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Health Update

health news

A number of readers have inquired about my health so I thought I would take a few moments to share with you how things are t-o-d-a-y. I am hesitant to write anything since there are still some tests that need to be run, but I don’t want to keep my friends (and enemies) in the dark.

When I stopped blogging 4 months ago, I said “that’s it.” My health is such that it is very hard on me to write. But, I learned that my health didn’t get any better after I stopped blogging. Mentally and emotionally things got worse.

Since I am pretty much home bound, this blog allows me to connect with people who I consider friends. This is very important to me. Just today, I received a Christmas card from one of my Canadian friends, Carmen. We have never met, likely will never meet, yet I consider her a friend. More than a few times, her cheerful emails and letters have encouraged me. My life would be much poorer without the internet friendships I have made over the past 8 years.

I remain passionate about life and writing allows me to express that passion. I thought I could just turn it off and move on, but I found out I couldn’t. So, I plan to continue blogging until I d-i-e. Which, brings me to the health update.

About six months ago, I started having wild fluctuations in body temperature, similar to the hot flashes women have. One moment I am cold and wearing a beanie and the next moment I need to turn the fan on. This happens numerous times a day.

Over the past ten weeks I have lost 35 pounds, and no I am not on a diet. I have lost my appetite and my stomach often feels full. Simply put, I don’t feel like eating. And believe me, developing the svelte body I now have has required a good bit of eating. My weight is the lowest it has been in over a decade.

I have blood work done 4-6 times a year. Over the past 3 years, my SED rate has been slowly increasing.  15 is the norm and it reached 35 two months ago. Well, last week I had blood work done and the SED rate had jumped from 35 to 67. This rate increase can mean many things, from infection to inflammation to cancer.

During this time, I am also dealing with an unexplained problem with my left foot. 4 months ago, all of a sudden, my foot started swelling and turned yellow and red. I also had sustained spikes in body temperature. Infection right?  Blood tests were normal. The first doctor said I had cellulitus, the next doctor said I had phlebitis. The foot doctor said I have a ganglion cyst in my foot.

The discoloration went away, but the foot continues to swell if I don’t keep it elevated. Compared to the pervasive, unrelenting pain I have to deal with, the pain from the foot is barely noticeable. My family doctor ordered an ultrasound of my foot. I went in for the ultrasound  and they tested my left leg instead. I tried to tell them they were doing the wrong test but they assured me…doctor’s order. I have been unable to pin down whether it was the doctor or the lab that made the error, but in the process of doing the ultrasound on my leg they found an enlarged lymph node in my groin.

Taking all of these factors together, my primary doctor ordered a CT scan of my chest, abdomen, and groin. This test was done on Monday and was, in itself, a comedy of errors. Due to an ER emergency I had to wait 50 minutes for my scan. Then the tech had problems getting an IV started and it took 2 people 15 minutes to put my IV in. I have thick skin, deep veins. As any nurse or phlebotomist will tell you, redheads are a pain in the ass to stick.  Once the IV was in it was time to start the contrast. Technical error again. The contrast diffuser wasn’t working. 15 minutes later the problem was located, a disconnected cable on the back of the computer.

Finally, I had the CT scan. The scan itself only took a few minutes, one quick scan, one slow scan, one slow scan with contrast. Here’s the results:

  • MEDIASTINUM: No significant paracardiac effusion. No enlarged mediastinal or hilar lymph nodes are seen. Mild dilatation of the ascending thoracic aorta to 4.1 cm.
  • LUNGS: No focal lung opacities or pleural effusions. Calcified granuloma in the left upper lobe.
  • LIVER: Mild fatty infiltration with no focal lesions identified.
  • GALLBLADDER AND BILIARY SYSTEM: The gallbladder lumen is replaced by high attenuation, which may reflect numerous gallstones or high density sludge.
  • SPLEEN: No significant abnormality.
  • PANCREAS: There is a small hypodense lesion in the uncinate process of the pancreas, measuring approximately 7 x 5 mm axially (image 71 ) and 12 mm craniocaudally (coronal image 55). There is no pancreatic duct dilatation. There are mildly prominent peripancreatic lymph nodes measuring 11 and 8 mm in short axis (axial images 64 and 65).
  • ADRENAL GLANDS: No significant abnormality. KIDNEYS: No significant abnormality.
  • BOWEL AND MESENTERY: No focal bowel wall thickening or dilatation. Normal appendix. Sigmoid diverticula with no evidence of acute diverticulitis.
  • URINARY BLADDER: No significant abnormality.
  • OTHER PELVIC STRUCTURES: No significant abnormality.
  • BONES AND SOFT TISSUES: 4 cm intramuscular lipoma is seen in the left lateral abdominal musculature (axial image 58). Sclerotic focus in the anterior column of the left acetabulum may represent a benign bone island in isolation. Degenerative changes affect the thoracolumbar spine.
  • OTHER: Minimal atherosclerotic calcifications affect the abdominal aorta and branch vessels.
  • IMPRESSION: 1. Small lesion in the pancreatic head. While this may represent fatty infiltration, neoplasm cannot be excluded. Followup contrast-enhanced MRI is recommended. 2. Prominent peripancreatic lymph nodes. 3. Abnormal high attenuation in the lumen of the gallbladder may reflect numerous gallstones or high-density sludge. Right upper quadrant ultrasound is recommended for further evaluation. 4. Other findings as above. Professional Interpretations by FW RADIOLOGY

I texted my primary care doctor today and he plans to call me tomorrow morning. Here’s what he texted me:

At children’s christmas program. Can’t call. Abnormal pancreas. May need ERCP instead of MRI. But could do MRI first. Concerning but sometimes turns out benign cyst. Will call you in AM.

That’s it for now. When I know more, I will let you all know.  These problems are new problems, above and beyond the other health problems I have. I remain stoic, as always. It is what it is and we live until we die. I know some want to cheer me on but I am OK. Long ago, I realized that health problems are my lot in life. I embrace them and try to manage the best I can. Right now I am focused on what’s ahead and having enough appetite to eat all those awesome cookies Polly makes for me. That and looking forward to an awesome Sunday Christmas gathering with my kids and grandkids.


If you are unfamiliar with what an ERCP is, here’s the Wikipedia page. Another option may be an EUS.


  1. Avatar
    Erin Word

    Thank you for the update. I won’t pretend I have any great tidings of comfort and joy for you, but as a person who lives with chronic illness, I can empathize with your experiences to some extent. Still, I can’t help but say I hope for good news for you, and also hope you have access to tools that can help you manage your pain.

    Have some wonderful times with family and friends over the holidays. Peace and love to all of you.

  2. Avatar

    Sounds like a lot of extra crap to deal with that you don’t really need. I’m sorry. I won’t be praying for you, but I will send good thoughts in your direction. Never a good time for scary health news, but holidays are probably on the list of the worst possible times.

    *I* was going to ask you for your address, it was listed on your old blog but I don’t see it on your new one. You know my email, yes?

      • Avatar
        Bruce Gerencser

        Here is what I sent to my children/siblings earlier tonight:

        MRI result. Lesion is suspicious, can not definitely say it is cancer but leaning in that direction. Lesion is small but doctor told me that rarely affects long term outcome. Several different procedures that can be done if it is cancer. Going to see a Dr Sharma in Fort Wayne to discuss options, biopsy. Still possible this is a benign lesion. Either way, doctor said it is probably best to remove gallbladder. ( which if it is cancer they remove gallbladder, part of pancreas, lymph nodes, etc ) so, I am still rolling the dice at Vegas. 🙂

        Here’s what I sent to Suzanne, a friend of mine, about the MRI:

        MRI was a long test, 1 hour 40 min. Had to lay on my back perfectly still. Then part of the test required me to repeatedly hold my breath, say about 30 times. Had to have an IV, no fun. I have deep veins, thick skin. Took two tries and a lot of moving needle to hit the vein. She kept apologizing. I finally told her, “keep apologizing and then I’ll be upset. 🙂 just do your job.” I have been stuck dozens and dozens of times. I know the drill. I work on my Buddhist mindfulness techniques. Helps me maintain calm in the midst of stress, pain.

