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Tag: Health Update

Why Do I Need an Explanation for the Beginning of the Universe?

why

Science tells us how our universe came into being. This is a pretty well established scientific fact. What is unknown is what happened before the Big Bang. Scientists posit various theories to answer this question, but, so far, the safest answer is “we don’t know.” Into this unknown step Evangelical Christians holding their inspired, inerrant, and infallible Bibles high, saying GOD DID IT! These followers of Jesus provide no evidence for this claim outside of failed philosophical arguments and quotations from the Christian Bible.

Recently, an Evangelical writer (whom I don’t have a link for) stated that the most important issue facing all of us is finding a satisfactory explanation for the beginning of the universe. I thought, at the time, really? I mean, really? I don’t know about you, but I rarely, if ever, think about the beginning of the universe. It’s just not on my radar. In fact, I simply don’t care.

My mind is filled with thoughts of Polly, our children, and their families, and how I am going to live out the last days of my life. I worry about our finances and how we are going to live after Polly retires in 2023. My declining health is never far from my mind. Just today, I had another extensive blood test done. My doctor and I are in the weeds now, looking for an explanation for some troubling symptoms I have. I will have the results in a few days. If everything is “normal,” then what? It is evident that I am not “normal,” so what is causing these symptoms?

When I am feeling up to it, my thoughts turn to my writing, politics, and sports. When I can get out of the house — which is not often, typically once or twice a week — I ask Polly to take me for a drive. Anywhere, it matters not. After my blood draw this afternoon, Polly took me for a ride northeast out of Bryan to West Unity, south to Lockport, over to Stryker where our youngest daughter lives, through Evansport, and then home. Not one time did my mind turn to the beginning of the universe. I thought about the church I pastored in West Unity and the furniture store which is closing there, owned by a former church member. As we drove through Evansport, I thought about the feral cats that used to roam the streets in droves. They are all gone, now. What happened to them? Polly and I chattered back and forth about the weather and the corn that stood in fields, ready to be harvested. It’s deer season in Ohio. Deer are running for their lives, hoping to not end up in a hunter’s freezer. We came upon a herd of deer along a gravel road south of West Unity, not far from where our oldest children once worked picking eggs. We stopped and watched them for a bit. As we neared Ney, we talked about painted houses, new homes, and junk-filled properties. Just two old people talking about nothing, but talking about everything, a ritual played out countless times over the past forty-six years.

Polly pulled into our driveway, turning the car around so she will be able to pull out on the highway in front of our home and go to work an hour later. Polly and Bethany quickly went into the house. There was Polly’s weak bladder to address, and sirloin steak to fry, complete with steamed broccoli. I stayed behind, sitting in the car with the door partially opened, breathing in the crisp, cold winter air. I pondered my existence, wondering how many more winter days lie ahead for me. Not one thought entered my mind about the beginning of the universe or the end of my existence.

I choose to embrace the present. I have no time (or energy) to think about philosophical or existential questions. I am not criticizing people who do, but I am at a place in life where all that matters to me is the here and now, not finding a satisfactory explanation for the beginning of the universe.

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.

Blog News and Health Update

blogging

I apologize for the lack of content over the past week or so. Without going into a lengthy treatise on my health problems, let me say, I am sick — really, really sick. The trifecta of fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and gastroparesis are hammering me day and night — with no end in sight this side of the grave. And then there’s my back (Please see Health Update: I’m F**ked). Cue Billy Mays . . . and that’s not all. I had an MRI of my neck last Friday. I received the results today. Yep. I have disc herniations in my neck too. I see my pain doctor tomorrow. We shall see . . .

I am nauseated every day. Up until four days ago, I have been able to manage my gastroparesis fairly well. Since last Friday, I have had daily violent bouts of vomiting. Think herniated discs in your back and neck . . . and vomiting. Not fun. Okay, enough of this . . .

I plan to keep writing, but I can’t promise when and how often. I will do what I can. I will get everyone’s questions answered — eventually. I owe several of you guest posts for your sites. I will get them done too — eventually. Emails? Social media responses? Donation acknowledgments? I will get them done too — eventually. Are you sensing a trend?

I do plan to give a private speech on “Why I Am an Atheist” to a Mennonite group on Thursday and a podcast interview on Saturday. I find it physically easier to “talk” than write. Polly agrees. 🙂

Thank you for your continued love and support.

signature
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.

Health Update: I’m F**ked

bruce gerencser and jesus

I have gastroparesis, fibromyalgia, and osteoarthritis (I’ve typed these words so many times, autocorrect remembers them). In addition, over the past four months, I’ve had excruciating pain in the middle of my back, left side, and under my left arm, into my shoulder, and down my arm. The pain is so severe that it affects everything I do. Some days, I can hardly use my left arm (and I’m left-handed).

