Menu Close

Tag: Chronic Pain

Bruce’s Ten Hot Takes for September 26, 2023

hot takes

Republicans want to cut food, heating, and housing subsidies for poor children and families. This tells me everything I need to know about the Republican Party.

Senator Bob Menendez should be forced to resign from office by his fellow Democratic senators.

It looks like Trump not only inflated his dick size, he also grossly inflated the value of his real estate and business assets.

Some Democrats are calling for candidates to run against Joe Biden. I support this call in the primary. However, come November 2024, the only thing that matters is keeping Trump out of the White House.

Upwards of twenty-three raccoons frequented our backyard this spring and summer. And now that fall has arrived, the raccoons have disappeared, making occasional raids on the food we put out for feral/stray cats.

Chronic illness and pain affects every aspect of my life. Telling me to “put mind over matter” is never the right thing to say. When you say this, I say to myself, “Go fuck yourself.” Continue in your insensitive behavior, I might say this to your face.

“Looks like you are feeling better today,” well-wishers often say. They wrongly judge the quality and level of my suffering by what I do, failing to understand that looks can be deceiving. Just because I’m smiling, doesn’t mean I don’t want to cry. I often smile for others, hiding my pain from them.

Hey, Joe Namath. You had a lifetime 50% pass completion rate, worse than embattled New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson. STFU. Give the kid the break. Nobody wants to hear from ancient old ex-players. Different era, different game.

Travis Kelce, a Taylor Swift dating, Bud Light drinking promoter of COVID vaccines is upsetting right-wingers with his “woke” behavior. OMG, the meltdowns are fun to watch.

Kevin McCarthy says Biden is to blame for the threatened government shutdown. Sure, Kevin, sure. I bet the hemorrhoid in your arse you affectionately call Matt Gaetz is telling you to say this lest you lose your speakership.

Bonus: I’m increasingly disillusioned with what I see and hear in the larger atheist community. Maybe this is on me. I’ve moved on from the “angry atheist” phase of my life. I’m not that interested anymore in debates about the existence of God.

Dr. David Tee Thinks I Should Quit “Whining” About My Chronic Pain and Narcotics Laws

pain and suffering

Dr. David Tee, an Evangelical preacher whose real name is Derrick Thomas Thiessen, mounted his blog pulpit to opine about my use of narcotic medication for chronic pain. Thiessen’s post is in response to Will the War on Chronic Pain Sufferers Ever End?:

We were at the BG website the other day and we read a big whining article about his need for opiates to control his pain. However, he was whining about the rules that govern the usage of opiates and he did not like them.

As usual, he wanted people to break the rules for him and other opiate medication needing pain sufferers. However, he knew the rules and he should not whine. it is life. Governments have a moral responsibility to regulate medications so they are not abused.

He does not like that either but the government is supposed to exist to protect people from themselves among other things. We had a guy like this in Korea. He fought hard tp [pass a law that all NETs had to have a clean criminal record history in order to teach in the country.

We fought against him but his side won. The next thing we read in the Korea Times is an article about his whining that his criminal record, as slight as it was, should be given a pass even though his advocacy led to many people losing their jobs.

He whined about having a family to feed, etc., yet he could no longer teach. He only has himself to blame as he is one of those people, like BG who think their personal circumstances allow them to violate the rules. While everyone else has to follow them.

My post was about how the government is presently waging war against people with chronic pain; how following the rules left me without pain medications for almost five days. I wasn’t whining, I was shouting. Thiessen shows no sympathy or compassion for me. “Just suck it up, BG, them’s the rules.” Spoken like a True Fundamentalist, always following rules.

Thiessen says that I asked people to break the law for me. I most certainly did not, and I can find no evidence that remotely justifies his claim. I have had a handful of readers offer to help me pain-wise over the years; people willing to commit a crime to get me what I need (This is the third time in recent years that I have had to go through withdrawals due to pharmacies not having my medication.) I always say no, save for the time a reader sent me some Kratom and CBD products. I have never asked someone to break the law for me. I would never knowingly risk the freedom and economic security of others just for pain relief.

I am, however, quite willing to break the law myself, and that’s exactly what I did on Thursday. We drove to Michigan to check out a cannabis store. We had a delightful time, both driving through Amish country and perusing the store’s products. The staff was helpful, suggesting what works best for nausea and chronic pain. I bought $120 of gummies and prerolls. So far, the marijuana has helped with my pain and general flu-like feeling from narcotics withdrawal.

It is government that necessitated me to break the law. There’s no reason that government at both state and federal levels couldn’t immediately legally legalize pot. I had to choose between dark suicidal thoughts and using an illegal drug I knew could help reduce my suffering (which was affecting my mental health). I chose the latter. I regret to inform slippery-slope believers: no, I am not already hooked, and no I haven’t already moved on to cocaine (the two things Evangelical preachers often tell youths about marijuana.)

I am an advocate for chronic pain sufferers. I use my stories about experiences with pain and suffering to encourage people who are in pain and to demand government action on better treatment of chronic pain sufferers. I want good laws, effective laws, not laws that foster unnecessary pain and suffering. Of course, Thiessen doesn’t care about any of these things. He is a member of a religious cult that glorifies suffering. Get saved, die, ascend to Heaven, no more pain, stop whining. Of course, none of this is true. As a humanist, I believe this present life is the only one I will ever have. Death is stalking me, and it won’t be long before he catches me. And then, that’s it. I will be turned into ashes and strewn along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Why in the world would I not try to find things that will help me physically — even if it meant breaking the law? Less pain means I can be more active and productive.

Or it could be that Derrick Thomas Thiessen lacks the ability to empathize with others; to truly be loving and compassionate. And Thiessen despises me, so in the Good Samaritan story, he’s definitely walking by my bloody body along the roadside, pausing to say “stop whining” as he smugly, self-righteously walks away.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Will the War on Chronic Pain Sufferers Ever End?

pain to stop

Recent years have brought an endless stream of rules, regulations, and demands from governments, doctors, and pharmacies meant to battle the evils of opiate addiction. What was once between a chronic pain sufferer and his primary care physician is now a multi-person group fuck. I don’t blame doctors or pharmacists. Government has forced upon them numerous rules that make it harder and harder for chronic pain sufferers to receive relief.

