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Celebration of Life!

By Rae Lewis-Thornton

March 10, 2012

This piece originally appeared in Rae's blog, Diva Living With AIDS.

Rae Lewis-Thornton

I never thought that I would live to see 50 years old, but by the grace of God, in just under three months I will celebrate my 50th birthday. I know it's hard for many of you to believe that I was dying, but I was. I remember when my T-cell count was 8 and my viral load was 400,000 and I was on my third bout of PCP, an AIDS-related pneumonia that was the number-one infection that killed people with AIDS.

When I looked in the mirror, I could see death staring back at my size 0. It was clear that I was wasting away. HIV medications were mediocre at best and the average life expectancy for a person with AIDS was three years. But God kept me here long enough to benefit from the new class of HIV medication that changed everything about living with AIDS. I did what I needed to do for my health, for my survival. I stuck my treatment out no matter how horrible it was or made me feel. I decided that I wanted to live and I did what I had to. With AIDS, there's no middle ground, you decide how long you want to live, or how soon you want to die. I chose life and whatever came with living with AIDS.

Be clear, it has been no picnic in the park. I remember those days of lying on the bathroom floor, shitting on myself, too sick to get up and reach the toilet yet again, so I made the cold tile floor my bed for hours. When I really stop and think about it, it's a wonder that I made it, AIDS was taking people out of here by the hour back in those early days. It really is a wonder that I made it. I mean, it's a wonder that Mama didn't take me out long before I got to HIV/AIDS. I came out of my mother's womb at three pounds and drug addicted, at a time when drug babies were unheard of, it's a wonder that I made it from day one.

I stayed in an incubator for three months, so I've been told. My childhood was plagued with abuse; physical, emotional and sexual. I mean when I think about it, it's a wonder that I didn't lose hope somewhere along the way and take myself out of here; I mean For Real, For Real ... But I knew somewhere in my heart, that God had a purpose for my life, and that I was more than what Mama had written me off to be. The songwriter says, He saw the Best in Me. Clearly God saw the best in me and intuitively I clung to that inner knowing with dear life.

Rae Lewis-Thornton

I never gave in to the darkness that filled my childhood days. God and church became my refuge. I depended on my love of God, and God's love of me to keep me. Pretty profound I think for a young girl to know deep within that if I just depended on God's love for me that I would make it.

I made it through those darkest days of being beat with a Polaroid camera, or whatever Mama's hand could reach; but then I turned at around 23 and was told that I had HIV. There was no hope back then, NONE! There wasn't even one medication to treat HIV when I was told of my status.

So yet again, I had to lean on the love of God. I had to remember my history with God. Keep a clear head and understand, that if God could bring me out of one thing, God could bring me out of another thing. I had to remember that God's love was the only constant in my life. And even on that cold tile floor that day, I laid there and talked to God.

So here I am having survived the worst of worst any child should ever have to face. Having lived with HIV for 29 years and AIDS for 20, here I am! I'm excited about this next stage of my life. I have no idea what God has planned for me, I'll just take the days as they come, the good, the bad, the wonderful and the ugly; And in that, I will continue to depend on God's Love for me, and my love for God. People keep asking me how I'm going to celebrate, and I'm not quite sure. I know that I am planning to give myself 50 wonderful things throughout the course of this year. In the scheme of things, I'm just glad to still be here! Not just alive, but actually living in my life!

Diva AIDS Awareness Bracelet

I also wanted to do something special with RLT Collection to commemorate and celebrate my life and work. So I came up with a simple but yet wonderful new bracelet. Pearls are my absolute favorite gemstones and I think EVERY woman should own real pearls. With this in mind, I designed this Diva AIDS Awareness Bracelet with 8-10 mm Freshwater Pearls and these pearls are a nice size. I paired it with a beautiful pave' AIDS Awareness Charm. The crystals are bright red and encrusted in sterling silver. The RLT Diva AIDS Awareness bracelet will celebrate my life and work. It's $50.00, one dollar for each year God has blessed me in His earthly plan.

There's no huge mark-up on this bracelet. With the price of sterling, the ribbon alone was a healthy price, but I took the leap. I wanted something special. Typically I design a few Diva AIDS Awareness Bracelets a year, however, this will be the only one from now until May 22, 2013, birth year to birth year.

I hope that you will celebrate my life with me, by sowing into my life and ministry, by wearing and buying my new bracelet. I am taking pre-orders now, the bracelet will be available for shipment no later than, May 1st. Those who purchase on the front end will take some of the burden of the cost of material off my back. LAWD ... LAWD ... So I'm hopeful, that I will have many pre-sales. Pre-Order Here!

Diva AIDS Awareness Bracelet

I'm excited!! Just excited. I don't know what God has in store for me but I can't wait to see. What I know for sure: That God's plan for my life is far greater than anything I can plan for myself. I'm just going to open my heart and mind to these next years of my life. I will continue depend on God's Love for me and my love for God!

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See Also
More Personal Accounts of Women With HIV/AIDS


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Rae Lewis-Thornton Speaks

Rae Lewis-Thornton

Rae Lewis-Thornton

Rae Lewis-Thornton is an Emmy Award-winning AIDS activist who rose to national acclaim when she told her story of living with AIDS in a cover story for Essence Magazine. She has lived with HIV for 27 years and AIDS for 19. Rae travels the country speaking and challenging stereotypes and myths about HIV/AIDS. She has a Master of Divinity degree and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Church History. Rae has been featured on Nightline, Dateline NBC, BET and The Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as in countless magazines and newspapers, including Emerge, Glamour, O, the Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Jet, Ebony, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, to name a few. She earned the coveted Emmy Award for a first-person series on living With AIDS for Chicago's CBS News.

Rae is an active user of social media -- read "Long-Term HIV Survivor Discovers the Power of Twitter," an article on about Rae's social media activities.

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