing her religion onto you. It sounds like she hasn’t just put you on a prayer chain, she’s *telling you all about it.* Constantly!
    3) She has discussed your health with a third party whose sole interest is wanting a lot of your money for himself
    4) Both she and he are making medical diagnoses without a single clue or hot minute of medical training – and making their opinion your problem.


    I get that you don’t want to make things awkward, LW, but your “kind” coworker is *repeatedly* behaving in an unkind and uncaring manner and it needs to be shut down in no uncertain terms.

    “I appreciate your concern but I need to see both your medical licenses before I consider your medical advice.”

    The second and subsequent times she brings it up, remove the first 5 words.

    1. tabloidtainted*

      These scripts are plain antagonistic, in my view. The LW has asked for ways to approach this that are less likely to damage her relationship with her coworker.

      1. animaniactoo*

        I believe that Nea is operating on the basis that the co-worker has already damaged the relationship with the unsolicited advice and intense push towards something that is unlikely to help OP do anything except have even less money available to spend on reputable treatment.

        1. Red Dot*

          That’s not for Nea to decide, and the OP made it clear they did not want to go down this route. Thus this comment is ignoring the boundary the OP has established in the letter. Don’t you think they’ve had enough of that treatment?

      2. Goody*

        The over-stepping coworker has already damaged the work relationship. OP would be wise to document everything thats happened so far, continue to document new interactions, and prepare for a meeting with HR.

    2. anywhere but here*

      I don’t think that meaningully addresses the issue, because even if the colleague and/or person she was recommending *were* doctors, it still would be out of line to behave as if they are *her* doctors. Unrequested medical advice is unrequested medical advice, regardless of where it comes from.

      1. Curious*

        Indeed. I can think of a doctor with a medical degree and a Ph. D, both from Harvard, with a lot of impressive medical experience, and who is … Surgeon General of a State, whose judgements don’t fill me with confidence.

    3. Kinetic Sandi*

      While this might make you feel better to post, it is not what the OP asked for. And thus it is unhelpful and unwarranted. Could we please center the OP and not our own feelings here? They are already dealing with enough dismissal and boundary-trampling, they don’t need it from you too.

    4. Keymaster of Gozer (She/Her)*

      With respect: disabled folks like us often don’t have the energy for the kind of effort the subsequent hard feelings these kind of statements generate. Picking your battles while you’re trying to deal with a new normal is required for our sanity.

      1. I Have RBF*

        Yeah, a kinder script is “I’m sorry, but I already have my own highly credentialed care team that I’m sticking with. Thanks anyway.”

  18. Guest*

    People who have chronic conditions, especially serious ones like MS, don’t need unsolicited prayers and quack “medical” advice. Also, bringing your religion to the office is not a good look.

  19. animaniactoo*

    I think you need to take a look at the idea that a flat no seems hurtful and dismissive… but that what your friend is doing is not hurtful and dismissive of the your ability to find and choose appropriate care for yourself?

    And therefore it is perfectly fine to start with “I appreciate your care, but this is not a path that I am going to pursue.” and then continue on to “I said no, I need you to stop pushing this at me.” if she doesn’t drop it.

    1. MsSolo (UK)*

      Yes, I think if you’re concerned about hurting your co-worker, not saying no is going to hurt both of you. She isn’t psychic. If you’re smiling and nodding like you appreciate her advice, she’s going to keep doing it because that’s the message you’re sending. Be honest with her and tell her “no” before things escalate (because how much worse are you going to feel if she pays for this overpriced scam artist herself?), and if she’s the person you think she is she’ll back off.

    2. Snow Globe*

      I also think the LW should realize that while the LW is spending a considerable amount of mental energy worrying about offending the coworker, the coworker does not seem to worry about offending the LW with this unsolicited advice.

    3. Katie A*

      Both things could be hurtful and dismissive. The LW could very well intend not to be hurtful and dismissive with a blunt “no”, just as their coworker doesn’t intend to be with what she’s doing, but in both cases, the result can be a person who feels hurt and dismissed.

      If the LW has set any sort of boundary clearer than a vague “oh, I don’t have the money” or something similar (unclear if they have and there’s no mention of doing that), then I think the coworker deserves to be a bit hurt and dismissed. But the LW clearly doesn’t think that, so they’re looking for a way to approach this where their intent (getting the coworker to stop but not being hurtful or dismissive) lines up with their impact (the coworker stops and doesn’t feel bad).

      That may not be possible, but it’s obviously something the LW wants to strive for.

  20. tabloidtainted*

    I have some experience with difficult/impossible to treat illnesses. In my case, it was within family, and the long term prognosis was poor, and I saw how desperation made family members turn to unlikely treatments (and “treatments”). People feel powerless, they look for certainty and a sense of control, and sometimes fall into the trap of believing nonsense because–what if it’s true? What if it’s that one miracle?

    Anyway, I believe you completely when you say your coworker’s actions come from a place of genuine love and compassion, because it was the same within my family, even when poorly expressed. I don’t love the suggestion from some other commenters that you need to reassess how you talk about your coworker’s actions, as if you’re lying to yourself. But I do commend you for trying to draw a line here, because it can become overwhelming and this is about you, and not your coworker. Wishing you the best, LW.