I am required to see my primary care doctor every three months to continue to receive narcotic medications. I currently take Vicodin (Hydrocodone), five tablets per day. Three scripts at a time are sent to the pharmacy. I can’t fill the prescriptions early. They must be filled on the day listed on the script. This means you are typically out of medication on the day you fill your prescription. Of course, if you don’t get to the pharmacy at the right time or they are OUT of your medication, you are screwed. Long-term narcotic pain meds users are not addicts. They are, however, physically dependent on narcotics. When pain medications are suddenly stopped, the patient goes through horrific withdrawals.

Last year, the pharmacy I use was out of Vicodin. Well not “out.” They had enough of the drug to give me a partial fill, but according to the pharmacist, CVS was not permitted to give patients partial fills for narcotics.

“Fine. Please transfer my prescription to another pharmacy.”

“I’m sorry, but we are not allowed to do that either.”

“You do know what happens if I suddenly stop taking Vicodin”?

“I understand, but there’s nothing I can do. We won’t have any Vicodin until Wednesday (four days).”

This was on a Saturday. My prescribing doctor was out of town until Monday. I knew calling the on-call doctor was a waste of time. He would think I was a drug-seeking addict.

Fortunately, I only went without Vicodin for thirty-six hours. I borrowed some Percoset from a dear friend of mine to tide myself over. Of course, doing so was a crime. On Monday, my primary care doctor was able to fix the problem for me by sending the script to a different pharmacy.

Keep in mind ALL narcotic prescriptions are tracked with software. All doctors and pharmacists have access to this system. It is IMPOSSIBLE to abuse legally prescribed narcotics. I can’t think of one way a patient can game the system. Scripts are no longer handwritten. They are transmitted digitally, straight to the pharmacy. The prescriptions can’t be filled early. There’s simply no way for me to abuse the narcotics I take five times time a day. Yet, here I sit tonight, unable to fill my August 8th prescription until August 13th.

My doctor prescribes me a thirty-day prescription of one-hundred-fifty tablets every twenty-nine days. This means I have an extra five tablets each month. Five. Not twenty. Not fifty. Five. These five tablets provided me a monthly buffer in case of a pharmacy problem or I have a really, really, really, really, really bad pain day. Five tablets. Unbeknownst to me, the pharmacy was tracking these five extra tablets, and today was the magic day when they decided to bring the hammer down on me.

The pharmacy will not automatically fill a narcotics refill. Even though my doctor digitally sends the script to them, I must call them to have it filled. That’s what I did today, only to find out that they would not fill my prescription until August thirteenth. Five days of no medication. I have nine tablets on hand, so I have to cut my medication by seventy-five percent — two tablets a day. Why? Five tablets. Five tablets each month for six months is thirty tablets, the pharmacist informed me. I tried to explain things to her, but it mattered not. All she saw is what she called a “retention issue.” Those tablets I “retained” were actually used when needed. Long-term chronic pain sufferers learn to manage their narcotic meds, adapting usage to pain levels. None of this matters. Fundamentalism rules supreme when it comes to prescribing pain medications. “These are the rules. Obey. Don’t obey, we will punish you.”

Will the War on Chronic Pain Sufferers Ever End? I ask in the title of this post. Death, that’s what will put an end to this pernicious war against chronic pain sufferers. Patients who have their medications suddenly cut off have a higher risk of suicide. Despair sets in when you think, and often know, no one is listening to you. Allegedly, the goal of the medical profession is to alleviate pain and suffering. My primary care doctor had that as his goal when I first started seeing him twenty-seven years ago. And he still does today. The only difference, of course, is that twenty-seven years ago no one stood between us. Today, the FDA, the state of Ohio, pharmacies, pharmacists, and insurance companies stand between us, materially affecting the prime directive: alleviate pain and suffering.

It remains to be seen how the next five days will go. Polly is fearful that I might kill myself, but I told her as she left for work, “Don’t worry. I’m fine.” She asked me “Why aren’t you more upset over this?” I replied, “I have no control over any of this. None! Yes, I am angry, beyond angry, but all the rage in the world won’t change the fact that my prescription will NOT be filled until August thirteenth.”

My singular goal is to make it to the thirteenth. Will one tablet every twelve hours, lots of Tylenol, and aspirin be enough to stave off the worst of withdrawal? I doubt it, but what else can I do? Maybe drink Jamison for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

I plan to take a drive to Michigan where marijuana is legalized. According to state law, I can’t legally buy cannabis, but Michigan dispensaries will sell it to Ohio residents. Rumor has it that the Ohio sheriff’s departments that border Michigan — particularly Williams and Fulton — are using off-book undercover officers to write down the license plate numbers of Ohio residents who dare to visit Michigan dispensaries. Yes, indeed. Crimes of the century are taking place just over the state line.

Writing helps distract my mind from my ever-present pain, so if you see a flurry of new posts, you will know why.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

I Wish Christians Would Be Honest About Jesus’ Three Day Weekend

pain and suffering

Kirsten Ryken, a writer for the Fundamentalist website The Gospel Coalition, recently wrote a post titled, Why I Thank God for Chronic Pain. Ryken’s article was part personal story and part justification for God allowing her to painfully suffer. Ryken concluded her post with this:

With the eye of faith, I saw Christ on the cross. God, in a human body, taking on physical pain far greater than my own. Thorns in his head, blood dripping down his face, nails in his hands and feet, love in his face. I felt his pain in my own body, the fire in my spine intensifying as I looked at him. But I also felt him holding me like a child.

I knew in my heart in that moment that nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:39). I was completely overwhelmed with the knowledge that my God not only knows what’s wrong with my body even when no human doctor does, he also knows my physical pain more intimately than anyone else ever could. The loneliness of suffering and the frustration of not having answers were taken away in an instant. I felt a physical burden lifted from my body and my heart.

Until that moment, I had never understood the relevance of Christ’s death on the cross to the details of my daily life, my pains and my joys. It was only in the light of the cross that I could make sense of my own suffering. This reminder is the positive result of my pain. In moments when I feel overwhelmed, I remember Calvary. I thank God for the precious gift of my salvation, because on some (very small!) level I have begun to understand the cost of my salvation.

Chronic pain is a constant reminder that my life is not my own; it has been bought with a price.

