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Tag: Gastroparesis

Chronic Illness: Oh, What a Night!

oh what a night

There are days, and then there are DAYS; memorable days; unforgettable days. Yesterday, and into the early morning hours of today, was one of those unforgettable days. I have had a lot of bad, really bad, awful days over the past three years. Thanks to gastroparesis, fibromyalgia, and degenerative spine disease, every day is challenging. Most days are normal, but there are other days that stand above what has come to be my “new normal.”

About 7:00 pm last night, my battle with nausea kicked into overdrive. My goal is to avoid vomiting. I took some Zofran, hoping it would ratchet the nausea down to normal levels. An hour later, I realized that the medicine was not going to work (it usually works quickly). I finally felt that awful feeling, the call to bow before and worship the porcelain God. I slowly rose from my recliner, picked up my cane, put my right hand over my mouth, and made my way to the bathroom. I quickly knelt before the toilet and up came the contents of my stomach. I repeatedly vomited for what seemed like eternity. Once I determined that I was “safe,” I got up off the floor, washed my face and beard — which was covered with chunks of vomit — and returned to the living room. I still felt nauseous, so I took more Zofran, hoping that I wouldn’t have to throw up again. The medicine quickly kicked in. All praise be to Loki and modern medicine.

Surely, this is enough for one day, right? Right? I mean, right?

Polly came home from work at 2:30 am. She asked me if I wanted anything to eat. I told her nnnnnooooo! We watched a bit of TV and then headed for bed. The time was 3:45 am. Polly did her usual bathroom routine while I arranged my side of the bed in preparation for yet another titanic struggle with pain. I took my nightly medications, including Vicodin, Zanaflex, and Trazodone — all meant to reduce my pain so I could sleep. At 4:15 am, I told Polly “good night” and told her “I love you.” As is her custom, Polly gently patted my side and told me “I love you too. I hope you have a good night.” In a matter of minutes, Polly drifted off to sleep. I started watching a new series on Netflix, hoping to join Polly in dreamland one to three hours later.

Surprisingly, I fell quickly asleep, only to wake up an hour later. What could happen in an hour, right? Due to the excruciating pain in my back and neck, I typically sleep on my right side or on my stomach. This night, I started out on my side. Sometime during the hour I was asleep, my right leg fell off the bed (a common occurrence). When I woke up (the first time), I was alarmed to find that my leg and right arm were totally paralyzed (not numb, paralyzed — a first). It took me about ten minutes to get my leg back on the bed. I suspect the nerve (s) controlling my leg and arm had gotten pinched. Once I was properly situated on the bed, the paralysis eventually went away.

Surely, this is enough for one day, right? Right? I mean, right?

As I wrangled my body on the bed something didn’t feel right. Why do my back and legs feel wet? I stood up by the bed and surveyed the blanket and sheets. Water, maybe? Nope. Shit. Lots of shit. I had lost control of my bowels. Worse, in trying to get my body settled, I had rolled in the shit. The “wet” on my back and legs was shit. Think: vanilla ice cream cone rolled in chocolate. I said to myself, “are you fucking kidding me?”

Surely, this is enough for one day, right? Right? I mean, right?

As I made my way to the bathroom to get a wet washcloth and towel, I noticed I was really weak and lightheaded. Halfway to the bathroom, I passed out for a second, sending me careening into a white folding table in the living room. Fortunately, this broke my fall.

Surely, this is enough for one day, right? Right? I mean, right?

Nope. You see, when I used the table to break my fall, my glasses were on the top of the table, Of all the things I could have hit, I put my full weight on my glasses, bending them to such a degree that I can’t wear them.

I finally made it to the bathroom, got the towels I needed, and returned to the bedroom to clean up my mess. Amazingly, Polly slept through all of this. I didn’t feel I needed to wake her up, though I could have used some emotional support. “My shit, my problem,” I told myself.

After cleaning the bed, I sat on the side of the bed for 30 minutes or so, head in hands, wondering if I could go on. I finally decided I could, and snuggled back in bed next to Polly.

Surely, this is enough for one day, right? Right? I mean, right?

Finally, I can say yes.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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Bruce, These Doctors Can Heal You

peanut gallery

Today, a woman named Sherryll left the following comment on the post titled The Tyranny and Oppression of the To-Do List. I have no idea whether Sheryll is a drive-by reader or a regular reader. I doubt she’s a regular reader for this reason: people who have been reading my writing for years know I have no use for unsolicited medical advice. Both on the comment guidelines and contact page, I ask people to not send me medical advice. I have an expert team of medical doctors caring for me. Beyond that, I have read scores of books, articles, and studies about the various diseases that afflict me. I have been tested, poked, scanned, and injected more times than I can count, including extensive work-ups at the University of Michigan and the Toledo Clinic. I’m confident that my diagnoses are accurate, as is my treatment plan.

Hi there Bruce! I’m so sorry you’re dealing with such pain!

I have been dealing with chronic pain for twenty-five years. My pain is widespread and diverse, from the bottoms of my feet to the top of my head. I have muscle pain, nerve pain, joint pain, eye pain, and bowel pain. This pain is not the normal aches and pains expected at age sixty-five. I have three types of days: less bad pain days, bad pain days, and screaming, off-the-charts pain days. I don’t have pain-free days.

Most of my pain is structural. I have osteoarthritis in virtually every joint in my body. Eighteen months ago, I started having severe pain in my upper back. This pain later spread to my neck. An MRI of my back 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

An MRI of my neck revealed similar damage.

