Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bachmann & Cain: Migraines & Stage IV Cancer

Around the time Representative Bachmann’s presidential campaign began to run out of steam, there was media attention about her health.  It was reported that she suffers from migraines.  Consequently, questions were raised about her fitness for the White House. 
I too have struggled with migraines in my adulthood, so I know something about this condition.  I can attest to the fact that migraines are hell.  They are just torturous. 
Fortunately, I have been able to figure out my triggers and work hard to avoid them.  Not everyone is able to do that as successfully.  But medical science has come a long way.  For those with decent access to medical treatment, there are medications and other treatments that help.  Being prone to migraines does not mean a person will live a life significantly different from others.  It does not mean one necessarily has restrictions on one’s ability to assume positions of high responsibility.  I know plenty of people who suffer from migraines.  They soldier on to lead full, productive lives.  Indeed, I have a lot of respect for folks who deal with such challenges and still find ways to meet their responsibilities.  In my book, that shows tenacity, resolve and resourcefulness.
As a result of this personal insight on the experiences of migraine sufferers, I was surprised that otherwise respectable news outlets took this issue of Michele Bachmann’s migraines so seriously and seemed to think it worthy of significant attention.  I was puzzled.  Plenty of Americans get migraines.  It is not that uncommon.  I wondered why this had never been an issue before.  Then I had an epiphany.
Personally I have known both men and women who get migraines, but I vaguely recalled reading somewhere that statistically women are much more likely to get migraines than men.  I did a little internet research and quickly found that 75% of adult migraine sufferers are women; only 25% are men.  What a huge discrepancy.  I also read that prior to puberty, there is no such gender imbalance among migraine sufferers.  But hormones seem to affect migraines.  Puberty and pregnancy can be triggers for many women. 
In the United States, 17.6% of females and 6% of males suffer from severe migraines.  Representative Bachmann is one of a small handful of women to ever run for a major party presidential nomination.  Statistically, therefore, it makes sense that this may have been the first time the issue of migraines has been an issue in assessing a candidate’s qualifications to be Commander-in-Chief.
Moreover, the whole attention to Representative Bachmann’s migraines seemed very sexist to me.  We’ve had major party candidates who have had much more serious health conditions, but I don’t recall as much attention being paid to their physical competency.  We’ve had candidates who’ve battled cancer with relatively little attention paid to their health.  And arguably we’ve had candidates with untreated sexual addictions, which in retrospect seemed a lot more impactful on the ability to lead our nation effectively.  We have also had a vice president who had had multiple heart attacks and heart surgeries when he was elected to be second in command.  Headaches, even brutal ones, rather pale in comparison.
Around the time that Representative Bachmann’s migraines were getting media attention, I was intrigued by a then little-known candidate, Herman Cain.  I did some internet research on him, and was stunned to find out that just a few years ago he nearly died from cancer.  He was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer in 2006.  It had metastasized to his liver.  At the time, he was given just a 30% chance of survival. 
Stage IV colon cancer only about five years ago.  To me, that seems a lot more relevant to potential presidential fitness than bad headaches.  But since I discovered this information about Mr. Cain’s health history, I have heard very little about it in the news coverage of his candidacy.  To me, that seems a blatant double standard. 
To be clear, I applaud and admire Mr. Cain’s strength and perseverance in overcoming such a severe health challenge.  That is an inspiring example for us all.  I am second to none in my respect for his successful battle against cancer.  But if we are going to scrutinize a candidate’s health in assessing fitness for the presidency, I cannot fathom why migraines would get more attention than Stage IV cancer.

James 3:17

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

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