The narrative Ryken spins is one often heard when Evangelicals try to explain pain and suffering: my suffering is next to nothing compared to the pain and agony Jesus suffered on the cross. In the minds of Christians such as Ryken, there’s no human suffering that can be compared to what Jesus faced on Calvary. This worn-out, tiresome trope gets repeated over and again by Evangelicals who never THINK about what they are actually saying. Jesus is the bad-ass suffering servant, Evangelicals would have us believe, but in fact, Jesus’ suffering was minuscule compared to what countless people face every day.

Yes, Jesus was beaten and his beard was plucked from his face. Yes, he was nailed to a Roman cross and suffered great indignity (that is assuming the gospel narratives are true). But how long did Jesus actually suffer? Days? Weeks? Months? Years? Nope. How about less than a day? Then he died, descended to hell, and hung out with its inhabitants, and then he resurrected from the dead good as new save for the nail prints in his hands and feet. Pray tell, based on what the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God says about Jesus’ suffering, how was his pain in any way worse than that which any human has ever experienced? By all means, compare Christ’s suffering to what children face when having radiation and chemotherapy treatments to eradicate cancer from their bodies. Go ahead, compare his suffering to that of people in burn units with third-degree burns over most of their bodies. Jesus may have faced intense levels of pain for a short amount of time, but how does his suffering compare to the pain of people who suffer with debilitating, chronic illnesses for years?

Jesus knew that his time of suffering would be short and sweet, and then he would die. Imagine a body wracked with pain day in and day out, years on end, with no relief in sight. I suspect such people might be willing to suffer what Jesus did if they knew afterward their bodies would be free from pain. I know I would. I would trade places in a heartbeat with the “suffering” Son of God if it meant come Sunday morning my body was no longer wracked with pain. And I suspect I am not alone in my blasphemy.

I don’t think for a moment that my short post will change Christian thinking on this subject. Ryken desperately needs a suffering Jesus to make sense of her own pain. Without Jesus, she is left with what? Shit happens? And to that, I say “yes.” None of us is guaranteed a pain-free life. Genetics, environmental factors, personal choices, and yet-unknown factors go into what diseases we contract and what pain we suffer. The late Christopher Hitchens was right when he said in his book Mortality,” To the dumb question ‘Why me?’ the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: Why not?” Why me, indeed.

Christians invoke the suffering Jesus because it covers up the fact they suffer just like the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world, and that their God, much like the cosmos, yawns with indifference. Jesus, then, becomes the hospice nurse who holds their hands as they face cruelties, indignities, and sufferings beyond imagination. Jesus has promised Christians that he will never leave or forsake them, and he will never allow them to suffer more than they are able. Thus, whatever pain and suffering comes their way, God means it for their good, either to chastise them or teach them a lesson. If Christians will but endure what comes their way, words in an ancient religious text promise that they will be given pain-free bodies after death. Better to think this, many Evangelicals say, than to believe we live in a cold, heartless universe. Why, such a belief leads to despair! Christians say. To that, I reply, maybe for you it does, but it doesn’t have to.

I find comfort in the fact that shit happens, and chronic illness and intractable pain afflict rich and poor, young and old, religious or not. I know that I am not special and that countless other people are going through pain and suffering as bad as mine and worse. I am not owed a pain-free existence. I have been given life — just one — and it is incumbent upon me to live life to its fullest. I embrace my suffering, not looking to a mythical deity for inspiration or help. I find comfort in the fact that my wife, children, and friends deeply care about me and do what they can to lessen my pain. And I try to do the same when dealing with others who are facing troubles and trials, physical or not. Is there any more any of us can do for each other?  A kind word, a thoughtful action, a tender embrace, these are enough. It is humanism, with its goal of lessening suffering, that shines the brightest. Christianity says endure, promising a divine payoff in the sweet by-and-by. Humanism says we only have one life, let’s do all we can to lessen pain and suffering. Christianity says pain and suffering have a higher purpose, be it correction or testing. Humanism says alleviating pain allows people to live happy lives, and in this cold universe of ours, that’s the best any of us can expect. Despite my pain, or perhaps because of it, I choose Humanism.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

How the Use of Subjective Measurements by Doctors Affects Patient Care

bmi chart

Twenty years ago, the U.S. government forced doctors to move from paper to electronic records. The result? Many doctors spend more time staring at a computer screen than they do interacting with their patients. The goal becomes inputting data, and not attempting to understand why the patient is there and what treatment plan is best for him.

This move to data-input medicine has led to doctors increasingly relying on numbers to measure patient health. I want to talk about some of these numbers, sharing my experiences and concerns.

Pain Chart

“On a scale of one to ten,” the nurse or doctor asks, “how bad is your pain?” Instead of talking to the patient about his pain, he is expected to diagnose his pain on a subjective scale. First, pain is subjective. My pain is very different from your pain. As a redhead, I have increased sensitivity to pain. All pain is relative. Remove a bandaid from my grandson’s leg and he will scream bloody murder, saying, “doctor, it’s a ten!” To my grandson, his pain is very real, but he has no real-world experience with actual pain. Grandpa has sixty-six years of experience with pain — horrible, debilitating pain. I have had tests that were painful; procedures that have left me in tears. Polly gave birth to six children. She understands pain. Three years ago, she had major abdominal surgery and spent twenty-one days in the hospital. Again, lots of pain.

I have had family and blog readers minimize my pain. They believe if I can walk or stand, I must not be in pain. Never mind the fact that walking and standing require psychological and physical contortions from me. One look at my face will tell you everything you need to know. But, people don’t make eye contact much these days. We no longer read body language. If they see me getting out of the car or walking in the store, they assume I must be fine. I’m not fine. And I am never, ever going to be “fine” again. Life for me is pain and endurance; of wondering whether I want to keep living,

Second, people with chronic pain quickly learn that if you tell a doctor nine or ten for your pain level, he will automatically think you are a drug addict looking to score some narcotics. Tell the doctor one, two, or three, he will wonder why you are there. So, I typically say five or six. Bullshit numbers; meaningless numbers, but there ya go doc, you have a number you can input in your digital records program.

Third, I can’t tell you the last time I had a doctor sit down with me and comprehensively talk to me about my pain. Where? How severe? What makes it worse? Do medications help? What physical activities are you able to do, not do? How does your pain affect your sleep; your sex life? Of course, doctors don’t have time to interact with patients this way, especially primary care physicians. They have patients scheduled every 15-20 minutes. No time for personal connection and investigation.

