How to get Vaccinated

This post has been submitted by an ExCS group contributor. If you have questions about vaccinations, please ask your Doctor or other healthcare professional. For more posts about Healthcare see Healthcare Resources


As someone raised in Christian Science, you may not have received recommended vaccinations as a child. This can leave you vulnerable to preventable diseases, and can also make you a carrier who could transmit these diseases to people who are unable to get vaccinated. Many ex-Christian Scientists view getting vaccinated as an important step in their recovery.

In this blog, I use the terms immunization, vaccine, and shot interchangeably. I also provide resources for the United States because that’s what I’m familiar with, but similar resources for vaccinations standard in other countries are easily found online.

Immunizations are covered at 100% by health insurance because they are classified as preventative care. So, they will not cost you anything out of pocket if you have health insurance. There are several different types of vaccines that you will need to catch up on and get in the future. There is a standard set that all children in the US should receive, there are vaccinations that adults need, and there are also vaccinations that you should get every year, like the influenza (flu) vaccine. There are also specific vaccines either recommended or required if you are traveling to certain countries. When preparing to travel out of the country, you should check the CDC website to find out which vaccinations are recommended. In some cases such as for the yellow fever vaccine, you will not be able to re-enter the US without proof that you received a particular vaccine. Don’t worry, your doctor will tell you which ones you need.

I want to tell you about my experience with vaccinations to illustrate why it is important to get them now. I got the measles at CedarS Camps, a major summer camp for Christian Scientists, when I was a small child. There have been many measles outbreaks at Christian Science camps and Principia College. Every time, the CDC comes in and shuts it down, and the children’s parents make the choice of either having their child receive the measles vaccine or going home. Unfortunately, many faithful, well-meaning, but woefully and willfully ignorant Christian Science parents expose their children to complications including pneumonia, encephalitis of the brain, and death by skipping this one vaccination.

My family moved several times when I was growing up. Every time we moved and I had to enroll in a different school, my mother had to scramble to produce notarized documentation that exempted me from vaccinations for religious reasons, which was legal in the state I grew up in. Every time, either she had to find these documents after having just moved or get new ones notarized and this always caused a scramble and an awkward delay. This happened again when I was registering for college classes and the delay caused me to miss getting in to some of the classes I needed because of the time it took to get forms notarized and physically sent to the college. I also had to deal with this awkwardness when traveling internationally for a job. So, by getting vaccinated, you can avoid situations like these for times you need to produce an up-to-date shot record.

I got caught up on childhood vaccinations in my 20’s so that I could travel internationally, even though I was still sort of a Christian Scientist then. However, I stubbornly did not get the flu vaccine every year even after getting the recommended childhood vaccinations. One year, I traveled to my home state to visit extended family and got sick while visiting. It was miserable, and I remember being sick like that several times before. When I got home, I went to the doctor and they tested me and told me that I had the flu. During my trip, I had interacted with an infant and an elderly person while visiting my extended family, and felt horrible for exposing those vulnerable populations to an easily preventable, but potentially fatal, disease. I’d also exposed two planes full of people while traveling home. I felt incredibly stupid. Now, I am proud of myself every time I get my flu shot every year.

When you go to your primary care doctor, tell them that you were not immunized as a child and that you would like to get caught up on your shots. If you are comfortable doing so, you can let them know that your parents raised you without medical care. After some initial surprise, they are usually pretty understanding and relieved that you would like to get immunized now.

First, you need to find out which shots you need. You can choose to either go ahead and get all of them, or you can request an Immunity/Vaccine/Antibody Detection test. Because you were not immunized as a child, you may have gotten some diseases and already have immunity to them and therefore do not need a vaccination for those diseases. If so, you can avoid the soreness that occurs from getting an unneccesary shot and any potential side effects. You will also learn more about your childhood by finding out which diseases you had. For example, I got chicken pox and measles as an unvaccinated child raised in Christian Science. That meant that I did not need the chicken pox vaccine. I did still need the MMR (measles, mumps & rubella) vaccine in order to get immunity to mumps & rubella. I remember having the measles, but I don’t remember having the chicken pox. It’s also good to know for your health history, and having this data on record will contribute to statistics which inform public policy.

The doctor’s office will need to draw your blood for the Antibody Detection test or refer you to a lab for bloodwork. So, you will need to wait for the results before you can find out which vaccinations you need. At your follow up appointment, you will find this out and can now decide how to proceed. (You don’t have to get this test if the additional step will be inconvenient or if it’s not covered by your health insurance.)

