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Tag: Gastroparesis

Bruce’s Hot Takes for January 19, 2024

hot takes

The Biden Administration says the United States is not at war with the Houthis. We are bombing the hell out of them, but that’s not “war.” Sure . . .

G-Poem is not a surgical procedure, even though it is invasive, done under general anesthesia, and takes 2 hours to perform. G-Poem, which I hope to have done soon if my insurance pays for it, is considered by doctors to be a “procedure” or “intervention.” I learn something new every day.

Electric vehicles are not ready for prime time — especially in rural areas. Terrible actual battery life (especially in cold weather), high repair costs, lack of parts, and sparsity of charging stations that work make owning an EV a no-go for most rural people.

PayPal donations in 2023 dropped significantly, while Patreon supporters stayed steady. I know I don’t push asking for donations, but I wonder if I should be more aggressive in this regard.

Creon, a pancreatic enzyme replacement made from pig pancreases, is used for the treatment of exocrine pancreatic insufficiency — a rare disease. I take nine capsules a day — three with full meals, two with smaller meals. Cost? Almost $3,000 a month. Fortunately, the drug company is paying most of the cost. How long this will last remains to be seen.

Gastroparesis, another rare disease, affects stomach/bowel motility. Food doesn’t transverse the bowel as it should. I’ve had food take 4 days to make it through my digestive system. Food will stay in my stomach for hours before emptying, leading to nausea, vomiting, pain, and a plethora of bowel problems. Gastroparesis is incurable, with few treatments available. Drugs, Botox injections, G-Poem, feeding tubes, and nerve stimulators are the only treatments available for gastroparesis.

I received some free light bulbs, night lights, and a power strip from First Energy (Toledo Edison). I wonder how much “free” is going to cost me on my electric bill.

Income tax time. Kill me now.

Winter is taking its toll on wildlife. Last night, we had three deer in our yard scrounging for food. This afternoon we had thirteen cardinals at our feeders — beautiful red birds against a white snowy landscape.

New year, new insurance company: Aetna Blue Cross, Blue Shield. My therapist is not in network. 🤬 We need universal, single-payer health insurance for all. This will not happen in my lifetime.

Bonus: New network programming is back. I’m already bored. We are rewatching Treme on Max. Now there’s an awesome show.

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.

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Bruce’s Hot Takes for January 17, 2024

hot takes

Dear Republicans, learn the difference between free speech and free market. Twitter owner Elon Musk told some advertisers to go fuck themselves. That’s free speech. After hearing Musk loud and clear, scores of companies stopped advertising on Twitter. That’s the free market.

The late Henry Kissinger was a war criminal.

We the American people are culpable for the war crimes being perpetrated in Palestine. Our weapons, our money, our blind and deaf politicians. We can excuse and justify our behavior, but the world at large sees the United States as the money and power behind the Netanyahu government’s murderous war against the Palestinian people.

Dad’s Place, a small Evangelical church in Bryan, Ohio, pastored by Chris Avell, is in the midst of a legal fight with the City over feeding and caring for homeless people. The City filed CRIMINAL charges against Avell for violating zoning laws. The church is right next to the homeless shelter, caring for the overflow crowds the shelter cannot care for. Yes, the church is technically breaking the law, as is EVERY business and church in town. Why was Dad’s Place singled out by Bryan law enforcement? Avell is a friend of mine. I recently told him I have no use for his theology, but I appreciate his concern and care for the “least of these.” Avell has a top-flight church and state law firm representing him. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

I will be on the primary ballot this spring. I’m running unopposed for Ney’s Democratic central committee seat. This will allow me to play an active part in the reorganization of the local party. The local Democratic Party is on life support. I hope new life can be breathed into the group.

In 1998, Evangelical preachers railed against President Bill Clinton over his inappropriate sexual behavior with an intern. I remember preaching a whole sermon about Clinton’s debauched behavior. Today, most Evangelical preachers have lost all sense of morals and ethics, resolutely supporting Donald Trump, even calling him a Christian. As long as you support Trump, Evangelicals, spare me your moralizing. You are hypocrites, the lot of you.