  21. Marshmallows*

    I come from a very religious background and while it was common for people to say “I’m praying for you”. It should be treaded on carefully when saying to someone outside of church so as to not make anyone uncomfortable. If you actually believe in the power of prayer, you know that the person you’re praying for doesn’t need to know about it for it to help. If you genuinely know that the person will feel better knowing then by all-means go ahead and mention it to them (one mention should be enough though, continuously bringing it up just looks performative), but otherwise, pray privately and leave it up to God.

    If it matters I no longer attend church… but the desire to have your religious friends pray for you when something is wrong is a weirdly strong thing. I don’t understand why but I always do feel comforted when they do. And if they ask me to pray for them I certainly will. There’s no harm in trying! Just for the “where I’m coming from on it”.

    1. Marshmallows*

      Oh, and I appreciate LW’s compassion on assuming positive intent here. There are a lot of people out there that truly do just want to help and don’t realize that they’re causing harm. Sometimes it’s good to point it out and sometimes it’s fine to just leave it. In this case I find the “prayer chain” to be much less of an issue than the pushing of “medical advice”. It’s one thing if they had like a relative or close friend have a really go experience with something, to mention it as a “hey if you’re looking for alternatives”, but anything further than that is a real overstep and you don’t have to maintain the same patience for someone if they get too pushy. It’s ok to be blunt about it.

    2. MPerera*

      “I come from a very religious background and while it was common for people to say “I’m praying for you”. It should be treaded on carefully when saying to someone outside of church so as to not make anyone uncomfortable.”

      Thank you for this. I’m no longer religious, but when certain people discovered this – and also discovered that I wasn’t interested in re-converting – they’d end the conversation with “I’ll pray for you”. It always felt like they were falling back on this as a knee-jerk response, or sometimes even a passive-aggressive jab. (Plus, since I remain non-religious to this day, I don’t think any of them even got what they were praying for!)

  22. Irish Teacher.*

    The way I look at behaviour like your colleague’s is that it may be coming from a place of wanting to help, but it is also coming from a place of disrespect. She is assuming that she is so much more knowledgeable and insightful and intelligent than you that just hearing the information you have given her means she now knows more about it than you who are living with it and have been present at your medical appointments and so on.

    I do believe she genuinely wants to help, but at some level, she sees herself as significantly more knowledgeable than you.

  23. anywhere but here*

    “Thank you for your interest in my personal medical matters,” and nothing more. Then repeat ad nauseam, never actually engaging with anything she says. Miss-Manners-approved gray-rocking.

  24. Llama Llama*

    My kids have epilepsy. I just smile and nod and move on when people give me stupid suggestions on how to stop the seizures.

    (Essential oils will not help them…)

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      One ex boss of mine, upon informing him I have epilepsy, suggested I just ‘use lavender oil’.

      I briefly entertained putting it in his car’s petrol tank and letting him deal with the seizure of his entrie engine.

      1. Venus*


        Thank you for your thoughtful advice below. I always look forward to reading your comments on these matters.

      2. Seconds*

        Any time sometime uses the word “just” in their advice, you can tell how much more they trust their own judgment than yours.

  25. EC*

    DO NOT BE OPEN MINDED. Naturopaths are scammers and frauds. Don’t give any of them a second of your time or money ever.

    Its also not “mean” or “bad” to tell someone no. This woman is offering unsolicited advice and not backing off when you aren’t engaging. She’s the one being rude.

  26. Sparkles McFadden*

    If your coworker really is a kind and caring person, she will not be insulted if you tell her you don’t want her input on your medical condition. Just tell her you are working with your health care professionals and you don’t need any referrals. Anyone who cannot accept that answer is neither kind nor caring. You don’t need to explain why you are not interested in anything she is suggesting.

    I am sorry you are dealing with this on top of your MS.

  27. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    As those who know me here know – I have a number of disabilities and serious medical problems. A more recent one is on the very serious scale.

    To wit is to say I’ve encountered this so. Many. Times.

    The ‘but I’m trying to help’ and ‘if you just did XYZ you’d be cured’ and diet advice, exercise advice, religious advice all of it unasked for has hit me for decades. And when it comes from loved ones, close friends, nice people who you honestly know aren’t evil it hurts all the more.

    The best thing I’ve found is to change the subject if you can’t actively ignore the message (like deleting an email). One sentence I use is ‘I’d rather not talk about it, the doctors are doing their best but what’s going on with the X account/your new cats/the weather in your area?’

    Haven’t got any advice regarding the prayers though. I do find it offensive but I’ve had zero luck in getting people to stop doing that (my religious beliefs are very different to my coworkers).

    One thing for yourself though – rant. I have a text file on my ipad that is full of the inane stuff people have told me will ‘fix’ me and what I *wish* I could say. It’s pretty nasty but darn it feels good to get it down.