Here is a common list of vaccinations:

Your doctor will tell you which ones you should get based on your age, health history, risk factors, etc. Some shots need to be gotten in a series of two or three within a certain period of time, like 30 days or < 6 months. If you need a series, it’s important that you come back to get the subsequent shots within the specified time period so that the immunization will be effective. There may be some vaccinations that came about more recently that your doctor might recommend for you, like the HPV vaccine, that may not be covered by your health insurance because they have not yet been added to the CDC’s list for your age group. So there is a chance that the cost for these additional vaccines might not be fully covered by your insurance, but you can call them to check beforehand. Even if there is an out-of-pocket cost, it is a good idea to get them if you can afford to do so.

Now that you know which shots you need, you can decide on the timeline for how to get your immunizations. You can get several at once or spread them out. I personally recommend that you plan to get one vaccination per month, but it may be more convenient for you to get most of them all at once and then only return for the series shots, or spread them out to get a few at a time with your series shots. For example, military members are often given 8+ vaccinations at once. Either way you choose, it should not make a difference on the cost (free).

The nurse administering the shot will ask you where you would like it. The most common place to get a shot is in the upper part of your non-dominant arm. They may also be able to give it to you on your hip. You might want to consider which side you sleep on and get the shot on the opposite side.

You may have a choice in vaccine delivery mechanisms. Anything that can be breathed in will be more pleasant than receiving it as a shot. There are also “live” vaccines, which may not be recommended if you have small children in your household, are pregnant, or live with someone who is pregnant. You might be advised to wear long sleeves to sleep in for some period of time while the vaccine is absorbed. Your doctor or nurse will go over all of this with you and send you home with a pamphlet containing all of the information you need.

The annual flu shot is available at pharmacies for convenience and you can use your health insurance and skip the doctor’s appointment if that works better for you. A nurse at the pharmacy will administer the shots.

Be aware that there are potential side effects from vaccinations. The FDA has concluded that the benefits outweigh the downsides. Read the information you receive thoroughly. I personally experienced a swollen lymph node from the MMR vaccine. This happens in 15% of children who receive it. If you are self-aware and informed about what could happen to you as a result of getting particular vaccines, you can recognize when you are experiencing a side effect and find ways to reduce the impact of these side effects. You can also call your doctor’s office for advice on how to handle side effects if you experience them. For my swollen lymph node, I read that it helps to sleep on the opposite side so that the lymph node gets less blood flow. After I did this, the swelling went down. Even though I had this unpleasant side effect for about two weeks, I am still glad that I got that shot. Most of the time, the area where you received the shot is simply sore for a few days to a week and there are no side effects. I’ve gotten probably fifteen shots total and only had this very minor side effect with one.

Now that you have been vaccinated, you can feel good about participating in a free public health benefit and display your new shot record proudly. You will get sick less often, and can no longer be a potential carrier endangering infants, elderly, or people otherwise unable to get vaccinated with easily preventable diseases. Now you can rest assured that you won’t get a debilitating disease that is easily preventable. You will also no longer need to feel awkward about a misinformed religious exemption imposed on you by well-meaning parents. Your shot record will come in handy when you apply to live in a college dorm or for certain jobs.

Chrystal’s Story: My Second Lump (Part 2)

Chrystal's Story header image

This is part of an on-going series, for all posts in this series see the tag Chrystal’s Story.


A note from Chrystal: I was born a fourth-generation Christian Scientist, and finally left the religion when I was in my 40s. In this blog series, I will do my best to share with you my 40+ year journey. I have done my best to make the journey sequential, but it’s also themed to a large extent, and sometimes it has been necessary to take things out of sequence to share a theme. 


My Second Lump (Part 2)

The following is a flashback to when I was nearing the end of my branch church membership, with a problem that had spanned more than a decade of my life:

The growing lipoma on my back was now causing so much pain to my neck, that I couldn’t straighten my head for a few days at times. And, of course, being in Christian Science, I couldn’t take Advil to even relieve the pain. I remember walking around with tears in my eyes over the amount of pain I was in, and hiding in my house. I was raised to hide in my house when I was in pain. How can a community reach out to help you, when you’re hiding in your house? I remember a Mormon woman who lived in my neighborhood, and for some reason socially, she stopped by my house and we had a little visit, and I couldn’t straighten my head up that day. She so lovingly said to me, “that looks really painful.” I assured her I was fine, that it had happened before, and I would be fine soon. I was NOT fine! I couldn’t straighten my head, I had tears in my eyes, and if I tried to move my head in any way, I would cry out in incredible pain! I remember the love in her eyes. She was genuinely concerned for my well-being, and she was only a neighbor; I know now that if I ever needed someone to help me, and I called her, I know she would be there for me, even though I wouldn’t consider us “friends.” She was my neighbor and she has genuine love in her heart for humanity.