These issues are structural in nature. No medication, supplement, or exercise is going to “cure” me. I recently saw a neurosurgeon at Parkview Hospital in Fort Wayne. There’s nothing that can be surgically done for me, especially my back. The surgeon’s notes state: the patient will have to live with it.

I too have suffered through the years with similar issues but I fortunately found a doctor in Dallas Texas that helped me. He died three years ago, but his associates are carrying the torch and assisting others in their personal healing process!

Doctor Sherryll, who stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night, says that she had “similar” problems as mine. I doubt it. She doesn’t know enough about me to make such a judgment, but that doesn’t matter in this Internet age. She sees that I have chronic pain; she had chronic pain; she was healed; I can be healed too.

The doctors in question operate the Environmental Clinic in Dallas (Richardson)Texas. The front page of their website lists their primary service offerings: allergy testing, immune support, nutrition, and detoxification. Does anyone smell “alternative medicine?”

Environmental Clinic’s website states:

Did you know that many common ailments may be traced to substances you are exposed to in your everyday environment? Thirty years ago, even medical science was not broadly aware of the extent the environment affected health. But, thanks to much research and the work of pioneering physicians, doctors now recognize such maladies as headaches, sinusitis, fatigue, joint aches, blood vessel abnormalities, asthma and chronic infections may be caused by environmental factors. The Environmental Health Center-Dallas is one of the oldest and most advanced centers in the world addressing health and disease as it relates to the environment. The center provides full-service medical care with a special emphasis on the impact of environmental factors on the human body.

According to Dr. William J. Rea, the surgeon who founded the Clinic in 1974, various exposures may cause sleep disturbance, learning disorders, blood vessel, colon and bladder inflammation, as well as a host of other inflammatory problems. The “environment” involves all of our surroundings, including everything we breathe, eat, or touch. It consists of thousands of substances we are exposed to each day, but often do not even know exist. They are substances like the air-pollens, molds, and animal danders in the air, machinery, carpets, cleaning supplies, perfume and smog produces chemical by-products.

For those unacquainted with the effects of the environment on our lives, this process can be compared to carrying a load of bricks. Just as we might fill our arms with bricks, our bodies are being filled with a variety of stressors, including biological, chemical, emotional and physical. As long as the amount of bricks, or stress factors, stay within a range our bodies can manage, everything is fine. But, when the load becomes more than our bodies can handle, down come the bricks. This collapse is represented physically as symptoms.

New patients begin by completing a detailed patient questionnaire and meeting with the physician. Lab tests are often recommended, as is sensitivity testing. In the latter, the patient is exposed to or injected with low levels of various substances which help to identify the cause of their sensitivity.

When the triggering agents are pinpointed, the physician determines an individualized program to help each patient achieve a state of maximum health. This program includes educating patients about their sensitivities, nutrition and environmental exposures as well as getting them actively involved in their treatment. Some patients also receive immunotherapy, a specialized type of vaccine treatment that may provide substantial relief.

At this point, I say sigh. (Why I Use the Word “Sigh.”)

It takes being pro-active though consisting of adopting a healthy diet and exercise within your present capacity.

Note the judgmental presumptions Sherryll makes about me. She assumes, without evidence, that I am not being proactive about my health; that I am not eating a “healthy” diet; that I am not exercising enough. How could Sherryll possibly know these things? In her mind, she thinks that I am not “healthy,” so these must be the reasons why. Would it matter to Sherryll if I told her that I AM proactive; that I eat a vegetable-filled well-balanced diet; that I do what I can physically within the limits of what my body will tolerate and allow? Of course not. Much like religious Fundamentalists, food fundies, homeopathic fundies, and alternative medicine fundies think they have THE truth; that all other viewpoints are lies bought and paid for by big pharma, rich doctors, and hospital conglomerates. These people want us to stay sick, keeping from hearing the true gospel of glorious health. This, of course, is bullshit.

When I look at prospective treatments, all that matters to me is the science. Not anecdotal stories; not sketchy studies; not medical professionals who have an axe to grind.

I realize you feel as if you’re knocking on heaven’s door(as an atheist, you still get the picture) but I am hoping with your drive—- albeit diminished via the illness—you could be up to the challenge! If interested look up Environmental Clinic in Dallas Texas! My best to you!

Sherryll wrongly thinks that she is providing me a “challenge”; that if I really want to get well, I need to accept her challenge. What, are we in grade school? I did look at Environmental Clinic’s website, including its extensive offerings of woo and pseudoscience. No thanks.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

The Tyranny and Oppression of the To-Do List

to-do-list

As a younger man, I pastored Evangelicals and worked secular jobs, mostly management-level employment. I was a general manager for Arthur Treacher’s, Long John Silvers, and Charley’s Steakery. I also was a grant manager and building code enforcement officer for the Village of Buckeye Lake. My last job (2004) was working for Allegro Medical, managing their Yuma office. While I worked blue-collar jobs, my skills were best suited for managerial positions. As a pastor and a manager, I was the man in charge. Blessed (or cursed) with a Type A personality and a driven, no-nonsense work ethic, I was well suited for the management world. By all accounts, I did my job well and my employers appreciated the work I did for them.

Over the years, I developed certain skills that helped me do my job. One skill was the use of a to-do list. Every day, I would make a list of the things I needed to do, and then I worked the list. Sometimes, I would keep this list in my mind, other times, I would write it down on a yellow pad. As I worked the list, I would mentally or physically draw a line through each completed task. Typically, my work day did not end until I completed the list.

