...Hoo! A worried well must read
Apr 26, 2004
Hi again Bob,
Well, as Steve foretold, I tested non-reactive at 90 days. So the 3 month odyssey is complete, and I am HIV negative. I am truly grateful to you for your work on this forum, and to Steve for his compassionate approach which went well above and beyond the call of duty. Although I am tremendously relieved that I dodged a bullet, I can now never again close my eyes to the carnage caused by this insidious disease. I fully intend not only to donate to your foundation to the best of my ability, but to also raise awareness as best I can with those around me. You have my word on that!
Secondly, for all of the worried well out there, I went through some pretty rough stuff, and the following story may be of some comfort to you during your window period:
On January 16th of this year, I met a random girl out at a bar while drinking heavily. I ended up at her place, and had the second most risky sexual exposure one can have - unprotected insertive anal sex. Needless to say, I was at a temporary loss of my senses. I am married and the father of a newborn little girl, so you can imagine the guilt.
I awoke the next morning to a double whammy - a well-deserved hangover, and the realization that I had not only broken my wedding vows, but had potentially put myself and my family in the immediate way of harm.
Over the next week, I stressed and agonized and poured over websites for information on HIV and its symptoms. I read so much because I had convinced myself that the girl was, in fact, positive, and I had contracted the virus. This was the worst thing I could have done.
After two weeks, I had a constellation of ambiguous symptoms - numb/tingling legs, a constant tightness behind my left knee, severe loss of appetite, slightly sore throat and seemingly swollen lymph glands under my arms (a red spot under my right arm in fact) and neck, fatigue, and somewhat loose stools.
These symptoms continued throughout the next few weeks, and then in the sixth week, I developed a low-grade fever ranging from 99 to 99.8, with increasing fatigue. While on vacation, in the second week of low-grade fever, my wife insisted I visit an urgent care "doc-in-the-box". I did, and my temperature at that point was 101 with no other real symptoms. They drew blood and the diagnosis: "SOME SORT OF VIRAL SYNDROME!!!" This was merely confirmation, in my mind, that I was positive. Along with the low-grade fever, my tongue was constantly rather white, which I (erroneously) self-diagnosed as some form of oral thrush.
When I returned home from vacation, I set an appointment with Dr. Steve Natterstad at the Frascino Medical Group, Inc., and life partner of our humble moderator. He did an exam and assured me that what I was experiencing was not HIV ARS. But what does he know, I thought...he's only an HIV specialist!
I decided to take a preliminary ELISA/WB blood test at nine weeks just to see where I stood - non-reactive for HIV antibodies. I felt better about my situation, but was still skeptical about my 12 week. test. The fatigue continued, and I was still scared. I suffered through the next three weeks, but went in last week for my 90 day test.
Let me tell you - I was a nervous wreck from the instant the needle was withdrawn, which was Thursday of last week. Today was my appointment with Steve. As I drove to his office some 15 miles from my house I was literally shaking, but somehow at a weird peace. Steve greeted me with a smile a hug and the news that I was negative.
The bottom line here, folks, is that THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A SELF DIAGNOSIS - I was dead f*&%ing sure I was positive. My abject stress coupled with my inability to push myself away from the computer while searching for symptoms of ARS, etc. made me believe that I was infected.
Throughout this entire experience, I never really thought about how I could go on living if I was diagnosed positive. But then I looked at Bob and was inspired - his life quality is exceedingly high for someone WITHOUT HIV - I realized that infection would change my life irreversibly, but it wouldn't be over. Prior to finding Bob's forum on thebody.com, I was sure my life would be over.
At any rate, to whomever reads this - take a minute and put yourself in Bob's shoes - in the face of being HIV positive, he bravely and unwaveringly dedicates himself to supporting and encouraging not only people who actually ARE gravely ill with this illness, but lends a helping hand to those such as myself who he knows are negative. Who out there can say that if they were infected that they would have half the strength that Bob has?
If you can't afford to donate to www.concertedeffort.org, ask a friend to do so. Bob, from the bottom of my heart, you are truly an amazing individual. God bless you all, and God bless you, Bob -far more important than a thanks, you are an inspiration.
PS - Enjoy the "Waking Life" DVD!!
Response from Dr. Frascino
I'm delighted to finally add the "HOO!" to your previous "WOO." WOO's without the HOO's sound like a dim sum restaurant.
Congratulations. Steve and I are both delighted by your good news. Thank you for your kind words and for taking the time to write in and share your story. Thanks also for the "Waking Life" DVD. We plan to watch it tonight after Queer as Folk and The Sopranos. How's that for a triple feature?
Finally, thank you for your support of our foundation. Together we can work towards the goal of making HIV/AIDS nothing more than a distant bad memory.
Stay well, B!
Dr. Bob (and Steve)
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