After a decade of praying with various practitioners (including my Teacher) about the lump, I remember feeling discouraged. I was so discouraged. I would rally myself and pray again. Because Christian Scientists are supposed to “yield not to discouragement.”

Individuals are consistent who, watching and praying, can “run, and not be weary; . . .walk, and not faint,” who gain good rapidly and hold their position, or attain slowly and yield not to discouragement. God requires perfection, but not until the battle between Spirit and flesh is fought and the victory won. – “Science and Health,” p. 254

Christian Scientists are taught that “discouragement makes the problem worse, and makes it harder to heal.” So I prayed. I payed practitioners to pray. I payed my Teacher to pray.  

I would see the 2 ladies at my second branch church who had the growths on them that were more pronounced, and I didn’t want to end up like that. Mine, at least, I could hide by wearing a patterned shirt. They couldn’t hide theirs any longer, no matter how they tried. I felt so sorry for them, to not be able to hide their problem any longer. And then I would chastise myself for thinking such things. I wanted to hug them and say, “I have a lump too, but I can hide mine,” but for someone to speak up & say, “I see your problem and I want to support you and share love with you” is verboten in the Christian Science culture. Speaking up about it makes it “more real.” Because by not speaking, it’s “not real.”

Our voice is given so much power in Christian Science. Apparently, just talking can do many things – it can make lumps grow, it can cause fevers, poison ivy, infectious diseases. It can ruin vacations, it can rain fire and brimstone on a bad church member. I am positive they believe words can kill, so they won’t speak unless it is cheerful, superficial, happy nonsense. I am wondering if I believe it is this sort of thing that drives people completely insane. (Denying our very existence, to our core. How can it keep us sane and normal if we deny 100% of our humanity?)

At some point, probably a year after my wonderful success with the “Church Alive” experience, I decided it was time to get this lump removed from my shoulder, by a medical doctor. It had gone on long enough. My arm would go to sleep for 45 minutes at a time, and I couldn’t wake it up. And that didn’t feel good to me. (It scares me a lot now that I am out of Christian Science and someone pointed out that this was pushing on a nerve, and it’s a good thing I didn’t have to lose my whole arm!) I voluntarily pulled my name out of “The Christian Science Journal.” (This means I was no longer a Journal Listed Christian Science Practitioner. I wasn’t kicked out or anything; I chose to do this for my own reasons. I left on good terms and was told I could come back within 6 months if I wanted, if it was longer than that, I would have to apply from scratch again.)

Then, began the guilt. Oh, the guilt. And I had no one to talk to about it. I had to suffer with my guilt at having “failed.” I had failed to heal it. I had failed to have enough faith. I had failed to pray enough. I had failed all the Practitioners that had prayed for me over the last 5+ years.

I know all the words to victim blame myself, and I made liberal use of all of them. Then, of course, I probably entered the depression that had probably started but been bulldozed over by “Knowing the Truth” and “Getting on with things I had to do anyway.” So I dealt with depression and guilt with the only way I knew how: by denying them. For months. I think it took me about 8 months to get over the guilt, and I finally started trying to find a doctor. (At this point, I was now a Sunday School teacher at the Unity Church.)

Now, someone who grew up going to doctors, might know where to start when looking for a doctor. But this was all brand new to me. I didn’t know how to find a doctor. (The doctor who removed my first lump, wasn’t covered by our new insurance.) I didn’t know what kind of doctor I wanted. It took me many months to find one. And of course, you can’t just walk in and say, “remove this please.” They had to send me to another doctor for a sonogram to look at it. Then results had to be done up. Then I had to have a consultation. Then I had to go to the operation. I was put under for the procedure (that was my choice – because the pain of the much smaller lump had been unbearable to me, and I couldn’t go through that again). I think this was in 2011. Then I had so many follow up appointments. The lump was far bigger than I had anticipated, and than he had anticipated. I have keloids in my back with basically means, “aggressive scar tissue,” and this scar on my back continues to grow and cause me pain years later. I consider this scar to be my “scar of leaving Christian Science.” Maybe someday I will wear it proudly. At this point, I still hide it under clothing. (I know of people getting tattoos to symbolize leaving the Christian Science church. I didn’t have to get a tattoo. I have my very real scar on my material body.)