Having an Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) certainly fueled my list-driven work ethic, as did my Fundamentalist Baptist religious beliefs. The Bible was a list of God’s laws, precepts, and commands. The thrice holy creator of the universe expected me obey each and every one of his commands. After all, the Bible says that followers of Jesus are to be perfect, even as their Father in Heaven is perfect. I never had much use for Christians who treated the teachings of the Bible as optional.

Over the years, I employed hundreds of people. If asked, I suspect these former employees would say I was a driven, no-nonsense boss who expected them to show up every day and do their jobs. I had no tolerance for idleness or horsing around. I had zero tolerance for “excuses.” Let me give you an example. When I started managing Charley’s Steakery in Zanesville, Ohio for a Taiwanese immigrant, I inherited two assistant managers. I would have hired neither of them had it been up to me. It wasn’t, so I had to try to work with them.

Jeff was an easygoing “praise Jesus” Evangelical Christian. One of the first things I had to deal with had to do with Jeff’s religious beliefs. Keep in mind, I was an Evangelical pastor, at the time. However, I checked my religion at the door when I came to work. I didn’t try to evangelize employees, nor did I invite them to church. If an employee asked about my church or religious beliefs, I would answer their questions, but when I was at work, I worked for my employer, not Jesus. I tried to model Christianity to my employees by my behavior, not my words.

When Jeff opened the store, he knew he had certain tasks that had to be done, every day, without exception. Yet, Jeff never seemed to get his work done. I would come in around 10:30 am and find the pre-opening tasks incomplete. Of course, I would get after Jeff for this, telling him that these tasks had to be done prior to opening. It was HIS job to make this happen.

No matter what I said, Jeff didn’t do his job. Finally, I decided to figure out what was going on. Come to find out, Jeff was spending the first hour of his work day — are you ready for it? — praying and reading his Bible! He was shocked when I told him he couldn’t do this; that I expected him to start working the moment he walked in the back door. He thought that I, as a pastor, would understand the importance of starting the day communing with God. Of course I did. I read the Bible and prayed every morning too. I did it, however, on my own time, before I came to work. (His excuse was that his home was too noisy for him to have devotions.)

Jeff was notorious for leaving work undone. Such a work ethic was foreign to me. My job. My responsibility. Get it done. No excuses. Ever. I expected Jeff (and my other manager) to account for the money every day. When I came to the store, they were using a communal till. No one was responsible for the money. I changed that by requiring new drawers every time a new employee was put on the register. I discouraged my managers from running the register, telling them that if they did and there was a problem with the money, I would hold them accountable for the missing money.

Every day, the opening manager was required to count the two cash drawers and the safe. There was an exact amount of money in the safe. The total amount had to be exact — no exceptions. And if it wasn’t, the opening manager was expected to figure out why. No excuses. I expected the money to be correct, right down to the penny. This process was repeated at night. At the end of the night, I expected the manager to count the drawers, balance the safe, and make the deposit. The money had to balance, each and every time. If it didn’t, I expected my managers to stay there until it did, and if they couldn’t figure it out, I expected them to call me.

I was having a problem with drawers coming up short on the night shift (when I wasn’t there). One drawer came up $50 short twice in a week. I determined that the cashier was stealing the money. I fired her. The next weekend, I was off work. Jeff was in charge. I came in on Monday morning to find a note taped on the safe that said, “Sorry, Bruce. The money is not right, and I couldn’t figure it out.” The safe was short $70. I recounted the safe and drawers several times. I removed the drawer mechanism from the register to make sure the money wasn’t there (unlikely since this amount required multiple bills). I went to the bank and made sure the previous night’s deposit amount was correct. It was. So, I was left with two possible explanations: either a customer was given too much change (unlikely since there were no $100 bills in the safe/deposit) or someone stole the money. I believed it was the latter, but I had no way of proving it.

When Jeff showed up for work, I took him aside and gave him the ass-chewing of his life. He knew it was his responsibility to make sure the money was right. He knew that he was required to call me if he couldn’t figure out what happened. Worse, when I asked him who was on the register over the weekend, he told me: numerous people. According to Jeff, he was so busy that he just didn’t have time to count the drawers and switch them. In other words, he ran a communal drawer all weekend. The thief could have been anyone — including him. Jeff is fortunate I didn’t fire him on the spot.

I had policies and procedures in place for a reason. I expected the people who worked for me to follow them.

Fast forward to today. The Bruce from yesteryear still lives in my mind. I still have an exacting work ethic. I still make to-do lists. The difference now, of course, is that I can no longer mentally or physically work the list. Oh, I want to (just ask Polly, my children, or my counselor), but I can’t. I need to, but I can’t. The drive is still there, but there’s no gas in the tank. Gastroparesis, fibromyalgia, and degenerative spine disease have robbed me of the ability to do the things I used to do. My life is now measured by the things I have had to give up. Last year, I sold all my professional camera equipment. No longer able to hold a camera due to its weight, I had to give up on photography. Two years prior, I sold all my woodworking equipment, fearing that I would hurt or kill myself if I didn’t. I haven’t driven an automobile since March 2020. I sold my car, knowing that I will never physically be able to drive again. Two years ago, I was excited to rekindle my love affair with O-gauge Lionel trains. I spent months buying engines, cars, and equipment on eBay. Two of my sons helped me build my layout table. Polly painted it for me — a dirt tone. And then, the proverbial train ran out of fuel. A year later, the trains, buildings, and equipment gather dust. I wonder if I might as well give up on this too, and sell the things I have collected. Simply, I am not sure I can (mentally) do this and still want to get up in the morning. So, it sits.