Weight and Body Mass Index (BMI)

I’m obese. The BMI number for me on the doctor’s digital screen is a blinking red number with an exclamation point. This tells the doctor that his patient is fat, as if his eyes couldn’t tell him that already. According to the BMI chart, my “healthy” weight is 140-170 pounds. I weighed 160 pounds at age eighteen; 180 pounds at age twenty-one; 225 pounds at age twenty-five. Was I obese at 225 pounds? Is that even a relevant question? At age twenty-five, I was physically fit. I played basketball and softball. I hunted, hiked, and fished. I cut wood in the fall. I was a physically strong man, yet according to the BMI chart, I was obese.

The BMI number says nothing about the fitness of a person. Most NFL players are obese. Are they unfit? Of course not. I have a big frame. I lost 100 pounds over the past three years, yet I look the “same.” Why? I don’t have a beer belly or ass. I’m built like a fireplug. Certainly, I knew I had lost weight. I dropped two shirt sizes and eight inches in my waist. Yet, to the casual observer or inattentive doctor, I look just like I always have — fat.

Squeeze My Hand

When doctors want to check my strength, they ask me to squeeze their hand. Without fail, they will tell me “Good. You are strong.” My complaints about weakness and debility are dismissed, all because I passed a subjective hand squeeze test.

How does this test tell doctors about the level of my strength? First, isn’t the doctor judging my strength based on his subjective measurement of strength? Second, shouldn’t the measurement of strength be based on how strong or weak I was in the past? Using that criterion, I have lost over half of my physical strength. Sure, I can still squeeze your hand, doc, but there was a day when I could have broken your fingers.


“Normal” body temperature is 98.6 degrees, patients are told. That’s what mine was for the first thirty-four years of my life. And then, I contracted mononucleosis and almost died. Mono can be deadly for adults. Afterward, my “normal” body temperature dropped to 97.0 degrees. And thus began a never-ending fight with nurses and doctors about my body temperature. “Doc, I have a fever.” “Your temp is only 99.0. It’s normal.” But . . . he’s already stopped listening. I can’t have a fever, in his mind, because 98.6 is the standard. He doesn’t believe me when I explain mono changed my body temperature. Dare to object and his notes will say, “difficult patient.” And since every other doctor in the practice can see his note, soon the other doctors you see will deem you a “difficult patient.”

Blood Pressure and Glucose Levels

While these numbers can be helpful in diagnosing and treating a patient, they are only a snapshot of a moment in time. Typically, my blood pressure and glucose levels are normal, even exceptional. I get a star by my name for 120/80 and 90 blood sugar level. But, do these numbers tell the whole story about my health? Of course not. I have landed in the ER twice with sky-high blood pressure for no known reason. I have had several instances where I woke up in the night, only to find my blood sugar level was 48 and 50 respectively. Not good. Again, no explanation for the low numbers.

I stopped checking my BP and glucose levels every day. I found the varying numbers too stressful. Occasionally, I will check my numbers, but I typically leave it to my body to tell me what’s up or down, especially my blood sugar levels.

Advice to Doctors

Stop typing. Look your patient in the eye and let him know you care. Ask lots of questions. Pay attention to what his body language is telling you. Use your gifted hands to touch and probe, interacting with the patient all the while. See him as a fellow human being. Never forget, you will be in his shoes one day.

Of course, doing these things takes time, and therein is your problem. Corporate medicine demands efficiency, treating patients like they are line entries on a spreadsheet. The bottom line is more important than the welfare of your patients. Surely, this is not why you got into medicine.

Several years ago, I wrote about a doctor named Bill Fiorini. He’s the kind of doctor I’m talking about. You can read this post here.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

I’m Tired of Judgmental Doctors

fat shaming

Medical doctors are very much a part of my life. I see my primary care doctor four times a year, a dermatologist twice a year, a cardiologist once a year, and other specialists, as needed. Today, I saw an orthopedic doctor for pain in my left hip and a carpel tunnel-like problem in my left hand; a problem I had surgically fixed in 2010. While I was lying on the cold table for an X-ray of my hip, the festering cyst on my upper back — which I had removed a few months ago, but has returned — burst, leaving a wet, bloody, puss stain on my tee shirt. “Wonderful, right?” I have an appointment with a dermatologist tomorrow to figure out what, exactly, to do about the cyst. (I have an ongoing problem with cysts here and there on my body. I have spent thousands of dollars getting them drained and incised. More often than not, the cysts make repeat appearances.)

The orthopedic doctor walked into the room, and after we exchanged pleasantries, I told him why I was there today. The doctor, whom I have seen before, had no recollection of my medical history, including the fact that I have widespread osteoarthritis, and was diagnosed two years ago with:

  • 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

The orthopedic doctor was unsure what the problem was with my hand. Scar tissue from my previous surgery? A new problem? He ordered a new EMG — a nerve conduction test. As far as my hip was concerned, he decided my pain was caused by the aforementioned back problems. Solution? Live with it.

And then came the lecture . . . “have you thought about losing weight?” I told him I had lost one hundred pounds over the past three years . He asked, “How?” I replied, “Gastroparesis.” I added, “Nausea, lack of appetite, and vomiting, will do that to you.” I quickly determined that he knew little to nothing about gastroparesis. This, of course, is not surprising since bones and joints are his specialty. His cluelessness didn’t stop him from suggesting I see a different gastroenterologist to get a “second opinion.” Second opinion, for what?

Gastroparesis is an incurable stomach disease. The treatments are limited: medication to manage symptoms, feeding tubes, and experimental procedures. I hate when doctors think they always need to be the expert in the room. I have no doubt that I know a hell of a lot more about gastroparesis than my orthopedic doctor did. I have read the relevant literature, and know gastroparesis is a miserable disease; that no miracle is forthcoming. I take medication, vomit, forego eating, and I had an experimental procedure done under anesthesia last year (to no effect).

Ignoring everything I said, my orthopedic doctor suggested I contact the practice’s weight loss clinic for a consult. He said, “You know, if you lose more weight, it will lessen the pain in your back.” By this point, I wanted to scream. “Are you not listening to me? “Or do all you see is the fat guy?”

Had my orthopedic doctor asked, he would have learned that I started having back problems at age twenty. I was first diagnosed with narrow disc space in my lower back when I weighed 225 pounds and still played competitive sports. My spine is literally falling apart. Losing weight won’t fix structural problems. I have had back problems at various weight points throughout my life. Lose, gain, it matters not, the pain remains. I am a living study that shows that the idea that losing weight will fix whatever ails you is untrue. As I mentioned, I have lost one hundred pounds. The only thing losing twenty-five percent of my body mass did was improve my glucose levels and provide me a new wardrobe. That’s it. My debility and pain remain the same. But, hey, I love my new Charles Tyrwhitt shirts.