I wish that was the end of my story of leaving Christian Science. That would wrap it all up, neat and tidy. But, of course, a 44 year story and it doesn’t just end there. And it’s now 2016 as I type this.

—————————————————————————————-

6 Weeks to a Quaker (the first go-round)

I grew up as a church goer, and when I don’t attend, it feels like I have a “void” in my life. So I tried a local Quaker church. It was about 10 miles away, but traffic made it take about 40 minutes to get there on a Sunday morning. I took my oldest son with me to the Meetings, and I enjoyed them immensely. Here were people who cared about the environment. One person was a beekeeper and I loved that! Several were gardeners, and some were activists or worked as volunteers either in Peace Corps or in Africa, setting up a school to teach children. I loved everything about this church. I made my homemade applesauce for potluck, and I was instantly accepted as one of these people.

After about 4 weeks of attending, I called up my family and told them, “I am a Quaker now!” I think my own family thinks I am changeable and whack-a-doo, so they took it in stride. I also called a gal from my Association who completely and lovingly supported me (she left our Association the following year & converted to Judaism), and I called our Teacher who asked me, “what’s appealing about the Quaker church?” I told her I liked sitting in the Silence, and how that brought me peace and calm for several days after in my life. After that, she told our Association (an Association is an annual meeting of the students taught by the Teacher, and guests the Teacher welcomes too) to try to meditate for 20 minutes every day.

My 6th Sunday in a row attending at The Quaker Meeting was potluck Sunday. I asked the lady next to me what it took to join the church. She told me, “well, you’re assigned some people to make sure you are spiritually growing.” I hadn’t yet felt like I was leaving Christian Science; I was just leaving the branch church, and I still wanted my own Bible and my copy of Science and Health. Her comment made me so uncomfortable, I couldn’t return to the church. I blamed the traffic. It was so far away, even though it really wasn’t; traffic just made it feel so much more far away. I started visiting other kinds of churches.

Why can’t Nana keep up with us?

By a contributor to The Ex-Christian Scientist.


“Why can’t Nana keep up with us?” my child asked.

The question hung in the air.

“She’s older,” I replied. “She’s not as young and energetic as you are.”

This answer seemed to satisfy my child, who skipped further up the path, leaving me to wait for Nana.

But more questions follow:

“Why does Nana sleep in until noon?” … “She didn’t sleep well last night.”

“Why doesn’t Nana join us on our walk?” … “She has some work to do.”

These answers are not lies, but they are not the entire truth. How much truth does a child need? How much privacy does Nana?

Nana is a Christian Scientist, born into and raised in Christian Science for at least two generations. She knows no other religious path, no other solution for any health condition that has arisen.

One day, my child might notice other people’s Nanas are often spry and youthful. Then my child will be less satisfied with the answers. Other people go to doctors; Nana doesn’t. Or rather, Nana isn’t accustomed to it. But Nana recently faced some “health concerns.” With a bit of urging from her children, she sought medical treatment.

Nana is “in the system” now—and expresses heavy regret for doing it. They want to run tests and make diagnoses. This makes her uncomfortable. Denial is a much cozier place than a doctor’s office.

She has always relied on Christian Science for healing; she claims, “It has always worked.” Now that Christian Science doesn’t seem to be working so well, she has doubts—not about Christian Science, about “the system” which exists only to run tests, diagnose, and find fault. In turn, this means more things for Nana to work out and overcome through prayer. More Sentinel articles to read, more Journal articles to ponder. More time spent praying, less time spent with the grandchildren.

There are tears. Is she “a bad Christian Scientist” to go doctors for medical aid? Her children try to comfort her, to no avail, despite these statements by Christian Science’s founder:

  • If Christian Scientists ever fail to receive aid from other Scientists — their brethren upon whom they may call — God will still guide them into the use of temporary and eternal means. Step by step will those who trust in Him find that — “God is a refuge and strength a very present help in trouble.” Science & Health, p. 444
  • If, from an injury or from any cause, a Christian Scientist were seized with pain so violent that he could not treat himself mentally — and the Scientists had failed to relieve him — the sufferer could call a surgeon who would give him a hypodermic injection, then when the belief of pain was lulled, he could handle his own case mentally. Science & Health, p. 464
  • Healing physical sickness is the smallest part of Christian Science. It is the only bugle-call to thought and action, in the higher range of infinite goodness. The emphatic purpose of Christian Science is the healing of sin. Rudimental Divine Science

But to Nana, these human compromises apply to others, not to her. She’s been a good Christian Scientist all her life; why is it failing her now? She is spiritual, not material, yet her body is struggling to live up to the spiritual standards. Her body is wearing out after decades of ignored medical challenges and neglect.