    Love and support. Disabilities and serious health issues are like playing life on ‘Hardcore’ difficulty and they’re not made any easier by someone peering over your shoulder telling you you’re playing the game wrong.

    1. pally*

      I admire your patience with all this ‘advice’.

      I’m not nearly so kind. Yeah, I’ve lost a few friendships as a result.

      You are right; having a place to rant about it DOES help. That’s what I do in letters to my brother. He’s very good with seeing the humorous side of things.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (She/Her)*

        I used to be far more hostile but these days? I don’t have the energy for it.

        Giving a soft No and then giving an off ramp for the conversation seems to work a bit better, at least for those genuinely trying to help.

        Of course if they persist that’s different.

  28. Chaos coordinator*

    I’m sorry that you are dealing with this on top of this diagnosis. I wanted to let you know that the MS society here in the US is a good support organization that you might (if you haven’t already) reach out to.

  29. JSPA*

    I would be steamed, but as you’re not, I suggest employing a face- saving (for her!) ” You couldn’t have known” statement. (To be clear, she very reasonably could have and should have known that this isn’t appropriate; but you’re allowed to prize the friendship over giving reasonable feedback.)

    ” You couldn’t have known, but this is not something I can do, for Personal Reasons.”

    “You couldn’t have known, but this is something that I’ve already looked into, and it’s already been ruled out in my particular case. I do not have the mental bandwidth to explain my full path and my thinking to every kind person who wants to become involved in my personal journey. So I have to ask you to respect this as the final word on the topic.”

    “You couldn’t have known, but having coworkers insist on high level participation in my health care journey is exhausting and unhelpful.”

    “You couldn’t have known, but coworkers taking on this level of participation in my personal decisions,
    no matter how well meant and heart felt and informed, crosses a hard boundary for me. I need you to respect that.”

    1. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

      Or, if you’re from the South, there’s the wonderful, “Bless your heart”

  30. Curious*

    LW does not seem to be a candidate to offer an information diet or grey rock their coworker. While I agree with Alison’s suggested language is soft I think the second sentence to every suggestion is too long and should be replaced with “Thank you for your concern.” in a pleasant manner.

  31. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to hurt her or make her think I don’t appreciate her concern. A flat “no” would feel so hurtful and dismissive, and my biggest worry is that I might insult the genuine love and compassion that’s behind this.

    If it were coming from a position of genuine love and compassion, a flat “no” would be met with grace and understanding.

    There’s nothing here to say it is coming from such a place, though.

  32. ecnaseener*

    While you absolutely should feel free to say as firm a No as you want, and while she absolutely needs to hear it — if you really can’t bring yourself to say or imply No, there’s the “thanks for the recommendation” option. Followed immediately by the rest of your preferred script about not wanting to talk about it any further, laid on as thick as possible.

    No, she shouldn’t get your thanks, but if you’re most comfortable letting her think you’ll look into it, you’re allowed.

  33. Danielle Kempe*

    My mother has MS and I have worked in fundraising for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in Massachusetts.

    Please check out the National MS Society for both support AND the latest research.

    From personal experience, due to the flare based nature of MS, there are tons of snake oil “cures” out there – some with people who need to believe it worked.

    I completely agree with Alison that this is NOT kind. Good luck on shutting it down. Unfortunately, it’s a skill you may have to use again.

    Hoping with all the legitimate treatments for MS out there right now, that you find something that works for your type.

    1. JSPA*

      Yes! Bcause the more common form is ” Relapsing remitting,” it takes extremely large and robust clinical trials to show a statistically-significant benefit. In contrast, because partial or near-complete improvement (for a while) is common (after a while), both snake-oil salesmen, self-deluded practitioners and patients themselves can and will ascribe that improvement to whatever intervention was being tried in the days, weeks or months before the sudden uptick in function.

      But even people who change literally nothing in their lives (or who go on a beer and brats binge) experience remission(s).

      The “it can’t hurt” school of “just try it” doesn’t count in the money-siphoning effects, the societal weight of bad information, and the lost chances to persue such treatments as do have better statistical support behind their (partial) effectiveness.

  34. Windaria*

    I have a less popular view point on this. I think that friends who disagree with a choice of treatment should at least speak up and give their advice. You do have to stop once the person has made it clear that they don’t wish to follow your advice, but you should at least put it out there.

    This opinion largely is the result of my own guilt. My BFF chose to go with only “alternative, natural” treatments after her breast cancer diagnosis. Diet changes mostly and some woo-woo stuff. No surgery, no radiation, no chemo, etc. She passed away about a year after her diagnosis. I wanted to be a good friend and be supportive of her right to make a decision about her own medical care so I never pushed it at all. I live with the regrets that maybe if I had pushed her a little, she might still be alive.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      Well, that’s also your BFF so it’s different than a coworker – albeit a coworker-friend person. I would say it’s okay to push modern medicine; I don’t think it’s okay to push alternative-only treatments and I myself am open to them.
      I am sorry for your loss. <3

    2. ferrina*

      I’m so sorry about your friend!