I am comfortable in my own skin. Lecturing me about my weight is not helpful, nor will losing weight magically cure my fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, or gastroparesis. While there certainly could be benefits from losing more weight, I doubt dropping another twenty-five to forty pounds will lessen my pain.

What I most wanted my doctor to do today is see “me;” to listen to me; to consider the totality of my health. Since that was beyond his “expertise,” he is no longer my doctor. In fact, I am done with doctoring. When I leave their offices worse off than when I came in, I wonder “why bother?”

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

I Know You Didn’t Mean It, Please Be Aware of Your Surroundings and Watch Where You Are Going

bruce and polly gerencser 2023 2

Polly and I, along with Bethany, drove to the Clyde Theater in Fort Wayne last night to hear Collective Soul and Jet Black Roses in concert. Last year, we had tickets to hear Collective Soul (and Switchfoot), but several days before the concert, we were infected with COVID-19.

Prior to the concert, we ate, for the first time, at Wu’s Fine Chinese Cuisine. We arrived at the Clyde 90 minutes before the concert’s 8:00 pm start time. Polly got my wheelchair out of the back of our car, attached the feet, and I hopped on for a ride. The chair is padded with a gel pad in the seat, along with two queen-sized pillows. Any bang or bump leaves me grimacing in pain. Polly does what she can to avoid things and people that will hurt me, but sometimes increased, often excruciating, pain is unavoidable. My arms are so weak I can’t navigate the chair myself, so it is up to whomever is pushing my wheelchair to avoid pain-inducing obstacles.

From the moment I get up to the time I go to bed, I try my damnedest to avoid things that will cause me more pain. But, try as I might, there’s never a day when someone or something doesn’t cause me pain. Last night, after going to bed, I stood up alongside our bed, only to find out my legs were really weak. As I stood, my legs collapsed, sending me careening to the floor. Fortunately, I landed on the edge of the bed. My troublesome left hip screamed in pain, as I uttered a string of curse words. Polly? She slept through the ordeal, for which I am thankful. I fell again later in the night, as I got up to use the bathroom. Same landing spot, same pain, same curse words.

We lined up outside of the Clyde, making our way to the security station. Polly (and Bethany) went through the scanner. I was waved around the scanner so the security employee could pat me down as I sat in my chair. I had some fun with the moment, telling the man that this was the highlight of my day! We both had a laugh, as did other staff members standing nearby. Into the theater we went. I stopped at the bathroom, using my cane to enter and exit the facility. I didn’t pee on myself . . . Yea!

The Clyde Theater does a good job handling ADA-compliant seating. Good seats on the right side of the venue, elevated so you can still see the stage when people stand (and they ALWAYS stand). One staff member, named Emily, typically takes care of us when we arrive. Emily got us seated and then asked if we needed anything else. I said “no.” She would return several times during the night to ask us if we needed anything. Emily always goes beyond what normally would be expected.

The woman who sat directly behind me arrived just as the concert started. In a hurry, she slammed into the back of my wheelchair. I crumpled over towards Polly, trying to get a handle on the awful pain she just caused me. No apology, no nothing. Several more times during the night, she kicked the back of my wheelchair, causing more pain and increased anger. Eventually, I unlocked the wheels on my chair and rolled a foot forward. Polly went out to the concession to buy drinks. When Polly returned, she found out the woman behind us had pushed her chair forward, evidently to gain more legroom.

Sadly, such people are common. They have no awareness of their surroundings or they don’t care about anyone but themselves. As a disabled man, I don’t expect special treatment. All I ask is that people stay out of my way; that they don’t cause me further suffering and pain. I taught my children and preach to my grandchildren, “be aware of your surroundings.” Lift your head, pay attention to who is around you. Years ago, I drilled into my daughter’s head (and Polly’s) to survey parking lots when going to her car. Don’t assume you are safe. Pay attention to people lurking on your periphery. Better safe than sorry.

I live in the flatlands of rural northwest Ohio. The leading cause of automobile fatalities is people running stop signs. I taught my children to always look down the road so they are better positioned to avoid someone running a stop sign because they are texting, drunk, or horsing around with their friends. Now that their children are driving, I see that they are passing on this important lesson to them.

I respect the space of others. I do my best to avoid inconveniencing people. I try to model this behavior to both my children and grandchildren. I wish more people would do the same. Unfortunately, many Americans are self-centered. All they care about is getting theirs, even if it causes the crippled man in the wheelchair excruciating pain.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Sometimes It is the Small Things That Lead to Suicide

chronic pain

Ask the average person why people commit suicide and they will give you all sorts of explanations. Many people think there are signs depressives display when contemplating suicide. While that can be the case, often the person seemed “fine” before killing themselves, or the “signs” were so subtle that they were overlooked. Depressives often fade into the fabric of day-to-day life. They become like furniture, always in their places. When this happens, people miss the signs, often tragically so. I know my wife and family love me, yet I also know that they are so used to me being sick, disabled, and in pain that I always seem “normal” to them.

Several days ago, I attended the Defiance Pride Parade. While I can walk short distances using a cane, I can no longer walk long distances without the use of a wheelchair or motorized cart. The degeneration in my spine, hips, shoulders, and arms, makes it difficult, if not impossible, for me to operate a wheelchair without help. Polly or one of my sons usually pushes my sorry ass around. My youngest son got the privilege and honor to push me along the parade route. The road was rough in spots, causing me excruciating pain. I knew this is the way it would be, but supporting LGBTQ people mattered more to me than pain. I endured.

A dear friend of mine told me that he could tell I was in a lot of pain. I tried to hide my suffering, but my face said to him that my pain levels were high. I appreciated the fact that he understood what I was going through on that day. The next day, we had dinner, a monthly event for myself and three other men. We now call ourselves “The Woke Mob.” Getting together with them is one of the highlights of each month. I rarely get out of the house these days. Thanks to declining motor skills, I can no longer drive. The last time I drove an automobile was in March 2020 — over three years ago.

