The power and pitfalls of omics part 2: epigenomics, transcriptomics and ME/CFS
Simon McGrath concludes his blog about the remarkable Prof George Davey Smith's smart ideas for understanding diseases, which may soon be applied to ME/CFS.
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Cartoon reinforces negative stereotype about ME/CFS

Discussion in 'General ME/CFS News' started by ballard, Feb 28, 2016.

  1. ballard

    ballard Senior Member

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    [​IMG]
    http://blondie.com/comics/february-25-2016/
    My heart sank when I saw this cartoon published in the Seattle Times on Feb. 25th. To equate ME/CFS (SEID) with Dagwood's lazy, malingering behavior is totally inappropriate and certainly not funny.

    If you'd like to send an email to the creators, here is the address: www.Blondie.com. Look under contact for an email form.

    I'm really tired of being mocked and kicked when I'm down. I suspect that this cartoon will be posted on a lot of bulletin boards where we are already believed to be Dagwood Bumsteads!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 28, 2016
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  2. Effi

    Effi Senior Member

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  3. Old Bones

    Old Bones Senior Member

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    Here's my email to www.Blondie.com:

    "From your website: "Enjoy reliving your favorite gags — we’ve made sure you have the tools to share the fun with your friends, . . . " When, I ask, is it acceptable to make “fun” of a serious chronic illness by turning it into a “gag”? Because, that’s exactly what you did in your syndicated “Blondie” comic strip, published in my city’s newspaper on February 25, 2016.

    Please refer to the following report “Beyond Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - Redefining an Illness”.
    https://iom.nationalacademies.org/~/media/Files/Report Files/2015/MECFS/MECFS_ReportBrief.pdf

    “The primary message of the committee’s report is that ME/CFS is a serious, chronic, complex, systemic disease that often can profoundly affect the lives of patients. Many people with ME/CFS report difficulty completing everyday tasks, and at least one-quarter have been home- or bed-bound at some point as a result of their illness. The total economic costs of ME/CFS are estimated at $17 to $24 billion annually.”

    And from the U.S. government National Institute of Health:
    https://prevention.nih.gov/docs/programs/mecfs/ODP-P2P-MECFS-FinalReport.pdf

    “Both society and the medical profession have contributed to ME/CFS patients feeling disrespected and rejected. They are often treated with skepticism, uncertainty, and apprehension and labeled as deconditioned or having a primary psychological disorder. ME/CFS patients often make extraordinary efforts at extreme personal and physical costs to find a physician who will correctly diagnose and treat their symptoms while others are treated inappropriately causing additional harm. Overall, the debilitating effects of ME/CFS can result in financial instability due to the consequences of the illness (e.g., the loss of employment, home).”

    Congratulations for reinforcing the stigma associated with this very real, and devastating, illness in your attempt to get laughs. Perhaps you would consider doing some actual good by retracting this comic strip, and providing a sincere and well-deserved apology to ME/CFS/SEID patients."
     
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  4. Old Bones

    Old Bones Senior Member

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    @ballard Have you sent an email to the Blondie folks? I did, from two different computers, and received the following message both times:

    "Activity has been detected that may be considered problematic. Please click this link to report this incident or call customer service at 407-894-7300.

    We will reply to your email as soon as the issue has been identified and corrected.

    In some cases deleting cookies for the domain will clear the problem."

    If you also sent them a "blast", did you receive the same message?
     
  5. Old Bones

    Old Bones Senior Member

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    It appears the cartoon has been removed from @ballard 's original post. For those who missed seeing it, try looking at your public library's on-line newspapers. For example, it was published on February 25, 2016 in the Calgary Herald. Otherwise, here's a description of the strip.

    First panel: Dagwood enters his boss's (Dithers') office, holding his laptop -- "This just in Boss! Chronic Fatigue Syndrome has a new name!!"
    Second panel: Dagwood turns laptop screen towards Dithers and says: "The new official name is Systematic Exertion Intolerance!"
    Third panel: Dagwood is sleeping with his head on his desk: "ZZZZ". Dithers in background says: "Those are some pretty fancy words from someone who can go from Zero to ZZZ's in ten seconds flat!"