      There is a big difference between a close friend/family member and a coworker. If you are a close friend/family member, I agree that you have standing to talk to your friend about risk decisions and bad judgement. But as a coworker, you really don’t have that status.
      I think that goes double since OP has clearly done their homework, weighed the risk factors, talked to experts, and is demonstrating clear judgment and decision making capabilities. OP isn’t making knee-jerk reactions or is lacking information (or acting on mis-information)

    3. Irish Teacher.*

      I think what you are suggesting is a lot different than what the coworker here is doing though. For one thing, what you would be suggesting would have actual science behind it and I don’t believe in the “if we accept that people should give evidence-based advice, we also have to listen to advice from people who know nothing at all about the topic” and also you would be talking about making a suggestion once, not pushing your opinion over and over again. And you are talking about a situation that you seem to have been fairly close to.

      This is somebody who doesn’t even work in the same physical place as the LW. They are taking a couple of sentences the LW said and deciding, based on that, that the LW and her doctor are wrong and that they and their naturopath (who is hearing about this second-hand) are the only ones who know what is really wrong. I don’t think it is ever a good idea to disagree with somebody’s choice of treatment based on that level of info.

      I am really sorry to hear about what you went through, but if it’s any consolation, I very much doubt anything you said would have made any difference. Presumably your friend had access to the same information you did and presumably, they had medical professionals also giving them advice, so if they ignored all the information you had and ignored the medical professionals, I doubt hearing a small amount of the same information (because the doctors would have more than you) from somebody who isn’t a medical professional would have any impact.

    4. JSPA*

      “Mainstream medicine now has much better options than a few years ago; as your BFF, it would mean a lot to me if you would look into that” is categorically different than, “I, your random remote coworker, and someone who has never met you have diagnosed you. They’re the only one who can save you, please send them money on my say-so.”

      The second one is boundary-crossing ( and boundary jumping and boundary stomping) in ways that the first one isn’t.

      And that’s not intrinsically because it’s mainstream vs alternative.

      The coworker didn’t say, “If you’re open to considering complementary treatments to keep your body otherwise healthy and supported, I have some names” or
      “I hear friends with MS have found acupuncture, acupuncture or massage to be helpful at times, let me know if you are curious and I’ll ask them for details.”

    5. Seeking Integrity in Integrative*

      The most profound reset I made in my own thinking was using the rubric, “They don’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care.”
      A push from either direction can still be unwelcome or feel invasive. I had a friend with cancer who made the same choices and not only survived, but thrived, for well over 5 years (a “cure” by medical standards). My “snake oil” treatments (not for cancer) were initially poo-pooed when I wanted to avoid recommended surgery, but my practitioner was willing to research the herb-vitamin-compresses protocol I was using and by a subsequent appointment had found that a subset of her patients were having success with it. Was her surgery recommendation sound? Yes. But avoiding it (permanently, happily) gave me the quality of life that was right for me.
      From either direction, caring inquiry about what the patient is interested in is the only way to go. I seek out MDs who also have a research based knowledge of integrative alternatives, but realize the best way to support people is to help them find their own confidence in whatever is best for them. If their experience is friends who suffered from ‘woo-woo quacks’, I’m not going to suggest non-mainstream treatment. If they’ve seen botched medical procedures and only want snake oil, I’ll support that (while maybe gently reporting a friend’s success with a good MD). It takes an enormous amount of fortitude to endure some standard protocols, and I would never want to see someone subjected to that if it wasn’t their own choice.

    6. Juicebox Hero*

      I’m sorry for your loss, and those “if only”s are a mofo. The important this is, she had a caring and supportive friend right up to the end.

      1. elemen*

        Yes. We can’t know what might have happened differently if BFF had been offered more advice — she might have benefited, or she might just have felt that much more guarded and alone. And unanswerable questions like that are the hardest to let go, especially when it’s someone you care about so much.

        Windaria, I’m so sorry for your loss.

    7. Ellis Bell*

      Your love, and your kindness, and your knowledge of your friend guided you. I spent years nagging my dad about his health and he never gave it the slightest attention even though he loved me deeply. People are just going to do their own things with their own bodies! When I stopped being a smartarse teenager about it, I had more quality time with him than I would have done, before it was too late.

    8. Keymaster of Gozer (She/Her)*

      I hope you can be freed of the ‘what if’ burden and your memories of your BFF are filled with love and happy times.

      This may not be the case but – I’ve made a very hard choice to not take aggressive treatments for my latest diagnosis and I know full well I’d probably live a bit longer if I did. Simply because I don’t want the suffering for a small percentage chance it might work entirely. This is a decision, however, I’ve chosen not tell my friends primarily because I don’t want them to have the emotional burden you’re suffering under.

      The respect and love you showed your BFF by respecting their choice is rare and beautiful.

    9. Danielle K.*

      no amount of “pushing” would have changed your friend’s feelings and it probably would have strained if not completely ended the relationship.

      I’m sorry for your loss.

      Please let go of the guilt. Cancer sucks – not you.

