I recently asked readers to submit questions to me they would like me to answer. If you would like to submit a question, please follow the instructions listed here.
Paul asked, “Bruce, how is your health?”
The short answer is “fine.” When people ask me about my health, I usually use “fine” or one of my other discussion killers such as “super-duper,” “I’m on top of the world,” or “so far so good.” These rejoinders are, of course, lies, but as most people with pervasive health problems know, most people who inquire about how you are feeling are just trying to be polite. They really DON’T want a head-to-toe rundown of all that ails you. My wife’s aunt asked me the other day how things were for me. I replied with “fine,” and then I added, “you really don’t want to know about my hemorrhoids, do you?
Paul, on the other hand, sincerely wants to know how I am doing health-wise. The remainder of this post will detail the day-to-day struggles I have with chronic illness and unrelenting pain.
Where-oh-where do I begin? Let me start with the big-ticket health problems. First, I have fibromyalgia. This remains the overarching problem that dominates my life day-in and day-out. With fibromyalgia, I have fatigue and widespread muscle spasms and pain. I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 1997. Second, I have osteoarthritis in my spine, neck, hands, shoulders, and feet. In other words, everywhere. Third, I have high blood pressure, which is treated with medication. Fourth, I am diabetic. Currently, I take two different diabetes medications.
Adding to these things is the fact that I was treated for skin cancer twice over the past year. I see a dermatologist every six months to atone for the youthful sin of repeated blistering sunburns as a child. Several months ago, I found out that I have two Morton’s neuromas and bursitis in my left foot. The best way I can describe the pain is having your foot hit with a hammer — repeatedly. Because I am diabetic, I am unable to have the foot surgically corrected. I have chosen to live with the pain instead of risking the loss of my foot from surgery complications.
Recent months have brought increasing nerve pain in my legs. This, by far, is the biggest problem I face, because it affects my ability to sleep. It is not uncommon for me to take two to three hours to fall asleep, and even then I rarely sleep through night, thanks to pain and a weak bladder. If there’s one aspect of my health that leaves me wanting to die, it’s nerve pain. Narcotics help, but the pain never goes away. I mean n-e-v-e-r.
Doctors continue to monitor a lesion I have on my pancreas. So far, I am cancer-free. I will likely have to have lesion biopsied again next year.
I continue to battle depression. My depression is primarily driven by my health problems. When pain levels are severe, so is my depression. I had been seeing a counselor, but he and I have become good friends, and this, unfortunately has ruined our professional relationship. My last two visits were spent talking about politics and Donald Trump. I am looking for a new counselor, but so far, I have not found a local counselor who is not faith-based.
The sum of these things and a niggling list of other things I won’t mention have severely limited my ability to get around. Most days, I walk with a cane. Some days, especially when what we are doing requires a lot of walking, I use a wheelchair. Over the past year I have noticed that my ability to walk is slowly declining. I continue to push myself, but I sense there is coming a time when my walking days will be over.
Most days, I have a short window where I feel good enough to write, work in the office, edit photographs, etc. I do what I can. There are times when I push myself too hard — an unwise move — and when that happens I often end up in bed for several days.
I want to conclude this post with a few please do not do these things:
- Please do not ask me if I have tried _____________. I am under the care of competent doctors whom I trust with my medical care. They know my body far better than you.
- Please do not tell me you are praying for me. I understand praying might be your way of showing empathy, but telling an atheist you are praying for him is not helpful. If you MUST pray, I don’t want to know about it.
- Please do not read into what I have written in this post. I am not suicidal, and if I become suicidal I doubt your email will stop me from ending my life.
- Please do not try to “encourage” me with rah-rah, happy-as-a-seal-with-a-ball words. I do not find such words helpful or motivational. I am just not built that way. I am a pessimist, a grinder who stoically embraces what life brings my way. I have always been this way.
- Please do not ask me about my diet. I actually eat a lot of vegetables, fish, and all the things you are sure I don’t eat.
- Please do not ask me if I am taking this or that supplement or drug. Over the past twenty years, I have tried dozens of medications and supplements. Every time a paper is published that says ________________ might help fibromyalgia patients, I ask my doctor what he thinks. More often than not, we give it a try.
Many people think that every health problem can be “fixed.” I’m here to tell you that such a belief is as every bit as fantastical as believing Jesus resurrected from the dead or Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a virgin. I am a realist. I accept life as it is and do what I can each and every day to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others. I hope I do so through my writing, photography, and operating the TV remote for Polly.
About Bruce Gerencser
Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.
Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.
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A “natural” healer (Efrem Herbalist Jr?) once told me he had cured a person of cancer, so I called him a lazy arsehole, for not using his “talent” to cure more than one person.
Most of the time, if not all the time, if some fad is hailed as the be-all, end-all, cure-all, it’s horse dung – a way to part people from their money.
I like your writing and look forward to new posts, so I hope you continue to be well enough to continue your work.
What ObstacleChick said, indeed.
sorry about your health problems. you seem to be doing the best you can with what you have, and that is a great example for all of us. thanks for your work on this blog, I always look forward to your posts.
I’m sorry about the extent of your health problems. I get those people who suggest all sorts of things. I just say I’ve already tried it whether I have or not. Because apparently going to a professional (my rheumatologist) just isn’t good enough!
I love the DO NOT… list. It begs to be written in calligraphy and framed
The depression part is a real bitch, because it magnifies the pain, which makes the depression worse…but I know you’re working to keep it under control, too. I’m sure you get told periodically that if you’d just think positively, everything would be better. Or if you’d just find some spiritual practice, things would get better. etc. Being the person you are, I’m sure you have good dismissive responses to this junk, but it gets tiresome to hear it.
Bruce, I had no idea how afflicted you are! Fibromyalgia alone I would not wish on my worst enemy — I once had a neighbor with it, and life for him was almost intolerable. I can only admire both your realism and the fact you have remained such a decent man under so much stress and pain. That is an accomplishment I would be heavily challenged to meet myself.
Being an atheist, I have no prayers to send you of course, even if you wanted them, but I do hope it will not be impossible for every moment to count with you, for every moment to be precious.
Please keep me posted from time to time either by your blog or by email. You’re a voice of reason, decency, and wisdom. Your loss will be felt as a tragedy.