    I wonder if the word "Systematic" rather than "Systemic" was intentional, or just a careless mistake. I didn't notice the error at first.
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2016
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  6. Webdog

    Webdog Senior Member

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  7. Snow Leopard

    Snow Leopard Hibernating

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    Yes, the image isn't viewable on this forum. But the comic is still there on the Blondie website.

    Jokes can be made about illness - if very careful to be clever and sensitive. This is neither clever nor sensitive.
     
  8. ballard

    ballard Senior Member

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    Yes, I got the same error message when I posted the following:

    I am concerned that your cartoon, which ran in the Feb. 25th edition of the Seattle Times, portrays people who are seriously ill with ME/CFS (new name proposal is SEID) as lazy malingerers.

    If Dagwood has ME/CFS, the story line of Blondie will take a dramatic new turn. Dagwood will soon realize that he can’t stand by the water cooler (orthostatic intolerance), and when he is seated at his desk he will not be able to think clearly (brain fog). Mr. Dithers will finally fire him, because he will not even be able to perform at the minimal level we have come to expect of Dagwood.

    Blondie may or may not leave Dagwood (many relationships don’t survive ME/CFS). If she stays, she will be burdened with a very sick husband. If Dagwood falls into the 25% category of severely ill sufferers who are bed bound, Blondie may have to quit her job as a caterer to provide full time care for him, plunging the family into poverty.

    If Dagwood is not bed bound, he may need to use a wheelchair. Additionally, Dagwood will be in pain with muscle and head aches. Every morning he will wake up as exhausted as when he went to bed, and when he tries to exert himself, he will become much worse. He will have virtually no hope of a cure or a treatment because government agencies fund ME/CFS research at an extremely low level, on a par with hay fever research.

    ME/CFS is a horrible disease. It has shattered my life for 25 years. Your cartoon, which equates ME/CFS with laziness, is totally inaccurate, hurtful and unacceptable.
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2016
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  9. Forbin

    Forbin Senior Member

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    The cartoon is signed by "Young & Marhsall." This would be Dean Young (writer) and John Marshall (artist).

    Dean Young, 77, is the son of Chic Young, the man who created "Blondie" back in 1930.

    On Dean Young's Wikipedia page there is an interesting quote attributed to him from 1986.
     
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  10. aaron_c

    aaron_c Senior Member

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    You know, I think the silver lining in this is that we now have an opportunity to educate people about ME/CFS. I have written an (under 250 word) letter to the editor that I will send off tomorrow to the Oregonian (my local paper). But in the next 24 hours I am looking for editorial input: Did I misspell anything? Could something have been phrased differently? Would you add a sentence anywhere?

    Thanks.

    In the “Blondie” comic from 2/25/2016, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is illustrated by Dagwood, once again asleep at the job. This image of CFS, although common, is completely wrong.

    The CDC website will tell you what CFS is really like: “The fatigue [in CFS] is not the kind you might feel after a particularly busy day or week, after a sleepless night, or after a single stressful event. It's a severe, incapacitating fatigue that isn't improved by bed rest and that is often worsened by physical activity or mental exertion.” Further, the fatigue is accompanied by some combination of memory and concentration difficulties, headaches, joint and muscle pain, and (ironically, given the cartoon in question) sleep problems. CFS is so bad and its treatments so underwhelming that Dr. Nancy Klimas, who treats both HIV and CFS, said that if forced to choose between the two illnesses (in 2009) she “would rather have HIV.” In spite of this, CFS research is barely funded.

    I, like 1-4 million other Americans, have CFS—and probably will until I die. I am not angry at the authors of “Blondie”; I am grateful for this chance to set the record straight. But the next time you hear “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,” please don't see a punchline. See an opportunity to educate someone else, even just a little, about a terrible and misunderstood illness.​
     
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  11. valentinelynx

    valentinelynx Senior Member

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    Yep, I remember predicting this very thing when SEID was first revealed as an "improved" "more serious sounding" name. Yah, right.
     
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  12. PDXhausted

    PDXhausted Senior Member

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    What a great and illustrative response! I love it.
     
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  13. Valentijn

    Valentijn Senior Member

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    They didn't even list the whole name - they left "Disease" off. Sounded too serious with it on there I guess? And they replaced "Systemic" with "Systematic".

    What a jackass move.
     
