Every time I mention my health in a blog post — as sure as the sun comes up in the morning — I will receive emails and social media comments from readers offering me unsolicited, unwanted medical advice. These people mean well, but their “advice” is not welcome or helpful. Their advice says I am not doing something right; it is my fault I am sick and in pain. If I would just follow their “advice,” I would no longer be sick, nor would I be in pain.
Often, the “advice” I receive comes from proponents of alternative treatments — unproven treatments purveyors promise really, really, really work (for a price). There seems to be an assumption by the people who send me unsolicited medical advice that I am ignorant; that I have not investigated other treatments for gastroparesis, fibromyalgia, and osteoarthritis.
Last Saturday, I published a post titled, Health Update: I’m F**ked. In this article, I mentioned the results from an MRI I had last week:
I had X-rays. Normal. CT scan. Normal. And now an MRI of my thoracic spine. NOT normal. I have:
Disc herniation (T7,T8)
Disc herniation (T6,T7)
Central spinal canal stenosis (T9/T10, T10/T11)
Foraminal stenosis (T5,T6)
Disc degeneration/spondylosis (T1/T2 through T10/T11)
Facet Arthropathy throughout the spine, particularly at T2/T3, T3/T4, T5/T6, and T7/T8 through the T12/L1 levels.
Hypertrophic arthropathy at T9/T10
I quickly received several emails and comments telling me that I need to try this or that diet or supplement. These people have no idea about what my diet is or what, if any, supplements I take. They assume that because I am sick and in pain, that I must not be doing what they suggest I do. One long-time reader sent me a link to a video and suggested I go on the KETO diet. I tersely replied that I was on the no-food diet (gastroparesis); that I have lost 120 pounds; that my A1c is 5.3. She means well, but her emails and comments are NOT helpful. The same can be said for emails from people saying that if I just became a vegan, all would be well.
Let me be clear: I think Reiki, chiropractic treatment (with a few exceptions), homeopathy, supplementation, essential oils, acupuncture, magnets, faith healers, etc., are unproven, unscientific modalities. The same goes for diets that advocate unbalanced, unhealthy eating. There’s nothing wrong with my diet. I eat lots of vegetables, seafood, and other “healthy foods. Yet, I am still sick. Why? My problems are not diet related. There’s no diet or supplement known to man that will “cure” the structural damage in my back. Go to a chiropractor? Are you fucking kidding me? Think about that for a moment: a chiropractor pushing on my herniated discs. What could go wrong? The only solution is to treat and manage my pain.
I am a proponent of science-based medicine (SBM). I have confidence that my doctors are providing me the best possible treatment. I keep myself informed about the latest treatments and studies for my various maladies. I suspect I am better educated on gastroparesis, fibromyalgia, and osteoarthritis than are any of the people who offer me unsolicited medical advice. I have friends I trust who will send me links to reports or studies they have read. I have no problem with them doing this. What irritates the hell out of me is the unsolicited medical advice that subtly suggests that I am at fault; that if I would just do _______, my decades-long illnesses and pain would magically go away.
If you want to help me, continue to read my writing, leave pithy comments, and support my work financially. Leave my medical care to my doctors and me. Trust me, we have it under control. I know the limitations of modern medicine. I know that no magic treatment that will “cure” me is lurking around the next corner. I expect my doctors to do what they can, but I have never expected them to be miracle workers. Sometimes, life sucks. I am a realist. I know that I will battle chronic illness and pain until I die. Friends, family, and blog readers, genuinely wish I weren’t in pain. They tell me that things will get better in time. “Surely, better days lie ahead for me.” They think I need encouragement or happy visions of a seal bouncing a beach ball on his nose. I don’t. Sure, there are things people can do to help me, but how about asking me what help I need instead of assuming I need ______________?
Let me kindly ask again that readers do NOT send me unsolicited medical advice. And that includes leaving comments on this site, making comments on social media, or sending me private Facebook/Twitter messages. If you truly love and respect me, PLEASE stop.
Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.
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Bruce, have you tried praying to your microwave? Or your toaster? Or your coffee maker? Or your PC? I know, the probability will doubtfully ever rise above mere chance, but it couldn’t hurt, right? There just could be a forthcoming statistical anomaly.
Anyways, on a serious note, very sorry to hear that you have so much pain and many health issues. I enjoy your blog’s insightful posts. I do wish I could just wave a magic wand but wishful thinking accomplishes nothing. At least you are in good medical hands.
Wow. I lost a sister-in-law over a decade ago to cancer. Even though at the time I was (no more!) still somewhat invested in alternative meds, I did not say one word to her to encourage her to do different treatments. I assumed they had pretty great medical care, being affluent people living in a really nice area north of Columbus.
I hear you Bruce. I remember when I’d be at work and at some point, my coworkers or customers found out I had fibromyalgia. “Oh, I know someone who took all these special supplements and they are fine. Now, if you’ll just buy some of my MLM products it should help.” Uh huh. No thanks. I never met a single person face to face who could tell me they were cured.
Bruce: Thanks for sharting. I get unsolicited medical advice all the time. I – too – wish people would stop that crap. Pisses me off, something fierce.
I’m so sorry to know about your health struggles. Here in the UK, I know our wonderful NHS would love it if carrot juice, turmeric, magnesium, keto diets etc etc – oh and foot massage – cured all ills. Just think what a wonderful country this would be if we didn’t have to spend the billions we do on healthcare for the whole population. Daughter qualified as a doctor last month, I couldn’t even understand the titles of some of the medical text books she had to study from and the vast knowledge she had to acquire, She’d have appreciated it too if all she had to do to pass her final exams was spend a few minutes on Dr Google instead and tell her patients to go veggie, vegan, drink their urine or practise yoga as they chewed on some vile useless herbal concoction.