I had X-rays. Normal. CT scan. Normal. And now an MRI of my thoracic spine. NOT normal. I have:

  • Disc herniation (T7,T8)
  • Disc herniation (T6,T7)
  • Central spinal canal stenosis (T9/T10, T10/T11)
  • Foraminal stenosis (T5,T6)
  • Disc degeneration/spondylosis (T1/T2 through T10/T11)
  • Facet Arthropathy throughout the spine, particularly at T2/T3, T3/T4, T5/T6, and T7/T8 through the T12/L1 levels.
  • Hypertrophic arthropathy at T9/T10

I knew I had osteoarthritis arthritis in my spine. I have arthritis everywhere. Why I have these other problems is unknown. Genetics (my sister has similar problems)? Injury? Age-related deterioration? God’s judgment (I already know Evangelicals are thinking this)? Too much sex (you will have to ask Polly)? 🙂 Sports-related damage? There’s no way of knowing the exact cause. And it doesn’t matter. Knowing the cause won’t change the fact that I have excruciating pain in the middle of my back.

My primary care doctor called me this morning to give me the MRI results. I could tell by his voice that the results were not good. He’s been my doctor for twenty-six years. Doc has literally watched me physically deteriorate over the years (he calls me an enigma — something that baffles understanding and can’t be explained). He genuinely cares about me and wants to alleviate my suffering. Unfortunately, there’s little he can do except treat the pain. Doc referred me to a pain management doctor in Fort Wayne. Hopefully, I will get in to see him soon.

After Doc gave me the verdict, I replied, in my gallows humor way, “I’m fucked.” He chuckled a bit — we’re friends — and then he reminded me of a scene in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles; the scene where Steve Martin repeatedly uses the F word.

Video Link

Today, I feel fucked. Hopefully, the pain doctor will help me feel less fucked soon.

It is what it is, but the spinning plate that I call life is overflowing. I’d pray if there were a God, but since there’s not, all I can do is endure. As I ponder my suffering, I am reminded that it could be worse. My friend, Eric, died several weeks ago from pancreatic cancer. In less than a year, he went from enjoying life with his grandchildren to excruciating pain and death. I have another friend who contracted COVID-19 before the vaccines were available. She’s in her forties. She had a stroke, heart problems, and had to have eye surgery. I’m concerned that she could end up blind. It is unlikely that she will ever work again. I have another dear friend, Tammy, who also contracted COVID. She was a spry, outgoing psychiatric nurse, that is until COVID left her incapacitated. She’s now on permanent disability. I could go on and on. Like it or not, suffering is part of our lives. Few people will escape this life without suffering at one point or another. It’s just the way it is.

Oh, did I tell you about the rash I have; that is so itchy I want to get out a butter knife and scratch myself to death? True story . . . years ago, Polly came home from work and found me in the middle of the floor, scratching my arms and legs with a butter knife. I had had a painful gallbladder attack that caused me to break out in hives. Thank the Gods for butter knives. And Benadryl. And corticosteroids.

I do have one bit of good news: I am retaking generic Lyrica. It is quite effective for the nerve pain in my legs. In fact, I now have NO nerve pain in my legs. In the past, taking Lyrica has caused weight gain, so much so that I had to stop taking the drug (twice). Gastroparesis has dramatically altered my physiology. I thought maybe my body would react differently to Lyrica this time. So far, no weight gain. Can I get an AMEN? And for that, I am grateful. Grateful to whom? Not God, that’s for sure. Loki? Maybe. 🙂 It is science that courses through my veins, lessening the pain in my legs. All praise be to science, the only God that makes its presence known.

Thank you for your continued love and support. Your kind words mean the world to me.

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.

Questions: Bruce, How is Your Health?

questions

I recently asked readers to submit questions to me they would like me to answer. If you would like to submit a question, please follow the instructions listed here.

Paul asked, “Bruce, how is your health?”

The short answer is “fine.” When people ask me about my health, I usually use “fine” or one of my other discussion killers such as “super-duper,” “I’m on top of the world,” or “so far so good.” These rejoinders are, of course, lies, but as most people with pervasive health problems know, most people who inquire about how you are feeling are just trying to be polite. They really DON’T want a head-to-toe rundown of all that ails you. My wife’s aunt asked me the other day how things were for me. I replied with “fine,” and then I added, “you really don’t want to know about my hemorrhoids, do you?

Paul, on the other hand, sincerely wants to know how I am doing health-wise. The remainder of this post will detail the day-to-day struggles I have with chronic illness and unrelenting pain.

Where-oh-where do I begin? Let me start with the big-ticket health problems. First, I have fibromyalgia. This remains the overarching problem that dominates my life day-in and day-out. With fibromyalgia, I have fatigue and widespread muscle spasms and pain. I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 1997. Second, I have osteoarthritis in my spine, neck, hands, shoulders, and feet. In other words, everywhere. Third, I have high blood pressure, which is treated with medication. Fourth, I am diabetic. Currently, I take two different diabetes medications.