    Last edited: Feb 29, 2016
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  14. Old Bones

    Old Bones Senior Member

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    @aaron_c A very well-crafted letter. I admire those willing to "put themselves out there" in the mainstream press.

    I have just one comment -- an opinion only. The words of Doctor Klimas are likely among the most-quoted and sensational in the ME/CFS field. But, I sometimes wonder how she feels about them years after the fact. Although Doctor Klimas is well-known and respected by patients and those working in the field, she has no prominence among the masses. Perhaps a more recent quote, or one from a better-known organization (eg. IOM, NIH) would have more credibility. Regardless, 2009 is a long time ago.

    Here's an example, taken from an article written by Dr. Anthony Komaroff on June 15, 2015. It meets the criteria of being more recent, but I acknowledge the name Dr. Komaroff carries no more weight. It does, however, include IOM and NIH.

    "The Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently concluded that CFS has a biological basis. Based on a survey of >9000 research articles, the IOM states that CFS “is a serious, chronic, complex systemic disease that often can profoundly affect the lives of patients.”

    http://www.jwatch.org/na37817/2015/...diagnosis-and-management#sthash.YBfRhoJO.dpuf
     
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  15. *GG*

    *GG* Senior Member

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    Do NOT like.jpg You know at first, I was like, big deal, they are making a joke of us, now I am a little more bothered (it will not keep me from sleeping though, my sleep meds still work!), yeah, if you are going to bring up SEID, why not use the name established by the gov't?

    Maybe there is not enough room for the "funny", but would be nice if they brought up some history, how people have been suffering with this for a generation and counting!

    GG

    Scooby Doo, Ruh roh.png
     
    Last edited: Feb 29, 2016
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  16. aaron_c

    aaron_c Senior Member

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    Thanks @Old Bones. Yes, I do have some concern that she might feel differently now. But I also think that the point she makes about the abysmal funding for CFS research compared with the sufficient funding for HIV/AIDS is still valid. As for appealing to authority, hopefully the earlier quote from the CDC will be good enough. And constrained as I am by 250 words and whatever my reader's attention span is, I like Dr. Klimas' quote because it makes a good soundbite.

    Having said all that, I do appreciate your taking the time to read it through and offer a different perspective! And if you or anyone else wants rip off the letter (edited however you like) to send to your local paper, please do so! I don't think it's too late for the letters to be considered "current," but at some point soon our window will have passed.
     
  17. Old Bones

    Old Bones Senior Member

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    @aaron_c Do let us know if the Oregonian publishes your letter, and what kind of response it receives, if any.
     
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  18. aaron_c

    aaron_c Senior Member

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    Hmm... I see that they actually require 150-word letters. So here is the 150-word response:

    In the “Blondie” comic from 2/25/2016, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is illustrated by Dagwood, once again asleep at the job. This image of CFS, although common, is completely wrong.

    The CDC website will tell you what CFS is really like: “The fatigue is … a severe, incapacitating fatigue that … is often worsened by physical activity or mental exertion.” It is accompanied by some combination of memory and concentration difficulties, headaches, joint and muscle pain, and (ironically, given the cartoon in question) sleep problems. CFS is so bad and its treatments so underwhelming that Dr. Nancy Klimas, who treats both HIV and CFS, said that if forced to choose between the two illnesses (in 2009) she “would rather have HIV.” In spite of this, CFS research is barely funded.

    Talk to those of us with CFS. I am confident you will find more than a punchline. ​
     
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  19. ballard

    ballard Senior Member

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    The Blondie email site is now fixed. If you'd like to send a message to Young and Marshall, here is the site with the email form: http://blondie.com/contact/
    Who knows, maybe they'll draw a cartoon apology, or at least take the cartoon down from their website. :mad:
     
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  20. Old Bones

    Old Bones Senior Member

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    @ballard I tried again, after adding the following at the end of my original email to "Blondie":

    "Alternatively, donating to an ME/CFS/SEID charity would result in some good coming out of your unfortunate decision to ridicule these illnesses. A good choice would be the Open Medical Foundation. Take a look at their website http://www.openmedicinefoundation.org/ to discover the impressive credentials of the many scientists/researchers working to solve these complex chronic diseases."

    Unfortunately, I received the same error message.
     
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