After dinner, my friend said to me, “you look better today.” I smiled and replied, “narcotics, and the use of modern pharmaceuticals.” You see, I always want to “look better.” I don’t want to be pitied. I want to be perceived as the virile, strong-as-an-ox Bruce of yesteryear, even though I know this is the absurd fantasy of a crippled, broken-down old man.

My pain levels were the same on both days, but what was different on the second day was a significant increase in suicidal thoughts. My friend couldn’t know this. I didn’t give off any signs that suggested that I was struggling with making it another day. Even when talking with my therapist, it is not always easy for her to suss out whether I have increased suicidal thoughts. I see her tomorrow, which is good. The edge of the cliff is getting too close for comfort.

Many people wrongly think that those with suicidal ideation have exact plans as to how they will do themselves in. While I have a good idea of what means I will use to kill myself, I really don’t sit around thinking about it. It is the small, insignificant things in life that often drive my suicidal thoughts. Let me explain.

My life has a rhythm to it; what I call my “new normal.” This normal changes over time, as disease and pain continue to ravage my body. Two years ago, when an MRI and CT scan of my thoracic spine revealed:

  • 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 adapted to my new normal. I had already been diagnosed with widespread osteoarthritis (joint pain), fibromyalgia (muscle pain, weakness, and fatigue), and gastroparesis (a debilitating, incurable stomach disease). I also have diabetes and high blood pressure — both of which are well-managed. On any given day, I spend my time managing my health, writing, and spending time with my family. Some days, I have doctor’s appointments or we go grocery shopping. On other days, I try to do things around the house or in the yard. Our backyard is teeming with wildlife and feral/stray cats. I enjoy watching them from the living room window. We have a new outside cat, Binx is his name. You know, the strays that don’t go away. He and I are now friends, so I will spend some time petting him or feeding him tuna fish. This is my normal.

Typically, I have a four- to five-hour window to productively work. After that, I lose my starch, and I retire to my recliner for the night and read, watch TV, or cheer on the Cincinnati Reds (I watch every game). Polly comes home from work at 2:30 am. Then comes bed, the worst part of my day. Yet, I have come to accept that this is my “normal.” It takes me twelve hours to get seven or eight hours of sleep, and even then I am never rested. At best, I live to see another day. Tired, fatigued, in pain — but alive.

It is what it is, a cliché I often tell myself as I try to navigate a life of pain and suffering. However, there are unexpected things that happen, small things that can quickly increase suicidal thoughts. My life is like a spinning plate full of food held on one finger above my head. Okay, I can handle this, I tell myself, but then along comes someone or something that is thrown on my plate, and my life spins out of control. All of a sudden, I find myself thinking about whether I want to keep living. But it was such a small thing that caused your plate to spin out of control. And therein lies the problem. When small, insignificant things accumulate, collectively they can be overwhelming. A bowel problem, incontinency, phantom smells attack, blurred vision, Morton’s neuroma flare-up, a fall, memory problems, unexpected bills, not hearing from my children or seeing my grandchildren as often as I want (need), edema so bad I can’t put on my shoes, getting out of the house so I can attend a sprint car race, only to get hit in the head with a rock thrown off one of the car’s wheels, stepping on Legos, tripping over the cat, finding out I have a yeast infection from taking an antibiotic for a toe infection, losing my glasses, being so weak I can’t lower the footrest on my recliner, eating food at a restaurant that immediately causes me to vomit, finding out someone ate the last of the peanut butter, or a host of other small things. To the healthy, and to the strong, these circumstances may seem insignificant; and they are when taken in isolation. However, when it takes every bit of your strength and energy to just get through the day, small things tend to overwhelm you and leave you questioning whether you want to live another day.

This is not a plea for help, nor is it an opportunity for readers to send me unsolicited medical advice. Please don’t. If my friend and I had more time together, maybe I would have shared with him where I really am in life; how close to the cliff I am actually standing. Or maybe not.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Updated: Local Southern Baptist Pastor Steve Eyers Opposes Helping People Suffering From Chronic Pain

medical marijuana suffering new jersey
Cartoon by Drew Sheneman, featuring anti-marijuana crusader Chris Christie

Four years ago, the Village of Hicksville, Ohio banned the establishment of medical marijuana facilities within its borders. The Defiance Crescent-News reports:

On Monday evening the Hicksville Village Council passed an ordinance prohibiting the establishment and operation of medical marijuana facilities within the village limits.

This is in response to previous sessions in which the possibility of such facilities coming to town was addressed, although no definite plans had been revealed to council by any such entities. Council had received strong support against these facilities by Police Chief Mark Denning and pastor Steve Eyers; no one has spoken out in their favor at any recent council sessions.

In February 2019, the Hicksville village council held a hearing on the matter. The Crescent-News reported at the time:

Pastor Steve Eyers of Lifeline Connect Church stated he has done sizeable research on medical marijuana since the last meeting and believed the jury to still be out, with no solid documentation existing substantiating positive claims about such facilities; he did observe that medical marijuana is not on the “approved” list of the Food and Drug Administration.

Eyers suggested council speak to state lawmakers and those in other municipalities which have approved medical marijuana production facilities about the results of such places, noting, “Once you open the door it will be difficult to close.”

As readers will note, the main objector to medical marijuana was Steve Eyers, pastor of Lifeline Connect Church. At a previous council meeting, Eyers, a Fundamentalist Southern Baptist, used the “slippery slope” canard to argue against medical marijuana. In Eyers’ world, every perceived negative (sinful) behavior is a step farther down the slippery slope that leads to Hell. I am sure Eyers believes that marijuana is a gateway drug, and once people start toking mary jane they will soon be hooked on crack, cocaine, heroin, or other highly addictive drugs. Funny how Eyers’ “sizeable research” didn’t turn up any evidence to the contrary:

The “gateway hypothesis” or theory refers to the idea that one substance — marijuana, in this case — leads to subsequently use and/or abuse other drugs. If [Governor Chris] Christie’s point is simply that the use of marijuana tends to precede the use of other drugs, then he is correct — but that’s not the whole story.

Though studies of large populations of people have indeed found that those who smoke marijuana are more likely to use other drugs, these studies show a correlation without showing causation — a commonly misunderstood phenomenon in science. In short, just because marijuana smokers might be more likely to later use, say, cocaine, does not imply that using marijuana causes one to use cocaine.

