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Finding the motivation to continue..
Jul 30, 1997

I am very lucky. I'm taking the triple combination therapy and have an undetectable viral load as well as many new T-cells! However there is lots of loss in my past. A few years ago I lost my lover of eight years and a few weeks before I lost my best friend. In one year alone--1994--I lost more than 13 close friends. Now that I'm facing the possibility of survival, I struggle with the reasons why and lack the motivation to continue. How will I get over the loss of so many people I love and be able to get on with my life? There are, I'm sure, many people out there in my situation, but in my town it's very hard to get people together in support groups. I am wondering what advice can be given to people in my situation, and how I can connect with them. Thank you.

Response from Mr. Shernoff

You indeed are both very lucky and at the same time, like any other survivor of a catastrophe, devastated by the enormity of the losses you have sustained. Like you I too have benefitted from the new triple combination and also buried my beloved partner almost three years ago, as well as an entire friendship network of men I had hoped to grow old with.

I often am angry that these new medical break throughs did not happen sooner to benefit more people I loved who died before they were available. You ask how do you get over the loss of so many people? The answer to that is, I believe, that we do not. We learn how to adjust to life with out these people and accommodate the empty places in our hearts and souls that their deaths leave behind. There is a line in Carousel where one of the angels tells Billy Bigelow: "As long as there is one person left alive who remembers you, you are not really dead." Part of how we continue to live and survive is to wear witness to those lives of people who have predeceased us. We need to celebrate their existences and at the same time that by living fully, we celebrate our own. They would want us to continue to live, be well and even rediscover love and happiness.

There is no answer to why we have survived long enough to benefit from these treatments. Some of it is just blind luck. I would urge you to seek out AIDS chat lines on the internet and seek out discussions with other survivors. By making connections with them and sharing in each others experiences there are lessons to be shared, hope and inspiration to be gained. It will certainly not be without continued pain and sadness. Yet those are components of life.

Michael



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