    10. I Have RBF*

      My wife (she/they) was recently diagnosed with cancer. I have told her that how much treatment and such they will take is ultimately her choice. If they decided tomorrow to stop treatment, I’d be upset, but I would respect it. It would gut me, but ultimately, once she has full information, the decision is theirs.

      I’m sorry for your loss.

      The decision about treatment was hers, as it should be. You are not to blame for her choosing the course of her life. All of the woulda, coulda, shoulda that we do can never change the past.

  35. Hills to Die on*

    Literally heard my mouth say “Oh….noooooo” and I am open to Reiki, etc. I am so sorry you are dealing with all of this.

  36. T'Cael Zaanidor Kilyle*

    LW #1: Did anyone else take note of the reference to a “D&I committee” where the more common acronym is “DEI”? I know there are lots of different ways to phrase it, but in the context of this letter, it’s hard not to read it as “Diversity yes, inclusion yes, equity no.”

    (Sorry if this is a duplicate. I tried to post previously but think I might have done something wrong.)

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      DEIA is really one of the bigger umbrella terms, but I’m sure you’re not trying to exclude Access by saying DEI.

        1. Ally Oop*

          There is no need to be this kind of pedantic. Both forms (of the same word) are commonly used.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        I think this was meant for the “we’re supposed to send compliments for Women’s History Month, Glassdoor can un-anonymize you, and more” short answers post from today. (Letter #1 on that post mentions a “D&I committee.”)

  37. DivergentStitches*

    You’re such a kind person to care about whether she feels helpful and heard <3

    But you have to prioritize your needs. Be kind to yourself, wishing you the best!

  38. Shan*

    One of the best things I did for myself after 30+ years of having a chronic illness was learn how to shut down unsolicited advice. It absolutely does feel rude at first! But honestly, a “thank you for trying to help, but I trust my medical team, and I’m not looking for advice currently” is perfectly polite. And if they keep pushing, they’re the ones being rude, and I feel absolutely justified in a very firm “I’m not interested, please stop pushing this.” You have more important things to deal with than worrying about continually deflecting advice and managing someone else’s feelings.

    Weirdly, I also have to use the same technique sometimes when shutting down curly hair styling tips. I swear one (straight-haired) girl I know must be getting paid by the one brand for how hard she’s shilling for them.

  39. AthenaC*

    Would there be any benefit to asking her to double down on praying for you in addition to Alison’s scripts? That might channel her need to do Something Else (TM) in a way that she feels is productive but wouldn’t be any additional hassle for you.

  40. el l*

    A person may present as kind and caring – but still absolutely hurt you. They may not intend to, but they are absolutely hurting you right now.

    However hurtful and dismissive the flat “no” you need to give them is, it will be far less hurtful and dismissive than what they’re currently doing to you (or presumably others).

    If they truly have love and compassion behind what they’re telling you, they will feel bad for a while, and then accept your boundaries. If they can’t behave that way, they are not actually a friend.

  41. Kiki*

    I would not be surprised to learn this person is involved in an MLM. OP it is definitely in your best interest to shut this down now. Best of luck to you.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      Oh, yes, some nice essential oils and supplements will fix you right up. And you can sign up to sell them and make some extra money!

      Makes me wanna Hulk smash something.

  42. MPerera*

    “However hurtful and dismissive the flat “no” you need to give them is, it will be far less hurtful and dismissive than what they’re currently doing to you (or presumably others).”

    If a religious person ever tries to convert me again, I’ll say no, and if that seems to bother them, I’ll add that my refusal is coming from a place of kindness. “Kindness?” “Yes, it’s much kinder than what I could have said to you instead.”

  43. 1-800-BrownCow*

    For the love of Pete, when will people learn that giving unsolicited medical advice is rude and not welcome?! I had a friend who had to put a very firm message on FB for people who kept trying to give her medical advice for he son who had Leukemia. Her and her husband were very active in their church and literally had church members telling them to keep their son at home and trust in God to heal their son instead of “subjecting him to extreme cancer treatment not meant for his little body”. She had to put in all capital letters that they believe God put together the particular team of doctors as God’s way to heal their son. It’s sad that they had to resort to that in order to get people to not harass them for using modern medical science to heal their son (who by the way has been cancer free now for 9 years and is thriving thanks to their medical team). But it wasn’t just the church people, all kinds of people were pushing all kinds of agendas on them for healing. I’m okay with using some non-western medical techniques, in conjunction with what the medical team is doing. But if I was in OP’s shoes, I would not appreciate people coming to me about this stuff without my asking for it.

    1. Anon for this*

      I saw someone’s friend-team resort to referring to palliative care as “pain-focused chemotherapy” to deal with two family members and a childhood friend on Caring Bridge, who were hijacking every message of support to insist that the one right way to address stage 4 pancreatic cancer was agressive chemo.

      Because this is a work-focused site, we may lose track of how many people are not adequately socialized to function acceptably in the modern workplace…but nevertheless exist in our social spheres (and sometimes unmask themselves in our workspaces when the stakes are high). Finding the words to get everyone we care about into a mutually-supportive frame of mind is a rare and excellent skill.