I have kept our financial records our entire married life — forty-four years. Polly never had any interest in doing so. Our checkbook always balanced to the penny. I used programs such as Quicken or Microsoft Money to track income and spending. Always the list maker, I used categories to track everything from the money we spent for utilities to the money we spent buying candles (a lot 🙂 ) We have never been very good with money, but we knew exactly what we were spending money on. Come the first of the year, I would tell Polly, “do you know we spent X dollars on ___________?” We would both laugh/cry/groan, and then promise to do better in the new year.

Three years ago, I started having an increasing problem keeping up with our finances. Receipts would sit on the desk for months. The “checkbook” no longer balanced. I started missing payment due dates. So, I gave up. After talking with my oldest son about this, I was able to develop a system that worked for me in my present dilapidated condition.

I know that tomorrow will not be better than today. I have resigned myself to the fact, that I will be forced to give in until there is no more to give. That’s the nature of my afflictions. They rob me of my life, one inch at a time, launching at me and mocking me as they do. I try to focus my energy on Polly, our children and grandchildren, and writing. If I’m lucky, I will get to spend time sitting in the yard, taking a short road trip, attending one of my grandchildren’s games/performances (though I can rarely do so since I require someone to drive me to these events), going to the grocery store, or eating out with the love of my life.

Last night, Polly and I went out to eat at Sweetwater Chophouse in Defiance. Bethany stayed home and watched the new Elvis movie on HBO Max. After we were done eating, Polly asked if I wanted her to take the long way home. The answer is always “yes.” I never want to go home. So we drove west from Defiance to Sherwood (where we stopped at the Apache Dairy Bar and I had a chocolate malt) and then turned north and east to our home in Ney. When we arrived in Ney, I told Polly that I want to tour the town (population 356, about 100 houses). She asked, “which way?” I replied, “I want to go down all the streets.” “All of them?” Polly asked. I replied, “all.” And so we did, gossiping about our neighbors along the way. We noticed a block from our home six or so feral cats, six to eight months old. We love cats and have fed feral animals for decades, but we despise humans who show no regard for them and leave them to their own devices.

I returned home in time to watch Sunday Night Football. As I tiredly sat in my recliner, I opened up my iPad Pro to check for new blog comments, emails, and social media messages. There were — a couple of emails from people upset that I didn’t respond to their email when they thought I should. Of course, I will, when I can, politely respond to them, apologizing for my delinquent behavior. I want to ask them, “do you know how sick I am?” In recent days, I have thought about doing away with my comment form, but even if I did, people would still find ways to contact me. Last week, a man in his 70s from Chicago somehow found my phone number and called me — at 8:30 am. I had been asleep for two hours. His call disrupted my sleep for the rest of the day. Yes, he needed someone to talk to. Yes, he had questions about religion and atheism. But, damn, it has taken me several hours and a plethora of medications to fall asleep, and you woke me up!

Deeply engrained in my mind is the need to work the to-do list. The list is still there; it will always be there. The difference now, of course, is that I can no longer work the list like I used to. The list gets longer and longer and longer. On “good” days I will knock a few things off the list, but on most days, the list continues to grow. Three weeks ago, I bought a kit at Menard’s to repair our toilet. There it sits on the kitchen shelf, unused. Everywhere I look I see jobs half-done, projects incomplete. Whether it is my home or this blog, things left undone have become tyrants who love to mock my fragility and inability. On “good” days, I ignore their voices, telling them to fuck off. On “bad” days, I find their mockery and taunts to be overwhelming, constant reminders that I am a frail, dying man.

I am at a place where I have more decisions I must make. I am facing increasing physical problems. The memory problems that were just a niggling problem for years are now getting in the way of me doing what I want and need to do. (This is not dementia or Alzheimer’s. It is more likely driven by the cumulative effect of chronic illness and pain.) I will have days when I feel like the man on The Waterboy: “you can do it.” Such days are flights of fancy, much like an auto engine that runs its best just before it blows up. Reality says that I must use a cane, walker, or wheelchair everywhere I go. I am not stable on my feet. Prone to falls, I must plot out every step when in public. I know a bad fall could be the end for me. I am losing strength in my hands. A new problem, nerve-related, causes my left thumb (I’m left-handed) to fold under my fingers, numb and unmoveable for several minutes. This is likely caused by the herniated discs in my neck. I continue to have problems with my eyes. I have done from near-sighted to far-sighted. I have given up wearing glasses.

These days, even the basics of life are challenging. Nausea and vomiting have turned eating into a chore instead of a joy. I try, but I have found nausea to be an enemy I cannot defeat. Medicine helps, but I can only take so much Zofran. The rest of the time, I endure nausea. It’s really not fun when drinking ice tea makes you nauseous

I don’t write these things to whine or solicit sympathy (fuck you, Derrick Thomas Thiessen). Writing about my life is a distraction, a medication that lessens my suffering. And maybe, just maybe, my writing might resonate with a few of you, a reminder that you are not alone. I will continue to do what I can for as long as a can, but I know there will likely come a day when I must further trim my to-do list, reducing it to one line: breathe.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Living with Gastroparesis

gastroparesis

Two years ago, I had my diseased, inflamed gallbladder removed. I had put off surgery for years, but my primary care doctor insisted I have it removed, fearing it could rupture at any moment. After my gallbladder was removed, the surgeon told me that my gallbladder was so large that he had to enlarge the incision to get it out. Not long after, I started having serious stomach and bowel problems. After spending several days in the hospital — a nightmare experience — Dr. Matt Cooley, a local gastroenterologist, determined I had gastroparesis. I had several endoscopies and colonoscopies to make sure that some other problem was causing my symptoms. These tests confirmed Dr. Cooley’s diagnosis.