There is a vicious cycle of fervent prayer, no healing, guilt for her failure to be healed, then more fervent prayer. She isolates herself from her church community; they never have these problems.

Nana’s most difficult barrier fear of the unknown. Fear of what might be, fear of a diagnosis that would lead to more tests — more forbidden knowledge of the (unreal) material self. Fear of failing Christian Science. Fear of being ostracized by the Christian Science community. “All are privileged to work out their own salvation according to their light” Ms. Eddy writes at the start of chapter 13, but that does not mean the community will support them on their medical path.

Nana has been raised with these beliefs from day one. She has practiced them for decades and raised her children with these views. Nana also knows that, “[when the] sick find these material expedients unsatisfactory, and they receive no help from them, these very failures [of material/medical aid] may open their blind eyes. In some way, sooner or later, all must rise superior to materiality, and suffering is oft the divine agent in this elevation. “All things work together for good to them that love God,” is the dictum of Scripture.” Turning to medicine in the long run is futile. She must demonstrate Christian Science.

One day, I’ll have to explain Nana’s actions to my child. I don’t know if I have the words. My child is not growing up in Christian Science. My child doesn’t know who Mary Baker Eddy is. Yet eventually I will have to explain Nana’s religious views. I hope I can do it in a respectful way.

Why did I leave Christian Science when Nana didn’t?

I watched people I loved suffer and die when they didn’t seek medical care. I couldn’t do that to my child or myself. But we must watch Nana put herself through this hell.

I don’t know. Until now, I have felt compelled to shelter my child from it even while I guard Nana’s beliefs. It is a fine line to walk. And I don’t want to walk it anymore.

Are Christian Scientists free to choose medical care or not?

By Bruce, an Ex-Christian Scientist group writer.

A number of child death cases in the 1980s and 90s involving Christian Scientists, exposed The Mother Church, Christian Science practitioners, and Christian Science nurses to the potential of criminal and/or civil liability for the deaths of children under their care and/or treatment. The Church subsequently published a policy to make it clear that it is an individual member’s decision whether to use medical treatment:

It’s up to each person who practices Christian Science to choose the form of health care he or she wants.1

This policy is frequently repeated by the Church’s Committees on Publication (media relations contacts) in columns, blogs, and editorials. Indeed, The New York Times reported in 2010 that, “Christian Science leaders have recently found a new tolerance for medical care. For more than a year, leaders say, they have been encouraging members to see a physician if they feel it is necessary.”2

Free to choose, or forced to ‘radically rely’?

This represents a dramatic change from the ‘radical-reliance’* culture I and many others were raised in–a culture that strongly discouraged any mixing of medicine with Christian Science. But unfortunately, this new policy is not always honored in practice. Most Christian Science institutions—including schools, summer camps, and nursing facilities—discourage, limit, or prohibit medical treatment.

For example, nowhere does Principia College (a school for Christian Scientists) have a policy acknowledging an individual’s right to choose the form of health care they want. In fact, Principia is explicit that:

Members of the faculty, staff, and student body will be expected to rely on Christian Science for healing” (Policy 4).3

However, they make a ‘compassionate’ exception for short-term use of medicine:

In certain circumstances, temporary use of doctor-prescribed medicine is compassionately regarded (see Science and Health, p. 444: 7-10). Under such circumstances, the college will try to find a way to help a student complete as much of the current term’s academic work as possible . . .4

Principia’s compassion has its limits, however:

Students who rely on medicine beyond one semester will be asked to temporarily withdraw until such usage is discontinued. A withdrawal is not a suspension and does not negatively affect the student’s record.5

So, Principia will show a student the door if they employ medical treatment beyond one semester. They are quick to add however, that such action is not a ‘suspension’ (i.e., not disciplinary), although it probably feels like it for the student who is forced to leave.

And how about faculty and staff? Let’s say a middle-aged professor chooses to seek medical care for a health issue they have struggled with unsuccessfully using Christian Science. If they require medication long-term, is their situation ‘compassionately regarded’? Or, will they lose their job?