    2. Labrat*

      “subjecting him to extreme cancer treatment not meant for his little body”.

      Geez. I would have blown a gasket…

  44. Good Enough For Government Work*

    OP, I’m so sorry you’re dealing with both the colleague and, even more so, the diagnosis.

    If your colleague is as kind as you say she is, please think of stopping her from doing this as a kindness TO her. In your place, I would not be remotely kind (alternative ‘medicine’ is a pet hatred of mine), so if you’re able to put a stop to this gently and politely, you’ll stop her from inflicting this behaviour on someone like me, whose politest and also most instinctive response in the same circumstances would be a ‘f*ck off’.

  45. Michelle Smith*

    I would have complained to HR about this colleague a long time ago. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this – all of it.

    1. Jessica Clubber Lang*

      This is a friend of the OPs though, not just some random person. They clearly don’t want to do anything like report them to HR.

  46. Fikly*

    Here’s the thing. If you tell her that what she is doing is hurting you, and her response begins with “I mean well” or a variant, that tells you it’s about her, not you.

    If her response begins with “How can I help you?” instead, that tells you it’s actually about you.

    Unfortunately, 95% of the time it’s about them, not you, and you can’t change that, because that’s how people are. Welcome to the fun world of being disabled and the ablests you are surrounded by. Kind doesn’t mean they won’t harm you. Kind means they will almost certainly harm you, and sometimes that harm extends to endangering your life. Part of learning how to live while disabled means learning how to protect yourself from people like that.

  47. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

    Another relatively gentle answer would be something like “I’m happy with my medical team and treatment plan. If I need anything from you, I’ll of course ask. What I need right now is for you to trust my judgment and respect my privacy. That means not telling people I don’t know about my health, even if you’ve heard good things about them.”

    I would be tempted to say something like “even if I believed in naturopathy, no competent medical practitioner would be attempting to diagnose and treat a patient they hadn’t even talked to.”

    I wouldn’t take second-hand unsolicited advice even from a board-certified neurologist who specialized in MS.

    1. Irish Teacher.*

      Yes, if a colleague of mine were telling me I should seek expensive treatment from a qualified doctor who, on being told second-hand about my symptoms, had determined my own team of doctors were wrong, I would be extremely suspicious and assume that doctor to be out for money and possibly be a scammer.

  48. Dinwar*

    “The guardian angel emails, prayers, etc. are bad enough but don’t cost me anything and makes her feel helpful and heard.”

    This part jumped out at me. You’re now managing not only your condition (MS is a very serious degenerative disease), but also your coworker’s feelings. This is not fair to you, or kind, as it’s adding extra to an already-overfull plate. While it’s kind of you to worry about this, it’s not kind for your coworker to make that take priority over your illness. A truly kind person seeks to help those in distress; if they’re trying to make the person in distress keep you happy, they’re not a kind person. (I think the NSFW webcomic SMBC hit the nail on the head regarding shifts in the definition of the word “nice”…)

    Second, religion isn’t an excuse here. I’m a member of a religion that uses some of these “woo” techniques, and every priestess and priest that I’ve discussed illness with also gets “normal” medical treatment. To give one (vastly less significant) example, I drink certain herbs for headaches, but I also keep a bottle of painkillers on hand. The two are NOT mutually-exclusive. I go even further, though: my view is that it’s sacrilegious to refuse to use the tools we have been provided in order to improve our lives. Feel free to use that if it helps!

    Third, can we please stop using “woo”? It’s a pejorative, pure and simple. I have friends with businesses in the Wiccan/Pagan space that have been threatened with physical violence, and seeing these practices openly insulting is not sitting well with me. I get the impression that the person in question is a member of a Christian denomination, but that doesn’t diminish the pejorative and insulting nature of this term.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      It’s supposed to be pejorative, but it’s not specific to those spaces. It’s the same as calling something bullshit and applies to anything with a supernatural, mystic, or pseudoscientific bent. That’s just as applicable if you’re talking about faith healing or getting visited by aliens who gave you special herbs to snort.

      1. Dinwar*

        “…but it’s not specific to those spaces.”

        It’s okay because it insults a lot of people? That’s….an interesting defense. Not without precedent–the scene from “Full Metal Jacket” where the sergeant goes on a tirade against every race comes to mind as a parallel–but it’s not something I really consider a defensible position in the real world.

        To be clear (because I feel this will be ignored): I’m not in any way, shape, or form defending the LW’s friend’s actions here. I am merely asking that the rules governing civility be consistently applied. This person can believe whatever she wants; it’s the pushing of her belief on the LW, and making the LW feel responsible for managing her (the pusher’s) emotions, that’s the problem.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          It’s not a defense, but if you’re going to ask someone to stop using a specific word because you find it extra insulting in one context, that’s…not how language works. If someone is insulting you, they mean to be insulting. Insulting and dismissive, in this case. I don’t think you would like the other words anyone comes up with any better. The point is it’s not targeted nor a slur.

