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Do facts/details get in the way?
May 9, 2002

Mr. Shernoff:

While recently discussing my HIV regiment with a fellow HIV Traveler, I was taken aback by this persons vehement objection to my desire NOT to know specific numbers (viral load, t-cells, etc.). He claims that I am suffering from denial, I claim otherwise.

I chose to do this after careful consideration of my personality type which has a tendency to fixate; a tendency I might add that makes me a very good patient when it comes to doing what is being asked by my doctor.

My agreement with my doctor is that I know in general terms if I am on the right track and that he consult regularly with another in the field (one of my choice) on my case (I know he does this, I get the bill!). My progress has been excellent, my viral load is undetectable and t-cells continue to increase (note the generality).

I explained to my friend that I have my blood work done every 90 days and for me to worry about slight variations which I am likely to do) has the potential to prove disruptive emotionally. Ive seen numbers take over the lives of others with the less than optimal result of HIV running their lives rather than HIV being one component of an otherwise vital persons existence.

I will certainly know something is up when my doctor suggests changes and if that moment comes, I will insist that any decision be made with the consensus of my doctor, an authoritative 2nd medical opinion and me. But beyond that, having chapter and verse interests me very little. And, if things should digress, I hope that the time spent fortifying myself spiritually and emotionally while strong rather than fixating on a set of numbers over which I have little control (save adherence to medical advice), will prove valuable.

Now, I know this is not for everyone, but Id be interested in your opinion on the matter......so would my friend!

Thanks!

Response from Mr. Shernoff

Everyone is different. Bravo for you to know what works for you. It sounds like you and your doctor have a very effective working partnership. Too many people fixate on the various numbers of their blood counts. For some this is useful information. For others it is not and contributes to severe emotional distress. I very much respect you and support you in choosing your own path. I am concerned that your friend does not recognize that different people have different needs, and that you do not need to do things the way that is hopefully working for him.

Michael Shernoff, MSW



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