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You Live to Learn, You Die to Forget

By Rae Lewis-Thornton

September 13, 2012

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

Picc line last time I was on IV meds.

Picc line last time I was on IV meds.

I started this blog post at 3:30 this morning at home, worked on it at the hospital and now I'm back home from the hospital from getting my picc line placed. Yes, I'm going on IV this evening. For those of you who need to get caught up to speed. I have drug-resistant herpes, which means none of the oral medication will treat my strain and only sometimes do the topical work.

I contracted herpes in college before HIV, but now years later my immune system is so shot to hell, it can't fight off the herpes. The herpes also attacks my nervous system and causes me to have pain in my legs, feet and back. It feels like someone is sticking pins in them all day long. This genital herpes I have is mostly on my vulva. One sore this time feels like someone is pouring alcohol in a open wound all the time. This drug-resistant herpes began about four years ago. The doctor's only conclusion is that there is a part of my immune system that won't repair itself nor will it fight off this particular strain of the herpes virus.

Remember all AIDS really is is having no immune system. You get sick basically because your immune system can't fight whatever attacks it.

The fact of the matter is, while I have genital herpes as a separate infection, it would be much more controllable if I didn't have AIDS. Also, there is a large chance that herpes could still attack my body without having contracted genital herpes. No, I wouldn't have the genital herpes, you have to be exposed to that specifically, but herpes zoster (i.e., shingles) and the forum of nerve pain I have is probable. Also CMV, which causes people with AIDS to go blind.

For many people with AIDS, herpes is what we consider an opportunistic infection. For many people with HIV and genital herpes it can become a nasty combination for our health.

So here I go again. I will be on a 2-1/2 hour drip 2 times a day until the sore on my vulva totally disappears. The last time I was on IV medication, it took 34 days. Remember, the stress around my Delta membership being rescinded affected my healing. The side effects are nausea, diarrhea and extreme fatigue, but I'm going to keep pressing as much as I can.

A week of IV meds.

A week of IV meds.

In many ways I'm grateful because it's been five months since the herpes has come back. But two weeks ago this herpes outbreak was triggered by a chain of events that I had no control over. I learned a person who was very close to me wasn't the person I thought they were. I discovered a year and a half of lies that sent my stress level to its max and stress is the number one enemy of herpes.

So here I am trying to put my million little pieces together. I feel like Oprah talking to James Frey, going through his book saying, "Is this true?" That day as I watched, I felt so sorry for James Frey sitting their being grilled by Oprah. For years I was mad at Ms. O. "How could she kick his ass so hard on national TV?" I thought. But I get it, the avid book reader she is, she had believed every single lie in his book. She cheered him on and cried for and with him. Shit, so had I, then to learn later that he had lied about his life. We all had bought the lie hook, line and sinker.

Lies are dangerous for the person who tells them and the person who believes them. It's a distortion of reality and when the truth is finally revealed its a hard thing to process and honestly you don't know who or what to trust.

When people lie they alter your reality and force you to live in a lie. I'm just grateful that God has always got my back. For sure no lie can live forever! I think that God has a funny sense of humor sometimes. His methodology is WOW. He fixed that thing for my benefit and I didn't even see it coming, but you better believe I'm listening. Isn't it wonderful how God can do for you sometimes what you can't do for yourself? Now that God has set me free, I don't intend to go back into that prison.

So here I am, putting me back together again. All I can do is move forward. First step for me was believing the truth over and above the lies and manipulation. Then I had to take my control back! Take my reality back!

Now, that I've accepted it for what it is, I must accept my own culpability! Ownership is a mother. My BFF Luke and I reflected on this earlier today. We both wanted so much to have more support for me. Support that I could depend on. Yep, I participated in the lie. I know right off, I'm always looking for family. So I bought the lie hook, line and sinker. Even in those early days when I had doubts, the person in me wanted to believe in the goodness of human nature, not taking into account emotional instability.

They provided what I needed very well, but the person that I thought had become my family was a lie. When I really think about it, I have no idea who they are. NONE!

But now that I know the lie, I cannot under any circumstance allow myself to live that lie. My entire life is about being authentic, it's God's gift to me, to give to you.

So here I am putting my pieces back together and trying to manage my stress level so I can heal quickly. This is not what I wanted for my life, but it is what it is. I hate most when other people's behavior alters your life. But all you can do is learn the lesson and never forget. Pastor Jakes said to me when I sought him out for counsel over this matter, "You live to learn, you die to forget." I count it another lesson learned!

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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.

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