A 1999 report from the Institute of Medicine, which is part of the National Academy of Sciences, laid out this issue clearly (see pages 100-101): “In the sense that marijuana use typically precedes rather than follows initiation into the use of other illicit drugs, it is indeed a gateway drug. However, it does not appear to be a gateway drug to the extent that it is the cause or even that it is the most significant predictor of serious drug abuse; that is, care must be taken not to attribute cause to association.”

We spoke with several experts and reviewed the available scientific literature on gateway theory. Christie’s definitive statement is unsupported by evidence — there is some evidence in favor of a gateway effect, but the scientific community shares no consensus on the issue and there is little evidence on the underlying cause of that effect. —

Evidently, the good pastor was absent the day his teacher covered correlation and causation in science class.

There is no question that medical marijuana can and does help with many medical maladies, including chronic pain. Numerous readers of this blog can testify to medical marijuana’s efficacy and how it has improved their quality of life. It is absurd to oppose any drug (or treatment) that will reduce pain and suffering. But, Bruce, people might get “addicted’ if they start using medical marijuana. So what? Should it matter that a drug is “addictive” IF it’s helpful? Shouldn’t the goal be reducing pain and improving quality of life? Besides, moral crusaders such as Eyers usually confuse addiction with dependency. Addicts misuse drugs, using them for the sole purpose of getting high. Most people who use medical marijuana (and opioids such as Hydrocodone and Oxycontin) are not addicts. They use the drugs as prescribed to relieve pain and improve the quality of their lives. Long-term users can become dependent on such drugs, but, again, why does that matter? I have been on narcotic pain management drugs for fifteen years. Does this make me an addict? Of course not. I take the medications as prescribed by my family doctor. I have taken a variety of pain relievers over the years, but I have not, one time, abused them. Using these drugs for long periods has certainly made me physically dependent on them. If I were to stop taking Hydrocodone, for example, I would go through withdrawal. And believe me, that’s not fun. Several years ago, I stopped taking Tramadol. I had been using Tramadol on and off for managing mild pain for over a decade. It took months of suffering to successfully wean myself off of the drug. The withdrawal symptoms were so severe that I had to sleep in the living room so my thrashing and crying wouldn’t keep my wife awake. Yes, I survived, but at no time was I addicted to Tramadol. Dependent, yes. Addicted, no.

Count me as one person who is fucking tired of moralizing preachers such as Steve Eyers. First, they are hypocrites. Why did Eyers decide to take a stand against medical marijuana and not the drugs that are widely abused by Hicksville residents, including nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, and religion? Alcohol, in particular, causes all sorts of physical and social problems. Yet, crusading preachers are eerily silent on the subject — outside of an occasional anti-booze sermon. Why is that? Second, they attempt to force their personal or sectarian moral codes on others. There are times I wish that the Steve Eyerses of the world would come down with a debilitating, painful disease; one where relief could only be found through using narcotics or marijuana. Then, and only then, would they understand why chronic pain sufferers need drugs. Of course, I wouldn’t actually wish that on anyone, but there’s nothing like first-hand experience for revealing ignorant beliefs.

If Eyers and others like him want to live in pain, have at it. Taken literally as a moral prescription for living, the Bible encourages enduring pain and suffering. Just pray to God and trust that Jesus will be with you every step of the way, right? No thanks. As a humanist, my goal is to reduce suffering and pain, not only for humans, but all living animals. The greater goal is happiness and well-being for all. While suffering and pain can and do teach us valuable lessons, only Evangelical/Catholic sadomasochists think pain is desirable or necessary. Of course, when you believe the world is a shit hole ruined by sin, that all humans are born sinners/haters of God, that life is to be endured until the rapture, and that the grand goal is eternal life in Heaven, it should come as no surprise, then, that you don’t put much emphasis on the here and now.

Medical marijuana sale and use is legal in Ohio, and there’s movement towards making all use of weed legal (it could be on the ballot this November), All praise be to Shiva. Sadly, some Republican state legislators — who are overwhelmingly Christians — and regulators have gone out of their way to impede the opening of medical marijuana growers, processors, and sellers. Just over the border in Michigan, marijuana use is legal and much cheaper than Ohio’s medical weed. Sellers abound. Further, here in the Land of God, Guns, and Republicans, most doctors refuse to write prescriptions for medical marijuana. The insane government war against opioids has scared the shit out of medical professionals — fearing the loss of their licenses — so they refuse to act in the best interest of their patients. Ohioans can go to one of the few doctors approved to write medical marijuana prescriptions, but this could cause them all sorts of problems with their primary care doctors — including the refusal to treat in the future. (Please see How the War on Opioids Hurts People With Chronic PainA Plea From a Chronic Pain Sufferer: Please Be Aware of OthersMedical Marijuana and Relieving Pain and SufferingHow Fundamentalist Prohibitions Cause Needless Suffering and Pain,  and Understanding and Helping Those Who Live With Chronic Pain.)

Years ago, I helplessly watched a devout Evangelical man suffer horrific pain as he slowly died of bowel cancer. He refused to take pain medications because he believed Jesus was better than morphine; that his suffering had some sort of redemptive value. My late father-in-law often went without pain relief because he believed drug “addiction” (I tried to explain to him the difference between addiction and dependence to him, without success) was sinful. As a pastor, I watched countless dying congregants forgo narcotic pain management because they wanted to be clear-headed when they entered the pearly gates. They needlessly suffered, and for what? Remove God and the afterlife from the equation, and I suspect most people will say YES to anything that reduces their pain.

If Steve Eyers wants to suffer for Jesus, have at it. All that I ask is that he not stand in the way of other people getting the help they need. Jesus is called the Great Physician. The gospels detail many of the healing miracles the Son of God purportedly performed while walking the dusty roads of Palestine. Be like Jesus, Steve, Be like Jesus. If you can’t heal people, Steve, at least let the sick and hurting among you have access to people and drugs who can.

Pastor Eyers lost his battle against weed. Four years after his lies and distortions before the Hicksville Village Council, a new marijuana dispensary opened this week ten miles from his church in the village of Sherwood. Hicksville said no to the dispensary, as did the village I live in. Both Ney and Hicksville council members put their religious and personal beliefs before what was good for their communities. Tax money that could have helped fund local services went — dare I say it? — up in smoke.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

The Similarities Between Food Fundamentalists and IFB Zealots

bruce midwestern baptist college pontiac michigan 1978
Bruce Gerencser, Midwestern Baptist College, Spring 1978. I already had high blood pressure. 1969 Pontiac Tempest, by the way. 326 CID, three-speed on the floor. Sweet ride.