It was shameful for the New York Times to run an article questioning Taylor Swift’s sexuality. Who she loves or fucks is NOT news.

According to many Evangelicals, God created Donald Trump for such a time as this. Gag me with a spoon.

I saw a specialist at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor yesterday. I am hoping to have a G-Poem (gastric peroral endoscopic myotomy) procedure done soon. This procedure is relatively new and only one regional surgeon is qualified to perform it. G-Poem cuts the sphincter muscle in the stomach, relaxing it. Hopefully, this will improve my stomach/bowel motility, and reduce my nausea and vomiting. Unfortunately, many insurance companies consider this an experimental procedure and refuse to pay. My surgeon will seek pre-approval, hoping Aetna Blue Cross Blue Shield approves the procedure. We shall see . . .

Granddaughters #2 and #3 graduate from high school this spring. Victoria was accepted for enrollment at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and Karah was accepted at Richmond University in Richmond, Virginia. Forty-eight years ago, I was the first person in our family to go to college. Since then, Polly, and three of my sons, and my youngest daughter have graduated from accredited colleges. Our granddaughters are straight-A students. It does an old man’s heart good to see them do well in life.

Bonus: The Cincinnati Reds have signed a number of new players — especially pitchers. Hope springs eternal. Catchers and pitchers report to training camp in a month. Will this be the year the Reds make some noise in the playoffs? Fingers crossed, prayers uttered to Loki. May a dying old man’s wish be granted.

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.

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My View of Modern Medicine, Doctors, and Alternative Treatments

homeopathy

I have a lot of health problems: fibromyalgia, gastroparesis, and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) — all of which are incurable. I am also diabetic and have high blood pressure, both of which are controlled by drugs. Further, I have degenerative spine disease:

  • 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 have widespread osteoarthritis and a torn labrum in my right shoulder. There’s never a moment when I am not in pain. Sometimes, my pain is unbearable. Every day is a challenge. Do some people have it worse than me? Of course, they do. But all pain and suffering are personal, so it doesn’t matter if some people have it worse than I do. My body, my pain, my suffering, and so it is for all of us. I wish I could adequately convey to readers how it really is for me, but words seem to not suffice. Even my partner and family sometimes miss how bad things are. Sadly, those who love us the most often get used to us being sick or in pain. They no longer see us as we are. I can’t tell you the last time a family member said to me, “How are you doing?” or “How are you feeling?” I often feel as if I have become part of the furniture. People “see” me but they don’t really “see” me. I am little more than the rocking chair that has always sat in the corner of the living room — ever present, but rarely, if ever, noticed unless someone wants to sit in it. Chronic pain sufferers and people with debilitating illnesses can reach a point where they give up and kill themselves. They feel as if they no longer have a reason for living. I have come to that place numerous times over the years, more so in recent months. I see a counselor every week, hoping to lessen my depression. Sometimes this is helpful, other times, not so much.

homeopathy 2

I have always been open about my health. This, of course, leads to all sorts of unsolicited medical advice, even when I ask people to NOT send me such advice. My openness turns some readers into medical experts, even though they have no expertise in medicine. Evidently, reading a few books and listening to a few podcasts is the equivalent of 10-14 years of post-high school education, and anecdotal stories are the same as double-blind studies. Typically, I ignore such people, knowing that medical ignorance abounds. On occasion, a few readers have pushed the issue, and that’s when I tell them to fuck off.

The scientific method is the best tool available for us to understand the natural world. Science isn’t perfect and can and does make mistakes, but I know of no other way to explain and understand our bodies. So, when readers tell me to do this or that and I will be healed, the first thing I want to see is the empirical evidence for the claim. When someone tells me that a particular supplement, food, diet, or alternative treatment will cure me, I want to see the evidence for this claim. When someone says veganism, reiki, homeopathy, iridology, essential oils, cupping, dry needling, acupuncture, chiropractic care, magnets, and a host of other alternative treatments will cure me, I want proof that these things work. Someone saying they do isn’t good enough for me (and shouldn’t be for you either).