          1. Andromeda*

            Agreed with EOW, mostly. I agree it’s pejorative but not a slur (or about people at all, as opposed to practice). Fair enough that thoughtless use of the word probably does disproportionately hit pagan people, practicing Wiccans, etc. I like to think a lot of people wouldn’t use it to describe home remedies and complementary treatments for minor illnesses — tbh I usually see it applied to the “let me patchwork together a poor imitation of five different Asian practices and sell it for lots of money” folks — but I also think that SCIENCE!!!!!!, as opposed to actual science, has become a religion for a lot of people, and as a result the term “woo” has come to mean “anything that isn’t science-washed enough for my taste”.

  49. Sara without an H*

    LW, I haven’t read all the comments yet, so I don’t know if anyone has brought this up. Please, please, brief your own boss and your HR team. Your friend’s behavior is coming perilously close to actual harassment, and your HR team needs to know about it. You can lay it on strong about how kind and compassionate you think your coworker is, but please — tell them everything you said in your letter to Alison. I know you don’t want to get anyone into trouble, but you need some allies on this one.

  50. Stephanie G*

    I think I wrote this letter! OP I’m sorry – I was diagnosed with PPMS in 2012 and MS seems to be one of those diagnoses that EVERYBODY has the cure (amazing that it still exists!). Things I’ve found helpful:
    Thanks I’ll look into it
    Thanks, I’ve already looked into it and it doesn’t work for me
    Thanks, but that’s contra-indicated by my MRI findings

  51. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

    > and says that even though he’s really expensive

    LW, here’s a slightly nasty reply to your colleague, that probably you shouldn’t use but it might feel good to imagine using:

    “Money’s tight right now. Can you cover this expense for me?”

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      Yes, that’s strictly a fantasy response.

      Because the inevitable answer will be “of course I’ll pay for everything!” and you’re screwed. Doubly so when she flakes out and finds some lame excuse for not paying after all.

    2. Forrest Rhodes*

      I do like that response, but it’s dangerous: if the colleague is a True Believer, she might call LW’s bluff and hand her a check!

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Or worse, she could decided to do something like set up a gofundme or start begging the rest of their coworkers to donate and then the LW would be put in the position of trying to explain to the rest of their coworkers that no, they were not planning to avail of this therapy and did not ask the coworker to solicit donations.

  52. theletter*

    I think we’ve all had an experience at least once in our lives where we realized our efforts to help someone was not rooted in a fear of impact but a need to feed the ego with a sense of purpose. Nothing feels quite as purposeful as restoring someone to full health, but we should never our need for purpose push us into inappropriate tasks.

    It’s obviously not your job to manage her emotions, but if you’ve ever been in that situation yourself, it might be helpful to see that this is just the other side of that moutain.

  53. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    “Kind & caring” my arse. She is exploiting the opportunity of the OP’s illness to push her 2 woo hobbyhorses of prayer and pseudomedicine

  54. Dawn*

    I wouldn’t be kind, but if you do, you might be able to get away with a white lie pretty easy as she doesn’t seem like she’s especially credulous.

    “I’m afraid starlight absorption just doesn’t work for me because I was born under the Sign of the Atronach” or something similar ought to about do it.

    (I am aware it’s a little mocking, reword as you feel is reasonable/warranted.)

  55. MS Newbie*

    Not the OP but I loved hearing this. I got a diagnosis for MS in January. After reviewing my medical history, the neurology team is pretty confident it is a relatively mild case I might have had since 17 (I’m 34 now). I do sports four times a week and work full-time, so I like hearing stories of people having a good time with the disease.

  56. Melissa*

    A person writes to an advice columnist to say “my coworker thinks I don’t know my own situation best and keeps offering alternatives.”

    The comment section is filled with people saying “you don’t know your own situation best (they’re not really kind and caring) so I’m offering alternatives”. As Alison said, kind and caring people can have blind spots.

    1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

      Thank you! Honestly any mention of alternative medicine sends the commentariat here into such a frenzy that there’s a tendency to overlook the letter and its specificities in favour of a general outpouring of scorn for homeopathy. Many honorable exceptions, to be fair, but given that the OP is open to naturopathy in principle, it’s remarkably off the main point here.

  57. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Hi y’all. I’ve removed some comments offering unsolicited medical advice, which I know are well-meaning but the LW doesn’t want unsolicited medical advice.

    1. The Other Sage*

      That included my comment, even if I didn’t intend to write medical advice. Now I’m curious on how that was interpreted as such.

      You Probably can’t read it anymore, but I explained that a friend of mine has learned to find live a good life with MS, without going into detail on how. I also shared some news about scientific progress on treating MS.

      I’m genuinely surprised that my messages have been deleted, because my intention has been to offer moral support and anything more. If you have time to tell me, I promise I will accept your answer :)

      1. I'm just here for the cats!*

        It was probably deleted because it is not relevant to what the LW was asking, how to stop this coworker from giving her unsolicited advice.