Christian Science nursing facilities are even less flexible than Principia. The Commission for Accreditation of Christian Science Nursing Organizations/Facilities is adamant that medical treatment of any kind is not to be allowed:

Patients in Christian Science nursing facilities have chosen to rely on prayer for healing while receiving practical, physical care from Christian Science nurses, without the use of medicine, medical techniques, therapy, or procedures.6

Their policy requires a patient to have made the choice to rely exclusively on prayer when being admitted to a facility. But what if a patient changes her choice sometime after being admitted? Is it okay to take pain medication if pain becomes unbearable? Their answer is “no”, and consequently, many elderly Christian Scientists die in great pain in Christian Science nursing facilities—notwithstanding the fact that Mary Baker Eddy made provision for medical relief from extreme pain in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (p. 464).

When my mother was in pain at a Christian Science nursing facility, we were put into the bizarre position of having to smuggle pills to her. Some days later, she called me in tears–imploring me to transfer her to a medical hospice. I was able to arrange the move, where she later died under compassionate palliative care.

My mother made a choice to change the form of health care she wanted. But, she was in full possession of her mental faculties. What about patients who suffer from dementia, don’t realize they can choose to leave, or are dissuaded by an assertive Christian Science practitioner; or are children and cannot choose for themselves?

In 1993, the Church severed its official ties with Christian Science nursing facilities, which are now organizationally independent, and independently accredited. Principia has also always asserted that it is ‘unaffiliated’ with The First Church of Christ, Scientist. However, there is little doubt that the Christian Science Board of Directors could ask these institutions to fully implement its policy on this issue and they would comply.

To come into compliance, Principia would need to change its policy to make it clear that a student is free to choose the form of health care they want, and if it is medical care they will be allowed to complete their studies and graduate. Christian Science nursing facilities can comply by informing incoming patients in writing of their right to choose to move to a medical facility at any time, with no questions asked and no explanation needed.

Until such changes are made at these various Christian Science-affiliated institutions, the Church cannot honestly claim that Christian Scientists are completely free to choose the form of health care they want. The cultural and peer pressure to rely only on Christian Science for health care is extremely strong. The freedom exists on paper, but not so much in practice.


Notes:

* This term arises from this statement from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Only through radical reliance on Truth can scientific healing power be realized.” (p. 167).

Footnotes:

1What is Christian Science? [Relationship with Western Medicine].” Christian Science. The Christian Science Board of Directors. n.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2016.

2 Vitello, Paul. “Christian Science Church Seeks Truce With Modern Medicine.” New York Times. 23 Mar. 2010. Web. 24 Jan. 2016.

3Purpose and Policies.” The Principia. The Principia. 22 Oct. 1944 (Modified: 30 Nov. 1962, and 26 Oct. 1983). Web. 24 Jan. 2016.

4Spiritual Reliance.” Principia College (2015 – 2016 Catalog). The Principia. n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2016.

5 Ibid.

6Christian Science Nursing is spiritually based healthcare.” The Commission. The Commission for Accreditation of Christian Science Nursing Organizations/Facilities, Inc. n.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2016.

Old Habits Die Hard

The following is a collection of contributions from members of the Ex-Christian Science collective about experiences seeking medical care and interacting with medical professionals.


Back in 2000, I had this scaly patch on my neck. After watching it grow and covering it with makeup for two years a friend said, “that looks like skin cancer – you’d better get that looked at!” Sure enough, it was basal cell skin cancer. I had it cut out, and I have a huge scar now. If I’d taken care of it early I probably would have just had a little stitch.

– Hilary


I have been pestering my husband to help me get my basic vaccines (I have zero), and he doesn’t get it that I don’t know how to go to a doctor or what to DO there. A friend who knows the medical field inside and out has offered to set things up with me and come along to hold my hand.

– Heidi


My non-Christian-Scientist cousins were after me to get a colonoscopy (I’m fifty-seven) and it was way overdue. I did so, and wouldn’t you know, I had cancer. Luckily it was stage one, but the doctor said it was a slow grower and had been in me ten years. I had it removed with two operations last spring and summer. I am the fourth generation in my family to have this problem. My grandmother and father died grisly deaths under Christian Science ‘treatment’ of this very thing. The surgeon at Mayo Clinic that said if I had waited six more months it would have spread to other organs. They think they caught it all, but I am having follow-up tests this week and next.

– Anonymous


At the very end of my second pregnancy, I am starting to have serious health problems: blood pressure ticking up, signs of pre-eclampsia, etc. So apart from being scared and disappointed, every time I go to one of my appointments I also find myself extremely angry and defensive. My sister helped me figure out that this has to do with an entire childhood of being blamed for every sickness—every cold, upset stomach, or stubbed toe was entirely my fault and had to be fixed only by me (while simultaneously being unreal of course). So when my OB points out that my blood pressure is not in a good range, what I hear is, “what did you do wrong that made your blood pressure so high?” Ugh, old habits die hard, I guess!