Since then, I have lost 110 pounds, dropping ten inches in my waist and three shirt sizes. My weight loss has leveled off thanks to me (and my drill sergeant wife) forcing myself to eat. I rarely have to drink Ensure these days. I am nauseous every day, without exception. I wake up with nausea and endure it throughout the day and evening hours. As you might imagine, it is hard to eat when you are nauseous. At times, I have bouts of vomiting. Thanks to taking Zofran, a drug that is often given to chemotherapy patients, I have been able to largely control the vomiting. Yet, there are days when Zofran doesn’t work and I end up vomiting. I retch when I vomit. This causes all sorts of other problems thanks to the herniated discs in my back and neck. Not a fun experience.

Since being diagnosed with gastroparesis, I have had to deal with several physiological changes. I am now anemic. Two years of B-12, iron, and vitamin C supplementation have helped, but blood tests show I am still anemic. The biggest change was to my vision. I got my first pair of glasses fifty years ago. I was decidedly nearsighted, with dramatically different vision in each eye. Over the past eighteen months, I have been dealing with blurred vision and aching eyes. I first saw my optometrist. After numerous eye exams, it became clear to me that she was incompetent. I then saw an ophthalmologist. He quickly determined that my body was having a hard time adjusting my glucose levels due to me being diabetic. This was affecting my vision. This doctor determined that I am now farsighted. I have, for the most part, stopped wearing glasses. I have an appointment with a new ophthalmologist later this month. I am hoping my eyes have settled down enough that I can get a stable prescription for glasses.

Outside of the non-stop nausea, the biggest problems I have are bowel related. I take fiber supplements and oral fiber medications twice a day, yet I have bouts of horrific constipation. My general rule is that if I haven’t had a bowel movement in 48 hours, I give myself an enema to get things moving. I will also have bouts of loose stools, including diarrhea. There’s no rhyme or reason for my bowel problems. I closely monitor what foods I eat and how they affect my bowels, but I have yet to find any food or foods that make a difference. Typically, my bowels are sluggish, with food often taking 3-7 days to traverse my intestinal tract. I track the speed of elimination by eating certain foods that I know will show up in my stools.

One positive effect of having gastroparesis and losing 110 pounds is that my blood glucose levels have dropped thirty percent to around 5.5. A side effect of this is that I have an increasing problem with low blood sugar levels. I have had several instances where my levels dropped to fifty, near diabetic coma range.

On occasion, I am asked what “caused” my gastroparesis. Did having my gallbladder removed play a part? My gastroenterologist believes that my gastroparesis is diabetes related. Determining the “cause” doesn’t matter that much to me. The treatment is the same, regardless of the cause.

I had a procedure done early on where the doctor using an endoscope (under anesthesia) injected the muscle at the bottom of the stomach with botulism, hoping that this would paralyze and relax the muscle. The procedure did not work. There are other procedures that are experimental in nature that can be tried, but after reading the literature on these procedures and their risks/complications, I decided against having them. I have reached the “live with it” phase of my battle with gastroparesis. I know there might come a time that I might have to have a feeding tube put in (if I choose to do so), but so far I have been able to manage my symptoms with medications, diet, and cognitive behavior therapy. There’s no cure for gastroparesis, so the only thing I can do is figure out how to live with the disease.

Recently, a friend of mine asked me for tips on how to deal with gastroparesis. His wife was recently diagnosed with the disease. What follows are my suggestions. This should not be construed as medical advice, though, quite frankly I know more about the disease than some of the doctors I have interacted with since my diagnosis. Gastroparesis is a rare disease. Many doctors are not educated on the disease, which I can easily spot when I have a consult with them. Nothing worse than a medical professional trying to bluff their way through an appointment.

What is gastroparesis?

According to the NIH:

Gastroparesis, also called delayed gastric emptying, is a disorder that slows or stops the movement of food from your stomach to your small intestine. Normally, after you swallow food, the muscles in the wall of your stomach grind the food into smaller pieces and push them into your small intestine to continue digestion. When you have gastroparesis, your stomach muscles work poorly or not at all, and your stomach takes too long to empty its contents. Gastroparesis can delay digestion, which can lead to various symptoms and complications.

How common is gastroparesis? According to NIH, gastroparesis is not common. Out of 100,000 people, about 10 men and about 40 women have gastroparesis.

It is essential to have competent medical care. Don’t be afraid to seek out a new doctor, one that has a working knowledge of gastroparesis. Doctors cannot be all things to all people, and their knowledge in one area doesn’t mean they are knowledgeable in another. At a bare minimum, you need to have a gastroenterologist on your medical team. Over time, you might find that your primary care doctor can handle your ongoing care and prescription refills. Don’t be afraid to change doctors, if necessary. Your care comes first.

There are various medications that are used in the treatment of gastroparesis. I tried several medications before landing on a regimen that works for me. Your mileage may vary. Untreated nausea will wreck your life, so don’t be afraid to ask for drugs such as Zofran, Phenergan, or Reglan. I have taken all three. Zofran works the best for me. You will likely have to use these drugs for the rest of your life.