I value expertise. Sadly, we live in a day when many people don’t. Valuing expertise is not the same as accepting what experts say without reservation. When one of my doctors suggests a new treatment or drug, I value their expertise. I have had the same primary care doctor for twenty-seven years. I trust him. But, he also knows that the first thing I am going to do after he suggests a new treatment or drug is do a Google search for relevant information. I am going to read the studies. I am going to visit patient forums. I am going to check out what online medical professionals say on the matter. Then, and only then, will I decide what to do. I have an appointment with a specialist at the University of Michigan later this month. I will likely have a relatively new surgical procedure that hopefully will lessen my suffering from gastroparesis and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. I am hoping this procedure will reduce my nausea and vomiting. I have done my homework on this procedure, so all that remains for me to do is determine whether the benefits outweigh the risks (and there are serious risks). Statistics, probabilities, and outcomes play a big part in my deciding whether to have a procedure done or take a new drug. I never do anything blindly or by faith.

homeopathy 3

Let me be clear, I trust my doctors, and when I don’t, I look for a new one. They are the experts, so I must, to a large degree, have faith in them. It is unlikely that I will ever know as much as they do on any given issue, so I am dependent on them getting it right. I don’t know what more any of us can do. The system isn’t perfect, but it is the best we have.

To those who are defenders of veganism, reiki, homeopathy, iridology, essential oils, cupping, dry needling, acupuncture, chiropractic care, magnets, and other alternative treatments, please don’t. Don’t what, Bruce? Turn this post into a pulpit for you to preach your religion. Much like my view of religion in general, I am not interested in your personal opinion. Ouch, Bruce. Sorry, but I don’t ask the counter worker at McDonald’s about the best treatment for EPI, and I am sure as Hell am not going to ask non-experts either. If you are a medical doctor with a relevant specialty or an expert in a relevant medical field, by all means, share with me what you know — not feel or think, but what you know. Opinions are what we share on Friday nights at the pub amongst friends. When I want are facts and evidence, I seek out experts, not my drinking buddies. Just because you can do a web search doesn’t make you an expert. You do know this, right?

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.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Why My Writing Production Has Drastically Fallen

blogging

Polly had an appointment with her orthopedic doctor today. Major surgery is in the future for her — when is yet to be determined. Afterward, we drove to Archbold to eat lunch. We planned to eat at Samuel Mancinos, but the restaurant is closed on Mondays. Instead, we ate at a Mexican restaurant. I ordered a #18 — a taco, burrito, and rice and beans. I took three bites of the taco and some of the beans and rice before my ever-present nausea turned into feeling like I needed to vomit. I took some Zofran to lessen the need to vomit, sparing me the indignity of throwing up in a public restroom. Our server came to collect our plates. When she saw most of my food went uneaten, she asked, “You didn’t like the food?” I explained why I couldn’t eat my food. She genuinely felt sorry for me, taking my meal off our bill.

This is my life with gastroparesis — an incurable stomach disease. Every day, every week, with no respite in sight. In two weeks, I will have an endoscopy and colonoscopy. After that, I plan to have a gastric peroral endoscopic myotomy. This will hopefully reduce my symptoms. It is NOT a cure.

I have had numerous tests in recent weeks. A stool sample revealed I have an uncommon disease called exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. My pancreas — for an unknown reason — doesn’t make enough digestive enzymes. As a result, my body can’t properly digest food and absorb nutrients. This may be why I am anemic and have low B12, potassium, Vitamin D, and testosterone. I will likely have to go through pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy with expensive drugs.

Throw in fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and degenerative spine disease, and I am in a world of hurt. My life is dominated by managing my health and lessening symptoms. My life has been reduced to striving to live another day. Joys that I once took for granted are gone. Eating is one of those joys, and not being able to enjoy food is so depressing I wonder why I keep trying.

As you may have noticed, my writing production has dropped dramatically. My life has pretty much come to a standstill. I am trying, but readers should no longer expect me to generate as much content. I cannot do so, and it seems evident, at least to me, that this is my new normal. Readers should expect less content from me, and if you notice my writing pace has picked up, don’t assume I am “better.” I am not, and I fear my best day is today, with more suffering and pain in my future.