– Hilary


Recently, an alarming rash erupted over large parts of my body. I went to the emergency room at the local hospital, and the doctor who treated me humourously diagnosed me as being a “very sensitive guy.” It was his way of informing me that I was having an overly severe allergic reaction to something. I was prescribed an immune system suppressant, and some Benadryl. The rash cleared within a day. I’m glad the old habits of waiting before I go to a doctor about something are beginning to fade finally.

– Jeremy

I knew that we had no ability to heal our physical or financial problems using Christian Science

By an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

I grew up with my ailing radically reliant Christian Scientist mother and my grandmother—whose house it was—who didn’t believe a word of Christian Science, but never said anything to keep the peace. When I was about thirteen my grandmother started suffering from dementia, which by the time I was sixteen had progressed to late stage Alzheimer’s disease.

Because of my mother’s beliefs, and her conviction that if she called a doctor, her mother would be taken into care and the house sold from under us to pay for it, most of this time period was handled using ‘Science’. I found this time very hard to deal with. Living with an elderly Alzheimer’s sufferer is not a picnic. My grandmother was doubly incontinent and hopelessly confused and distressed most of the time. But, she was physically robust and would rampage around the house in the middle of the night pulling things apart and raving about lost children who she believed to be trapped inside the furniture.

She had no memory of me as a teenager, and would often not recognise me at all, precipitating hysterics when I walked into a room. She was also a terrible fire risk, and we had to start turning the gas off at the main spigot when we left her alone, or went to bed. My mother meanwhile could barely cope physically, let alone mentally. So yes, dealing with this as a teenager was bad enough, but of course to really inject some misery into a situation you need Christian Science.

I knew that we had no ability to heal our physical or financial problems using Christian Science, but sanity seemed like the last bastion, and it had fallen. I would read all this garbage about ‘Divine Mind’ and intelligence, and practitioners would lecture us on it. But the situation got worse and worse. I couldn’t fathom what we were doing wrong that even this simple expression of God’s perfection had failed. With no frame of reference as to what was happening and no diagnosis, I began to see my grandmother not as a poor sick woman who loved me, but as a person who through their own weakness had been possessed by some kind of demon. I wondered how long until it affected me or my mother too.

Needless to say, eventually my grandmother’s condition got so bad the world of medicine was involved, and they did more good in a few days than all the meaningless Christian Science mumbo jumbo had done in years. Nevertheless, it was not long until my grandmother was taken into hospital where she died shortly thereafter, being properly cared for and finally having some peace and dignity. And the government didn’t sequester her house and force us onto the street.

Childhood fascination with medicine & desire to fit in

The following is a collection of contributions from members of the Ex-Christian Science collective about childhood health and safety issues they faced growing up in Christian Science. 

 

Once I was at a friend’s house, and the mom handed me a Flintstones vitamin at dinner and I FREAKED. OUT. I jumped out of my seat and ran to hand it back to her with a breathless “I’maChristianScientist!” She looked at me so confused and said, “It’s just a vitamin.” And I launched into a mangled six-year-old’s explanation of Christian Science. I feel like they didn’t have me over again after that.

– Elizabeth


The problem with not being allowed to have something that everyone else in the general population takes for granted, and more so being told it is wrong, is that it leads to trying it anyway and sometimes in the wrong way. I was very curious about medicine and actually went so far as to steal a little tin of Bayer Aspirin. I locked my little brother and myself in the bathroom and made him try one first. Of course they tasted bitter and horrible and we spat them out. To this day I don’t remember how I disposed of them. Worse was stealing a bottle of pills from a drugstore in the days when many drugs were on the shelf. I waited until my grandfather was in another aisle and whipped it into my pocket. They were tiny brown pills, god knows what. I took them to school and told my friends I had to take them. I was desperate to fit in.

– Tessa



Until now, only my wife has known this embarrassing truth: at age 37 when I was first properly under the care of a doctor and was put on a few month-to-month prescriptions, I switched to Target pharmacy because they had red prescription bottles, and I had them all arranged artfully on my bedside table.

– Anonymous



When I was six or seven, I got a pre-made Easter basket, and deep inside was a bottle of ‘Vaseline medicated lotion.’ Do you remember how it used to say that? I can’t imagine what the ‘medication’ was; anyway it was instantly my most prized, secret possession until my dad caught me showing it off to my cousin and made a huge scene and took it away. My non-Christian Scientist cousin must have thought we were complete nitwits.