Food. Before being diagnosed with gastroparesis, I rarely thought about the food I ate. Having gastroparesis forces me to think about food all the time. How will eating ________ affect me? I am nauseous every waking hour, so my goal is to make sure that I am getting sufficient nutrition. On days when I simply cannot bear to eat, I try to drink two Ensure drinks per day. This is not a long-term answer. Two shakes = 700 calories. This will help short-term, but the typical person needs about 1,200-1,600 calories per day. You might need to take supplements, but don’t do so without having your blood levels checked. Taking too much of a vitamin or mineral can cause you problems. Have your doctor do baseline tests to determine your blood levels. Once you have these numbers in hand, your doctor can then prescribe the proper supplements. I take B-12, iron, vitamin C (to increase Iron absorption), and potassium. I have my blood levels checked several times a year to make sure the supplements are doing their job.

Only eat what you can. You might have to push yourself on some days to eat, but don’t feel guilty if you can’t eat all of the scrumptious meal your spouse made especially for you. There are days when I can only eat 25-50 percent of the food Polly puts on my plate. There are days when I will take one or two bites and I am done. I encourage Polly not to take this personally. This is truly one of those “honey, it is me, not you.” I used to feel guilty over this, but my counselor has helped me to understand that this is not my fault. It still upsets me when we go out to a nice restaurant on a date, only for me to leave most of the food on my plate. Ugh, but there’s nothing I can do about it. The psychological price of not going out with Polly is much higher than the cost of food not eaten. Change what you can, and live with the rest. It’s not your fault.

Do whatever you need to do to maintain regular bowel habits. This, by far, is the most frustrating and challenging problem for me. If you are having problems with constipation, take fiber supplements. Don’t be afraid to up the dose until you have a normal “shit.” You might have to take fiber supplements for the rest of your life. I use psyllium husk powder twice a day. I hate drinking this stuff. Sometimes I gag, but I know if I don’t drink it, I will be constipated for sure. I also take a stool softener and laxative twice a day. All these things taken together give me tolerable bowel movements — most of the time. And when they don’t cause a bowel movement, I use enemas, either pre-filled Fleet bottles or a bulb syringe. During times of diarrhea, I stop taking fiber supplementation. Over time, you will learn how you read your body. You will become an expert in “shitting.”

Having gastroparesis will wear on you psychologically. It’s a disease you can’t get away from. It’s an ever-present reality in your life. It is not uncommon for gastroparesis sufferers to battle depression. It’s important that you seek out a competent secular counselor who has experience in helping people with serious health problems. I see a psychologist weekly. She is literally a lifesaver. Her first question every week is “how are you feeling?” She doesn’t let me get by with saying “I’m fine,” “super-dooper,” or “present and accounted for” — my typical responses. She presses me for all the gory details of my past week.

While there are gastroparesis groups on the Internet you might find helpful, be careful. As with all such groups, you will find a lot of woo and bad advice. I found this to be true with both gastroparesis and fibromyalgia groups. People mean well, but consider the source. Educate yourself about gastroparesis. Check out well-regarded medical sites. Read the scientific studies. Your goal is to know everything your doctor knows, and then some. Ask questions. Talk to fellow sufferers. None of this will “cure” you, but knowledge is power.

If I can ever be of help, please let me know. I am not a doctor, but I do know “stuff.” And as someone who has an intimate relationship with gastroparesis, I understand what you are going through. I want to help you in any way I can.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Humor: How You Know You Have Gastroparesis — Part Two

gastroparesis

Humor: How You Know You Have Gastroparesis — Part One

Warning! This post talks about bodily functions, especially vomiting and shitting.

Two years ago, I was diagnosed with an incurable, debilitating stomach disease called gastroparesis. As a result, I have lost 110 pounds. Constant nausea, lack of appetite, fits of vomiting, erratic glucose levels (mine dropped by 30 percent, changing my vision from nearsighted to farsighted), and chronic bowel problems are a few of the common symptoms. (Many gastroparesis sufferers end up on feeding tubes.) Bowel movements are often life’s greatest adventures. Will today be the day I shit? Gawd, that was the mother of all turds. Diarrhea? Really? I was constipated yesterday. Bowel movements every day for a week, and then no bowel movements for days. Gastroparesis, also called stomach paralysis, slows the movement of food from your stomach through your intestinal tract. Sometimes, food takes 4-7 days to make it through my system. My problems are further complicated by the fact that I also had my gall bladder removed several years ago.

I am nauseated all the time. There’s not a day when I am not nauseated. The nausea is such that there are days when I don’t want to eat. Polly is a superb cook. She will whip up awesome meals, only to have me say “I can’t eat” or after eating a bite or two I say, “I’m done. I can’t eat anymore of this.” Typically, I apologize to Polly for my lack of appetite, for making her “feel” like she’s to blame for my lack of appetite. I remind her, “it’s me, not you.” We will go out to eat at an upscale restaurant, only to have me not be able to eat my meal. Or worse yet, I will eat a $20 to $50 meal only to rush to restroom and throw up. There’s nothing worse than throwing up in a “pristine” public restroom. I mean nothing . . .

Late last night, I became increasingly nauseated. I’ve become good at judging my nausea, whether I can just tough it out or whether I will end up face down in the toilet. As my nausea became increasingly “challenging,” I took 4 mg of Zofran — a drug given to chemotherapy patients to combat nausea. Zofran is a quick-acting sublingual drug. Typically, Zofran lessens my nausea in 5-10 minutes. Not this time. I decided to take 4 mg more of Zofran. “Surely, this will tamp down my ‘nausea’ to tolerable levels,” I thought to myself. Unfortunately, my nausea only got worse. Soon, I knew it was time to head to the bathroom.

As I haltingly shuffled to the bathroom, I put my left hand over my mouth, hoping to quell the gag reflex that was telling me to vomit right then and there. I made it to the bathroom without incident, knelt down, and violently vomited. And I mean “violently.” After ten or so minutes, I got up off the floor, washed out my mouth, and washed my face. I also had to wash my beard since it’s long enough that it drops into the toilet water when I am vomiting. Gastroparesis, a gift that keeps on giving.