Adding to these things is the fact that I was treated for skin cancer twice over the past year. I see a dermatologist every six months to atone for the youthful sin of repeated blistering sunburns as a child. Several months ago, I found out that I have two Morton’s neuromas and bursitis in my left foot. The best way I can describe the pain is having your foot hit with a hammer — repeatedly. Because I am diabetic, I am unable to have the foot surgically corrected. I have chosen to live with the pain instead of risking the loss of my foot from surgery complications.

Recent months have brought increasing nerve pain in my legs. This, by far, is the biggest problem I face, because it affects my ability to sleep. It is not uncommon for me to take two to three hours to fall asleep, and even then I rarely sleep through night, thanks to pain and a weak bladder. If there’s one aspect of my health that leaves me wanting to die, it’s nerve pain. Narcotics help, but the pain never goes away. I mean n-e-v-e-r.

Doctors continue to monitor a lesion I have on my pancreas. So far, I am cancer-free. I will likely have to have lesion biopsied again next year.

I continue to battle depression. My depression is primarily driven by my health problems. When pain levels are severe, so is my depression. I had been seeing a counselor, but he and I have become good friends, and this, unfortunately has ruined our professional relationship. My last two visits were spent talking about politics and Donald Trump. I am looking for a new counselor, but so far, I have not found a local counselor who is not faith-based.

The sum of these things and a niggling list of other things I won’t mention have severely limited my ability to get around. Most days, I walk with a cane. Some days, especially when what we are doing requires a lot of walking, I use a wheelchair. Over the past year I have noticed that my ability to walk is slowly declining. I continue to push myself, but I sense there is coming a time when my walking days will be over.

Most days, I have a short window where I feel good enough to write, work in the office, edit photographs, etc. I do what I can. There are times when I push myself too hard — an unwise move — and when that happens I often end up in bed for several days.

I want to conclude this post with a few please do not do these things:

  • Please do not ask me if I have tried _____________. I am under the care of competent doctors whom I trust with my medical care. They know my body far better than you.
  • Please do not tell me you are praying for me. I understand praying might be your way of showing empathy, but telling an atheist you are praying for him is not helpful. If you MUST pray, I don’t want to know about it.
  • Please do not read into what I have written in this post. I am not suicidal, and if I become suicidal I doubt your email will stop me from ending my life.
  • Please do not try to “encourage” me with rah-rah, happy-as-a-seal-with-a-ball words. I do not find such words helpful or motivational. I am just not built that way. I am a pessimist, a grinder who stoically embraces what life brings my way. I have always been this way.
  • Please do not ask me about my diet. I actually eat a lot of vegetables, fish, and all the things you are sure I don’t eat.
  • Please do not ask me if I am taking this or that supplement or drug. Over the past twenty years, I have tried dozens of medications and supplements. Every time a paper is published that says ________________ might help fibromyalgia patients, I ask my doctor what he thinks. More often than not, we give it a try.

Many people think that every health problem can be “fixed.” I’m here to tell you that such a belief is as every bit as fantastical as believing Jesus resurrected from the dead or Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a virgin. I am a realist. I accept life as it is and do what I can each and every day to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others. I hope I do so through my writing, photography, and operating the TV remote for Polly.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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Medical Costs: Proof that Dying is Cheaper than Living

health care

As many of you know, last month I had an endoscopic ultrasound done at Parkview Regional Hospital in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The doctor also biopsied a lesion on my pancreas and nearby lymph nodes. The good news is…there was no cancer. The bad news is…they had the gall to send me a bill. Well, they haven’t really sent me a bill yet. They have billed my insurance and it looks like my bill is going to be a whopper!

Our insurance has a $3,000.00 deductible and a $6,000.00 maximum out-of-pocket. The billed cost  for the endoscopic ultrasound is $20,667.37 and this does not include any outside lab charges that have not yet been billed. If insurance knocks this down to $15,000.00, we will be over our deductible and maximum out-of-pocket. That’s good news, but the bad news is we will be over our maximum out-of-pocket, which means we will owe several medical providers $6,000.00.

Here’s screen shots from our insurance company’s website:

parkview 3
Pre-Op Blood Test Costs

parkview 2
Doctor’s charges?

parkview
Parkview Regional Hospital Charges

Polly’s employer pays over $15,000.00 a year for our family medical insurance coverage. We pay $3,120.00 in additional premiums. Before anyone gets sick or visits a doctor, over $18,000.00 is spent providing medical coverage for our family. Since the above mentioned costs will likely put us over our maximum out-of-pocket, this means our total out-of-pocket for medical insurance and medical costs in 2015 will be $9,120.00.  While we are certainly glad we have insurance, the total cost will be 25% of our gross income for 2015.

The silver lining? Hey, if we have a heart attack, get cancer, or  need a leg amputated any time before December 31st,  it is totally paid for. (that’s sarcasm in case you don’t recognize it)

Note

I also had a CT scan, an ultrasound, and an MRI done in December 2014. These three tests cost over $4,000.00.

Bruce Gerencser