– Anonymous

I am grateful for her kindness and pragmatism.

By Stacey, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

My mom calls a Christian Science practitioner daily. She serves as my mother’s therapist. Fortunately, the CSP is a woman of reason and has encouraged my mom to not be so upset by this or that.

My mom has never met this woman, as she lives several states away. Of course, my mom credits every medically treated recovery her non-Christian Scientist family has—and that is everyone in the family—to her practitioner’s ‘work’! We don’t argue with her. Since the CSP serves more as a therapist/friend and is a very practical person, she is willing to help my mom no matter what the situation.

My mom was in the hospital a couple of years ago and in the ICU for the first few days. We didn’t think she was going to make it, but the treatment she was getting in the ICU pulled her through. When she was moved to a regular room in the hospital and able to think more clearly, she called her practitioner who supported her by praying for mankind, not for my mom specifically. My mom considers her recovery from this very serious issue a Christian Science healing and gives credit to the practitioner.

I don’t think her practitioner would ever admit to helping a patient who is on meds. My sister and I called the CSP at one point to let her know that my mom vitally needed her daily meds and to encourage my mom not to give them up. We believe that the practitioner did do this at our request. She probably didn’t know our mom was on meds until we told her. I am grateful for her kindness and pragmatism.

I was/am healthcare proxy for my Christian Scientist parents

By Abigail, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group Contributor. Abigail is a pseudonym, to ensure anonymity.

 

I was healthcare proxy for my Christian Scientist dad, and I am healthcare proxy for my Christian Scientist mom. The guilt is excruciating, and a big part of why I’ve reached out for the support of this group. It’s something only we can truly understand.

Throughout the parental situations I’ve encountered, my parents have all been conscious and able to make their own decisions, so I haven’t felt like I could force the medical issue. That hasn’t lessened the guilt I feel for not somehow forcing them to get medical care. Thankfully, my dad’s passing was relatively quick and painless.

Christian Scientists make decisions they feel are right for them, but they don’t understand how they are harming the younger generations. It’s not just young children who suffer because of their parents’ choices.

Ruth’s Story: Turn to Medical Hospice

By an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.
hospice/end of life header

This is the story about my mother’s turn to medical hospice in the final weeks of her life. She is not alive to tell the story herself, but I believe she would approve my account of it here.

My mother (her name is Ruth) was a devoted, life-long Christian Scientist who practiced ‘radical reliance.’ She would tell you that she experienced many wonderful healings in Christian Science.

In her mid-80s, Mother began experiencing worrisome symptoms that did not yield to Christian Science treatment. She worked diligently to heal the problem, and she had the help of one, and then another, Christian Science practitioner. In time, her condition worsened to the point that she could not eat, and she decided to admit herself into a Christian Science nursing facility.

Her condition deteriorated, and she finally acknowledged that she was not going to ‘meet’ the problem and that she would ‘pass on’. Mother was not afraid of dying, but she was disappointed in herself. She had sometimes said that, “Christian Scientists should not get sick and die.” Rather, she believed that when the time came to die, they should demonstrate a quick and painless passing from a healthy human state to their next plane of existence. But that’s not how it worked out in her case.

The Christian Science nursing staff at the sanatorium made no adjustments to my mother’s care as her distress, exhaustion, and pain increased. They continued to place a full tray of food in front of her three times a day, even though she could not keep any food down. Neither could she sleep. My brother and I smuggled some sleeping pills to her, which she was grateful to have.

One morning she telephoned, begging me to transfer her to a medical hospice. Later that day, I and a social worker from the hospice accompanied an ambulance to the Christian Science nursing facility to accomplish her move. The director was at first reluctant to release her, but after a discussion she was allowed to leave.

Mother was admitted to the hospice and was made comfortable in a room by a medical nurse. The attending physician came by to interview her and explain what care they would provide to ease her through the death process. Mother asked a few questions and seemed satisfied. After the physician left, she turned to me and said, “these people are so much more professional.” Those are her exact words. Mother died peacefully under palliative medical care about two weeks later.

Mother remained committed to Christian Science to the end. In her view, her turn to palliative medical care in her final days was consistent with Mary Baker Eddy’s provision for relief from extreme pain as stated in Science and Health (p. 464). As I reflect on her experience, I am at a loss to understand how the Christian Science community can avert its eyes from the suffering of their faithful members as they go through the human death process.