I shuffled back to the living room, plopped down in the recliner, and started watching the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Conference Tournament again. (Ohio State lost. Damn you, God.) I had Bethany get me a glass of room temperature water, hoping to remove the taste of regurgitated food, stomach acid, and bile from my mouth and ward off the dehydration that was sure to come.

Typically, once I have vomited I do not vomit again. Unfortunately, on this Mother of Gastroparesis Day, I repeated my first bout of vomiting. Afterward, I checked my blood pressure. It was 180/100 and my pulse rate was a racing 120. People can and do have heart attacks or die from violent bouts of vomiting. I took 100 mg of Hydralazine to drive down my blood pressure. Worse, the muscles in my abdomen, chest, and back were screaming. The muscles in my abdomen were so stressed and inflamed they were protruding. I saw and felt numerous knots in my abdomen, the direct result of the toll the two bouts of vomiting took on my body. Today I feel as if Polly beat me with a baseball bat.

What I have shared above alone would be a top-of-the-charts day. This night, however, was only getting started. Earlier in the day, I had a bowel moment. Somewhat normal, not too much work. Yea! A couple of hours later, I had another bowel movement, and a while later yet another one. These shits were looser, but still within the normal range. (People with gastroparesis spend a lot of time thinking about eating and shitting.) In the early morning hours, things changed. I had two successive bowel movements that were watery, smelly, and oily. Not a good sign. Thinking things were somewhat under control, we headed for bed. It was 4:00 am. Polly had come home two hours early from work to care for me. I was weak and unstable. I rarely ask her to come home, but I needed her help.

Polly quickly fell asleep. Damn, I am so jealous. I would not fall asleep until 10:00 am, six hours later. Thanks to the herniated discs in my upper back, I have to lie on my right side, with my head propped up with four pillows. Typically, I put my iPad Pro on the nightstand on my side of the bed — 12 inches away. I put on my MPow Bluetooth headphones, turned on the Apple+ app, and started watching The Mosquito Coast series (which is nothing like the 1980s movie with the same name — one of my favorite movies). Two episodes in, I felt a sudden urge to use the bathroom. I stood up, and as I did, my bowels exploded. I shit all over the bed and floor. As I made my way to the bathroom — twenty feet away — I plopped shit on the carpet and on the bathroom floor. My backside and legs were covered with smelly oily shit. I sat down, said WHAT THE FUCK, and emptied my bowel. Or so I thought I was emptying my bowel, anyway. Once I was done, I reversed my steps, cleaning up the mess I made. Thirty minutes later, this happened all over again. Then, at 8:00 am, I would have the mother of all bowel explosions.

After my second mess and clean-up, I brought two bath towels to bed and put them on my side of the bed. Back to The Mosquito Coast. Around 8:00 am, I felt an overwhelming urge to shit. I mean right now, do not pass go, do not collect $200. I stood up and then it happened. I said NOOOOOO!, grabbed one of the bath towels and put it up to my ass, trying to stop the mess that was coming. I ended up with shit on the bed, floor, wall, curtain, nightstand, and iPad charging cable. along with shit on the dining room carpet, bathroom floor, and toilet. I later washed up my backside.

I finally fell asleep around 10:00 am, waking up at 4:00 pm. Polly came into the room and said she needed to strip the bed so everything could be washed, including our electric blanket. I am washing our bedding now. The oily shit permanently stained our padded bed cover. It now smells clean, but it sure looks like shit — literally. 🙂

I asked Polly to take a look at my backside to make sure I was shit-free. She started laughing. River Shit had cut a course down the back of my right leg. In between my toes and on the bottom on my feet were covered with shit too. Polly said, “Buddy boy, you need a bath.” I replied, “ya think?” We both laughed, and off to the bathroom I went to take a steamy hot, bubble-filled bath.

My life is back to “normal” today. Outside of a stained bed cover and lots of abdominal muscle pain, all is well. Or as I tell my counselor when she asks how I am doing, “I’m fine, wonderful, awesome, super, present and accounted for.” 🙂

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Why I Write About My Health

garfield pain

Occasionally, I write about my health problems and the struggles I have in my day-to-day life. Doing so, of course, will attract people who perversely revel in my pain and suffering or love telling me that my health problems are God’s judgment on my life, a precursor to the pain and suffering I will experience in the Lake of Fire after I die. Some commenters such as Tom/James/John/Joe go into graphic detail describing what God will one day do to the atheist named Bruce Gerencser. Yet, these same miscreants want me to join their Jesus Club and worship their God on Sundays. Even if God is real, and he’s not, I would never, ever worship such a deity. Such a God is a psychopath, as are some of his followers.

Most readers of this blog don’t have a problem with me writing about my health. I recognize that this site is not a blog about gastroparesis, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, or hemorrhoids. People read my writing because they are interested in what I have to say about religion and politics, especially Evangelicalism and the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church movement. For the record, I have mentioned fibromyalgia thirty-three times, gastroparesis eleven times, and osteoarthritis twenty-one times in my writing. My health problems are an insignificant part of my writing, yet according to one Evangelical preacher I won’t mention by name, mentioning these things more than once is unnecessary (and evidently irritates his hemorrhoids). Of course, I could say the same thing about his writing. He’s mentioned God/Jesus thousands of times in his writing. Surely, mentioning the Big Kahuna and his sidekick Jesus once is enough. 🙂 Right?