        After reading about the Whipple Procedure and knowing what added risks I bring to the table for any surgery, if it indeed in pancreatic cancer, it is unlikely that I would have this procedure done. It is a risky surgery, one of the most difficult procedures surgeons perform. It is a long surgery and has to be done at a facility that specializes in the procedure. Oh, you can have it done at your local hospital but the likelihood of death is 300-500% higher.

        There’s still a chance this is not cancer. The optimist will hang their hat on this, but I am not an optimist so I tend to just see the things as they are. I will face what comes. I hope it is not cancer, but if it is, I will meet the challenge head on and try to make wise, rational decisions.

        To all of you, thank you for your love, kindness, and support. In sickness and in health your friendship is appreciated.


  3. Avatar
    Bruce Gerencser

    Thank you everyone for your support.

    I just finished talking to the doctor and he thinks an MRI of the abdomen is the next step I should take. He consulted with the radiologist in Fort Wayne and he agreed. I am also going to have some more blood work done. One test looks for a particular marker found in people with pancreatic cancer.

    He reminded me that the lesion is small and that’s a good thing. The MRI will help determine if the lesion is a cyst. If it is a cyst it can be carefully watched.

    I hope to have the MRI done before the end of the year. Jan 1, the money pit starts over again. We have a $3,000 insurance deductible, $6,000 max out of pocket. (Max out of pocket doesn’t include insurance premiums which are another $3,000 a year) Like many American families, medical costs continue to take a larger bite out of the budget. Our average monthly medical expense is 25% more than our mortgage. As I have often stated, in gallows humor style, it is much cheaper to die. 🙂

    I will post an update here when I know more.


  4. Avatar

    Bruce, many positive thoughts your way. I know they don’t help the actual problem. Like Steve said, I wish I could heal you. Of all the superpowers, being able to lay hands on someone and heal them would probably be the best. For now, I really appreciate your posts and thoughtful writing.

  5. Avatar

    Hey Bruce!

    I’m so glad Polly friended me on Facebook. I saw her status update regarding you and here I am.

    I’m sad to hear you are doing so poorly. Health issues suck. I hope the doctors can help.

    I know it’s been awhile since we chatted, but please feel free to email me. I’d love to chat. 🙂


  6. Avatar

    Dear Bruce,

    You know I am thinking of you and sending positive, ocean-scented tidings from beside the Bay of Fundy. All the best, my friend. xx

  7. Avatar
    John Arthur

    Hi Bruce,

    Sorry to hear that your health problems are ongoing and never seem to go away. I don’t know how I would fare in your place, but I hope the doctors are able to find something to help towards a solution.

    I hope you had an enjoyable Christmas (or happy holiday) with your family.

    The sky ‘God’ is powerless to help anyone. I wish you every kindness and thank you for your honesty, tolerance and openness.

    ‘The way is is not in the sky. The way is in the heart.’ (Buddha).

    May your skillful writing, your open and honest writing, that comes from your heart (in the midst of ongoing pain) continue to be an inspiration to many more, as it already is to me and many others who frequent your website.

    I just wish that you could get some more relief from your pain and suffering. You simply don’t deserve it. I only wish you well in 2015, and all your family and friends.


    John Arthur

  8. Avatar

    ((((((Hugs)))))) Sorry about the health problems and glad to hear your attitude is good! It’s too bad we non-believers go with the science to solve problems, although sacrificing a chicken via a nice grill with some BBQ sauce can help attitudes, even though it won’t solve any other problems.

    Keep your humor up.


  9. Avatar

    I just now found out you’re back! I think of you often and was wondering how you were doing. My thoughts and hopes are always that there is real peace and relief right around the corner for you. Happy New Year to you and yours, Bruce.

Want to Respond to Bruce? Fire Away!

Bruce Gerencser