Brilliant Matilda! That’s going to make the best argument yet for the next time I have to listen to a certain idiot that I have the misfortune to find a particular member of my family married to.
It’s really sh!tty to insinuate that someone is to blame for their ailments. I understand that people think they are helping, and that maybe they think have some special insider info that might give you control over your ailments, but it’s all between you and your doctor(s).
Whenever something sounds too good to be true, it is….. if kale or keto could cure us of everything, we’d all live forever.
Hang in there, dude….
From here on out you should preface any posts about your health with a terse version of this. I suppose there is something very human about sharing medical advice though, it is a noble sentiment to try to help each other out.
Won’t help. People who want to play doctor without any justification are gonna do it anyhow. “But it worked for me!” Did it? Are you absolutely sure? Or was it any of the 47 other things you were trying at the same time? Can you give an explanation of why it worked, backed up by Modern Science? (Peer-reviewed only, please, and not from some obscure little journal that some MLM has created to justify its existence.)
When I was a young preachers kid, I would often go with my dad when he would visit people who were in the hospital or other facilities, or were unable to leave home. These visits were something he did daily because he considered it important in his ministry. By the time I was 13 I learned that illness is something that comes randomly to people and that sometimes there were no real solutions to the problems people could have in life.. During this time I saw people dealing with injuries or illnesses that could be cured, people who had life altering permanent injuries or illnesses. and people who were in their last days of life.
You may ask why he would take his young child to visits, or why I would go on these visits? I am not sure of his motivation, but I do know that people seemed to genuinely enjoy when I was there. Perhaps they were lonely, since these people were often forgotten by church members, and perhaps my father knew it could brighten their day a bit for someone else to visit with them. I also suspect it brought a bit of normalcy to the people we visited, because I was a kid, and we would talk about things that had nothing to do with their situation. The time we would spend with people would vary based on how people were feeling. Sometimes it was clear people wanted to have only a short visit, and at other times people wanted us to just sit a while to be with them.
I also learned how unhelpful people are when others were encountering health issues. Often, people would seem to forget they exist and leave the person on their own. Others would offer unhelpful advice. Do you have unresolved sin? Maybe if you had more faith? Pray more often. My uncle’s wife’s friend’s sister has a son who said to use drug X. Think positive thoughts. Don’t focus on the illness. We are thinking of you. I pray for you every morning. Oh, you will feel better soon. Look on the bright side…and my favorite, it could be worse, you are not as bad off as my friend Billy.
I still struggle with how to support people with illness because the reality is that there is little I can offer and I do not really understand what they are enduring, and words sometimes seem lacking, or can cause hurt. But I can be present, I can support them, I can listen, I can be a friend, and be there to help.
Sage, that was such a moving story. I wish pastors would put as much emphasis on visitsas your dad did.
Some of my older relatives are never married; one of them spent her last years battling cancer mostly on her own. It was really heartbreaking – she was partly “forgotten” by her own family.
I agree with your sentiment. I’m sure your friends would appreciate your compassionate approach.
Thanks Kel. I have a lot of issues with my father and his beliefs and how they effect our relationship, but he did care for people in real ways, not just pray and forget.
I always assumed this is what al preachers would do. Then I left home and found that in all the churches I attended, getting the preacher to visit the hospital or home would take an act of God, unless the person was “important”. Some even had retired ministers who were hired as Visitation Ministers, and even they would not show up that often, usually due to their own limitations
Sorry to hear about your health struggles. thanks for being so open about it. you are helping so many. sorry so many people think they should send unsolicited/unscientific advice. sending good thoughts your way.
I have a mentally disabled adult child with autism and a pretty serious health problem. I understand where you’re coming from on this. We were forever being bombarded with advice especially when she was small, and we were still trying to figure out what on earth was wrong. My personal favorite comment came from my own mother. I was explaining some of the challenges our daughter was having, and my mom said to me, “If you just had more faith, she’d get better.” Wow. Then, of course, there were all the people from church involved in multilevel marketing schemes trying to sell us vitamins or health drinks or whatever. I had to tell one “friend”, who has made a fortune selling the snake oil that is Plexus that we don’t believe in miracle cures and choose to follow the instructions and advice of our daughter’s doctors. Oh, we of little faith! Anyway, I am sorry that you are having to endure so many health problems. Life really is a pile of crap sometimes.
When I was younger (and more spry) I gave dumb unsolicited medical advice too. I think reading a blog post similar to yours was what shut me up. Hugs to you!
The only useful medical advice I have had from a layman was to make an appointment with the doctors.
SBM = Slimy bowel movement; if you do not want unsolicited advice don’t publicly talk about your ailments. Works for me.
Jesus fucking Christ (JFC) , David, are you really this crass and clueless? You are over 60 years old. Have you learned nothing? That’s a rhetorical question. It’s evident that you have not grown in love, mercy, and compassion— if you ever had it.
The Evangelical mindset of victim blaming.
You keep attacking Bruce personally, on a post about his health no less, without engaging with any of the answers given to you.
Maybe it’s time for you to start praying for your enemies – although in your case, your prayers would likely be for a fire to consume them, unfortunately (Luke 9:54). In that case, why not enter your chamber, shut the door (Matthew 6:6), and silently send imprecatory prayers Bruce’s way. And why not start with Psalm 58, the one depicting the righteous bathing their feet in the blood of the wicked. Considering your past responses, I guess you’ll probably cherish it.
Imprecatory prayer is like Viagra to smug evangelicals like DDT. 😮
I’m going out on a limb and guessing that Benny Hinn isn’t an option…(Sorry, I just couldn’t help myself…!)