There are several reasons I write about my health problems.

First, many readers want to know how I am doing.

Second, I am homebound. Due to declining motor functions and vision problems, I stopped driving in March 2020. I must now rely on Polly to chauffer me where I want to go. She works full-time, so there’s not a lot of time for me to be out and about. We go to the grocery and out to eat, but the rest of the time I am homebound. We do take short road trips occasionally, and when it gets warmer, I will wander out into our yard to do a bit of yard work, but most of my days are spent within the four walls of our two-story home.

Writing about my health problems and life in general allows me to connect with people outside of my claustrophobic world. The Internet allows me to maintain human connections with family, friends, and acquaintances, relationships that would have been impossible in a pre-Internet world.

Third, I want to be an advocate for people who suffer from the same diseases I do. I want them to know that I understand. Until you have actually had, say gastroparesis or Fibromyalgia, you can’t understand how these diseases affect humans. Much like reading the experiences of former Evangelicals, reading the stories of chronic pain and chronic illness sufferers resonates with people who are walking a similar path. When Polly, who has ulcerative colitis, had to have part of her colon and bladder removed three years ago and had a colostomy for eighteen months, she found it helpful to hear from readers of this blog who have had similar experiences. When Polly was diagnosed with A-fib, she appreciated talking to people who had A-fib too. There’s something comforting about knowing that you are not alone; that if others can make it to tomorrow, so can you. Don’t underestimate the power of a kind, thoughtful blog post, email, comment, or social media message. When you are suffering, sometimes, it’s the little things that often mean the most. Money helps too. 🙂

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Eating “Right”

food police

Recently, I wrote a post titled Humor: How You Know You Have Gastroparesis. Any time I write about my health problems, someone will either leave a comment or send me an email about what I need to do “fix” what ails me. I have repeatedly asked people not to do this, but much like Evangelical zealots they are determined to evangelize for the gospel of “eating natural,” homeopathy, keto, vegetarianism, veganism, supplements, or countless other “diets.” I’ve even written posts about not offering me unsolicited medical advice:

Bruce, Have You Tried . . .?

Please Do Not Offer or Send Me Unsolicited Medical Advice

Have You Tried (blank)?

The Similarities Between Food Fundamentalists and IFB Zealots

Leave it to Fake Dr. David Tee to ignore all that I have written on this subject and offer me “advice” anyway:

I am just curious. You do know that antibiotics wipes out both good and bacteria in your digestive system. Have you thought of going to the following foods and spices to help restore some balance- pepper (good for inflammation), cinnamon (not a lot), Greek style yogurt, pure honey, relish, dark chocolate and similar foods. These items work on restoring the good bacteria your stomach needs as well as help with bloating and inflammation.

If you have don’t bite my head off and if you haven’\t talk to your doctor about more natural remedies

Sigh

There are several assumptions that people make about my health problems.

First, I am to blame for my health problems. While lifestyle and environmental factors certainly play a part in diabetes and high blood pressure, how am I in any way to blame for gastroparesis, fibromyalgia, and osteoarthritis? How am I to blame for the herniated discs in my upper back and neck? How am I to blame for the plethora of problems I have with my spine? Or the Morton neuromas in my feet? What could I have done differently that would have resulted in a better outcome?

For the record, my diabetes and high blood pressure are managed with diet and medication. Last A1c? 5.4. And my cholesterol? Normal, across the board.

Second, because I am overweight, I must have a “bad” diet or eat the wrong things.

Third, my reliance on evidence-based, science-based medicine keeps me sick.

If I would just eat better and eschew Western medicine, my health would improve overnight; my stomach would magically “cure” itself; the arthritis and degenerative disease in my spine, feet, and hands would magically disappear; my fibromyalgia would magically recede into the background of my life, never to be heard from again.

If only life were that simple, right?

Fake Dr. Tee assumes that there’s something wrong with my diet; that if I would eat the right things I would be magically cured. He provides no empirical evidence for his claims, no double-blind studies that show the efficacy of his magical foods. Just personal opinion.

Here’s the thing, my diet is just fine. In fact, it’s more than just fine.

Currently, on our kitchen counter and in the refrigerator you will find:

Veggies: carrots, asparagus, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, lettuce, beets, red potatoes, yellow potatoes, russet potatoes, sweet onions, red onions, green onions, green peppers, mushrooms, celery

Fruit: apples, bananas, lemons, oranges, tomatoes

Damn, Bruce, you and Polly must like eating veggies and fruit. Yep, and we have eaten this way since the late 1990s — twenty-two years. So much for “food” being the problem.

I even take a few supplements, even though science clearly shows that taking supplements is largely a colossal waste of time and money. The only time we need to take supplements is when we have deficiencies.

I take:

  • Potassium for low potassium levels, likley due to the blood pressure medicines I take.
  • B12 for low B12 levels; the cause is unknown. I have had low B12 levels for 20+ years
  • Iron for anemia, caused by gastroparesis. This remains an ongoing concern as the supplements have not appreciably raised my red blood cell counts.
  • Vitamin C, taken to help with the absorption of Iron

Fake Dr. Tee also mentions spices. I will let the following photos from Polly’s kitchen tell you everything you need to know:

pollys spices (1)
pollys spices (2)
pollys spices (3)

Time for dinner! Tonight, I am eating Oreos, mint chocolate chip ice cream, and a Snickers, washed down with A&W Root Beer and a double shot of Jameson. I’ll sprinkle some cayenne pepper on the ice cream so the food police will be happy. 🙂

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Bruce Gerencser