Every month or so, I receive a polite, wordy email — complete with links — from someone who is certain that if I just follow a certain fad diet, eat certain foods, or follow this or that dietary program, whatever ails me will be instantaneously, miraculously cured. These Food Fundamentalists® certainly mean well, but I don’t find their “advice” helpful at all.

The contact page states: “I know you stayed at a Holiday Inn last night, but you are not a medical professional, so please do not send me unsolicited medical or psychological advice. I am not interested — ever.” Food Fundamentalists® — who often eschew Western medicine — evidently believe that since they are “helping” me, my request doesn’t apply to them. These food zealots are not much different from Evangelical Bible thumpers who fill my email box with sermons, Bible verses, and personal attacks. Food Fundamentalists® think their gospel, if believed and practiced, will “save” me from my “sins.”  In their minds, my biggest “sin” is obesity or a bad diet. If I just worshipped and obeyed their deity, why I would drop 200 pounds and look as slim and trim as I did the day I entered Bible college.

Of course, when I investigate their Holy books and websites, I find that they are filled with errors and contradictions, much like the inerrant Word of God. Every food cult has its own divine text, each purporting to be the truth. What’s someone like me supposed to do? Read. Investigate. Look at the science and studies behind a particular food cult’s gospel. (Two of the first places I go are Quack Watch and Science-Based Medicine.) I find, without fail, that Food Fundamentalists® preach gospels that are not backed up by science and empirical data. I am not saying that these cults don’t help anyone – they do. But the same can be said for Christian Fundamentalism. Some people find real, lasting help through believing in the miracle-working power of a dead man named Jesus. The reasons for this are many, and so it is with the various diets Food Fundamentalists® present to me as the cure for my afflictions. Despite the success stories, most people who put their faith and trust in Jesus find out that the dead Son of God is not what cultists claim he is. So it is with diets. Most people who go on diets lose weight for a time, but, in the end, they gain the lost weight back and then some. Diets don’t work, regardless of their name. Bruce, it’s not a diet, it’s a way of life, food cultists say. Sound familiar? It’s a relationship, not a religion.

Christian Fundamentalists blame the person when Christianity doesn’t stick. They didn’t pray the right prayer, believe the right beliefs, or really, really, really have faith. Food Fundamentalists® do the same. If an obese person fails to succeed or later regains lost weight, it’s their fault for not religiously, devotedly following the plan.

The biggest issue, at least from my perspective, is that Christian Fundamentalists and Food Fundamentalists® both make assumptions about my life — past and present. Food cultists assume — wrongly — that the reason people are obese is because of the type or quantity of food they eat. In the minds of these Fundamentalists, all fat people need to do is eat less and eat cult-approved foods. These preachers of fidelity to the BMI chart, make assumptions about me, assuming I am overweight because I eat too many McDonald’s Big Macs or eat too much processed foods. These zealots don’t know what or how I eat, they just assume that I must eat too much food or eat the wrong food because I am spatially challenged.

I hate to break it to them, but my diet is NOT the problem. Sure, I can overeat at times, and I certainly am not going to pass up ice cream if it is offered, but on most days, I eat healthily — that is, if anyone can actually define what the fuck it means to eat “healthily.” Sorry, Food Fundamentalists®, but your super-duper diet plan is not the answer to my medical problems. If it were really that simple, I am certain one of the many doctors and specialists I have seen over the past thirty years would have mentioned it. Yeah, I know, they are all members of a secret cabal who deliberately keep me sick so they can make lots of money off of me. Child, please.

Miller Peak, 1975, with my Sunday School class. Miller Peak is almost 10,000 feet high. In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m the 18-year-old redhead in the back.

The only medical problem I have that is affected by what I eat is diabetes (and it’s under control with medication). That’s it. Everything else: Fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, degenerative spine disease, gastroparesis, and the excruciating, debilitating pain that comes from these medical afflictions are not helped, harmed, or cured by what I eat. The real problem now, thanks to gastroparesis, with its attendant nausea and vomiting, is that I often don’t eat enough. In fact, I have lost one hundred pounds. Did my health change after losing twenty-five percent of my body mass? Surely, losing a lot of weight magically cures obese people, right? That’s what Food Fundamentalists® say. The only measurable difference for me has been the reduction of my A1c to 5.8.

I have high blood pressure too, but I have concluded, based on a thorough study of my sixty-six-year medical history and family history, that hypertension runs in our family. My seventy-three-year-old aunt started taking medicine to control her blood pressure in her 20s, and she has never been a pound overweight a day in her life. I took a careful look at my blood pressure numbers from my high school years. At the time, I was 6 feet tall and weighed 150 pounds soaking wet. I played baseball and basketball, I rode a bicycle virtually everywhere I went — spring, summer, winter, and fall. Later in my teen years, I frequently went hiking, including hiking to the top of Miller Peak in the picture above. I was a slim, trim, fit fighting machine, yet I had high blood pressure.

As I look back over my medical history, I see a plethora of reasons that better explain where I am today than simplistically saying, Bruce, you are fat. Lose weight and all will be well. I wish things were that simple, but they are not. I am at a place in life where I do what I can, and some days, “doing what I can” means getting through the day without committing suicide. So, please walk in my shoes first before you decide to send me “advice” I didn’t ask for. Think I am being too pointed and direct? Again, walk in my skin for a few days, weeks, or months, and then we will talk. When you are doing all you can to make it to tomorrow, the last thing you need is a pompous, arrogant Food Fundamentalist® preaching to you his or her food cult’s gospel. Imagine, for a moment, you are walking home from a long twelve-hour day at work. Every part of your body is screaming for an hour-long dip in a hot bath, followed by several glasses of red wine. As you walk towards your home, an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) street preacher accosts you on the street, intent on evangelization and conversion. How would you respond to this man’s evangelistic efforts? What if he persisted to hound you every time he saw you? Why, I suspect you might feel homicidal rage welling up inside of you. You might even tell him you “tried” Jesus and it didn’t work for you, and with a flip of your middle finger say to him, now, fuck off. This is exactly how I feel when I receive yet another email from a Food Fundamentalist® wanting me to join their cult. If you really love and respect me as a person and appreciate my writing, then do me a favor: leave my medical treatment to me and my doctors — men and women who, unlike you, actually went to medical school to become experts in their chosen fields of practice.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Bruce Gerencser