  58. Concerned doctor*

    As someone who works in healthcare, in what would also be considered to be more in the alternative sphere, I have to say I am really concerned about the professionalism of the Naturopath. Don’t get me wrong, I know great Naturopaths, but if this one is in fact trying to diagnose a patient without an exam to try to get a patient, then that is extremely unprofessional. I suppose it could be that the coworker is misinterpreting him, but when people ask me about seeing their friends and family I tend to say that it sounds like something I could help with but I would always need to do a full exam before I can say for sure. Also if he actually did say that he apparently doesn’t think it’s MS without even an exam then that’s wildly inappropriate.

    1. RagingADHD*

      It doesn’t sound like the guy is trying to get a patient. Just a credit card number. The coworker lives on the other side of the country and the naturopath is online only.

    2. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

      Yes, the problem here is with this specific practitioner, not naturopathy in general (just as the existence of unscrupulous, greedy and unethical medical doctors – opioid epidemic anyone? – does not discredit all of mainstream medicine).

  59. Ex-prof*

    People who do this are not kind and caring. They are so far up their own tuchuses that they can’t see how much they are hurting the victims of their “kindness”.

    1. Cicely*

      That’s a really unkind thing to say about someone’s friend. LW knows her friend better than any of us combined. Comments like yours just aren’t helpful.

  60. Thisishalloween*

    “my psychic thinks that will interfere with my essential oil regimen. I’m so sorry!”

  61. Cicely*

    LW, I hope this is helpful: It seems you have a lot on your plate to deal with based on your diagnosis, on which I wish the very best for you.

    As such, you might consider letting Alison’s first step of advice, and the second step if necessary, do the work for you. I don’t agree with how your friend is handling things, but I do believe you that her intentions are well-meant.

  62. MSFriend*

    Not related to the work situation but as a fellow MS-er — I’m concerned about your perception of MS! I’ve had MS for over a decade with very little disease progression. If your doctor is making you feel like this is a death sentence or your body is going to rapidly change, they may not be up on the latest developments and newer medications (this is not uncommon — there are still neurologists prescribing medications that have been proven to not work). It might be worth thinking about switching neurologists to find someone more aware of newer treatments, or asking your current neurologist about treatments like Kesimpta and Ocrevus that are a bit more aggressive if that’s what you need. Also FWIW, I had some cognitive symptoms early after my diagnosis that have now resolved — my neurologist has mentioned that some of that may have been more about adjusting to the diagnosis, rather than effects of MS. Anyway, I hope you’re able to shake loose of this busybody coworker and find (legit) treatments you feel good about!

  63. Hawthorne*

    As someone who also has MS, I would be so, so angry if someone at work did this. I would have 100% gone for blood in my responses to them. It’s so easy for able-bodied people to say, “Oh well have you tried this” because they think that you’re just “not trying hard enough” or “doing it right” because they think that disability is something that happens to people who have done something wrong. When in reality, brains are going to do what brains are going to do. I’m so sorry that you’re having such a shit time with a shit coworker. I hope that you and your doctor are able to stabilize things as best you can and I hope your coworker leaves you alone.

    Best of luck, friend.

  64. Hedgehug*

    “It’s hard to believe there are people who still haven’t gotten the memo that it’s rude to push unsolicited medical advice”

    Alison, I get asked about 2 times a month when I’m due. Was asked twice in the past week.

    I’m not pregnant. I’m just thin with a pooch due to my scoliosis, slowing metabolism of mid-30s, and recovering from giving birth 4 years ago.

    1. Alkuna*

      This is so well known as a faux pas that it’s literally in TV shows, movies, and sitcoms, COMPLETE WITH THE AWKWARDNESS AND OFFENDED REACTIONS! Seriously, how do people still do this? WHY do people still do this?! In my own case, I had an 8 lb tumor attached to my uterus that needed to be surgically removed (fibroid, not cancerous, thankfully) but what the heck… I’m sure you can imagine how painfully awkward it got to get an answer to THAT idiotic pregnancy question.

      1. Emily Byrd Starr*

        Seriously. Never, never, never ask a woman with a large belly when the baby is due UNLESS you know for a fact that she is expecting. If she’s not pregnant, then you likely will have ruined her day by letting her know that she’s fat enough to pass for a pregnant woman.

        1. Freya*

          Even if she is pregnant, I’ve found that asking more open-ended questions like “what’s bringing you joy today?” give them the choice of what to enthuse about – if they’re happy about being pregnant, they’ll tell you all about it, and if they’re not happy or they’re tired of talking about it, then they’ll talk about something else. Either way, you’re the cool person who thinks of them as a person outside of their pregnancy.

          (and if they’re not pregnant, well, you didn’t say anything that assumed they were, so win-win!)

  65. London Calling*

    This is why I didn’t tell anyone at work about my cancer diagnosis except my line manager and HR. That, and the fact that the notorious ‘oooh, have you heard?’ colleague would have been spreading it all over the office.

    It was bad enough when HR suggested that I ask for a second opinion. Julie, my consultant is the head of department at a London teaching hospital and my disgnosis took three/four months and lots of tests so they’re pretty confident on this, want to think about how she’ll react to that suggestion from HR?

Comments are closed.