I am 90 days behind on answering emails and social media messages. There’s nothing I can do about this. I will answer them when I can, and, quite frankly, some of them will go unanswered. I have had thoughts about hanging up my blogging spurs, but I enjoy writing, so I can’t bring myself to throw in the towel. All I know to do is manage my symptoms, rest, and do what I can.

Please don’t offer me medical advice. I am seeing competent doctors, to whom I trust my life. They are the experts, and unless given reason to believe otherwise, I trust them. I appreciate your friendship and support, but sending me links to articles and blog posts or questioning my diet, is not helpful. I appreciate your understanding.

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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.

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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’s Ten Hot Takes for October 25, 2023

hot takes

Newly elected House speaker Mike Johnson is a Christian nationalist (Southern Baptist), a right-wing Evangelical. He thinks Gilead is a wonderful place to live.

Mike Johnson’s election clearly shows that the MAGA wing of the Republican Party and its fascist leader Donald Trump are in control of the GOP.

Our democracy will not survive the re-election of disgraced felon Donald Trump. We are on the threshold of the collapse of the United States and its democratic institutions.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and his wife deliberately lie in their “Vote No on Issue 1” TV ad. Not a difference of opinion — lies, lies, lies.

Mike Johnson wants to criminalize abortion and arrest, prosecute, and imprison women who have one.

Israel continues to slaughter innocent Palestinians in Gaza. Joe Biden says nothing of substance as hundreds of Palestinian children are bombed and killed every day. It seems Biden is intent on letting Israel get their pound of flesh from largely innocent people.

Apple raised its monthly streaming fee by 43 percent to $10. Other streaming services are doing the same, forcing users to jump from one service to the other to manage costs. So much for streaming being “better” and cheaper.

I am no longer a Democrat. I may, on occasion, hold my nose and vote Democrat, but I no longer support the party.

American bombs, bullets, and armament are killing innocent people in Palestine. The West is outraged over Hamas’ use of Iranian weaponry, but silent over Israel’s use of American designed and manufactured weapons of mass destruction. All of us have blood on our hands.

Despair. That’s what I feel right now. I see little to cheer about these days.

Bonus: Gastroparesis is an incurable stomach disease. I plan to have a pyloroplasty procedure done in November. Last ditch effort to lessen the nausea and vomiting. It would be nice to have just one day when I didn’t have to worry about what I ate or running to the bathroom to vomit. Where’s God when I need him? 🤣 It is what it is, but I’m tired and worn out from daily battles with nausea, vomiting, bowel pain, and loss of appetite. Some days, in moments of despair, I find myself thinking, “I don’t want to do this anymore.”

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.

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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’s Ten Hot Takes for July 27, 2023

hot takes

Joe Biden knows more than he’s letting on about his son Hunter’s foreign business dealings.

If Joe Biden suddenly froze during a press conference, the right-wing media would scream about his fitness for office.

The left-wing media goes out of their way to minimize President Biden’s physical decline, much like Republicans did with Ronald Reagan 40 years ago.

Ozempic (semaglutide) is now causing gastroparesis (stomach paralysis) in some people. Welcome to my world. You will now lose weight without taking a drug. I call it the vomit, nausea, lack of appetite diet.

Most weight loss programs don’t work, yet Americans spend billions of dollars trying to be slimmer, trimmer people.

Ohio students now attend public school 182 days a year, yet baby boomers only needed 154 days a year to get a similar education. I suspect the reasons for this are nonessential classes and parental work schedules.

If Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow is hurt and can’t play, their season is over.

Ukraine (and NATO) is obfuscating and minimizing the carnage and death in its conflict with Russia.

Memo to MSNBC talking head Nicole Wallace: you need to rethink your use of the phrase “historic day of news” every day on your program. Someone associated with Donald Trump getting indicted is not “historic.” It’s just another say in the USA.

2,000 Americans under the age of 25 suffer cardiac arrest every year. This was happening long before COVID-19 vaccines.

Bonus: The only absolute right seems to be the freedom of religion.

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.

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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.

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.

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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-august-1975
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