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The Familiar Is Within You

By Rae Lewis-Thornton

November 27, 2012

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

sad dog

Woo it's me! Yep, that was me last week. I seemed to be stuck in this funk. Well sort of but not quite totally. There was always something to keep me from going over the edge. Something inside of me that said you are stronger than this, You are better than this. You are bigger than this. But I sure had my moments and I had a lot of them.

Now don't be confused, I had more than enough reason to just get in bed, turn off the lights and pull the cover over my head. My health was doing the most to the tenth power! Like #ForReal #ForReal. When I got this new herpes infection now almost a month ago I had only been off IV medication for about a month. Right after I got off that round of IV meds my neuropathy flared up and the nerve pain in my back and legs shut me down. Then when that got better, I got a cold from hell that turned into bronchitis and then when that got better, I literary looked down there and herpes had joined the party yet again.

It was a big decision getting the mediport. It made the herpes seem permanent. In the four years me and my doctor kept hoping that somehow, someway we would get a handle on this. But sadly, nothing she could think of medically would stop the herpes from having a feasting party on my vulva 3-4 times a year. Nothing she thought of medically would make it go away except IV Foscarnet. The overall conclusion: the damage done to my immune system in those early days of AIDS will not allow my body to fight herpes back.

And while herpes is a separate viral infection from HIV, if I didn't have AIDS, I wouldn't have herpes this bad. And to top it off, it made no sense at all medically that herpes would start to behave like this now that HIV is under control. My viral load is undetectable and my T-cell count stays in the high 500-600 range. The fact is, the herpes from hell only came after my viral load was undetectable, which could have been a byproduct of what we call "immune reconstitution." Some people with HIV, after getting an immune boost from the HIV medication have some infection that is the long holdout and fights the immune system back.


So this has become a way of life for me. A thorn in my flesh that seems to not be going away. This shit is the infection from hell and the IV Foscarnet is a blessing and a curse all in one bag. The way this medication makes me feel some days I just want to quit! That's real talk!

For sure this drug-resistant herpes jacks me up both physically and emotionally. So, getting the mediport made herpes permanent. You see, I wouldn't need the mediport if I didn't need to receive treatment for the herpes.

But I did it; I made the best medical decision I could for my well-being. The mediport would make receiving IV Foscarnet easier. And what should have been a simple medical procedure became a production. The day after the procedure I felt like I had been hit by a Mack truck. I was more beat up than I was told I would be. And sure enough, it turned out to be some infection, either in the mediport or in the area of the mediport. Now how the hell I got that is beyond me. I then started an aggressive round of antibiotics. I then had to get yet another picc line because by now the herpes had gone untreated for 3 weeks and I wanted to cut my vulva out of my body from the pain alone.

The picc line was a production! No Joke! After an hour and twenty minutes of what should have been a thirty minute procedure they decided that I had so much scaring and my veins had narrowed so much from all the picc lines they couldn't get a line in. So, in a matter of seconds the doctor decided to do angioplasty on my vein and the anesthesia was the nurse holding my hand. No Joke Y'all.

Go on and say it!! Ima Bad Bitch!! I have a crazy herpes infection between my legs, I have an infected mediport both of which are causing pain beyond my understanding and they bust through my veins with no anesthesia. Shit, it's a wonder that I didn't just come home and pull the covers over my head.

My last two weeks were more than enough to break the spirit of the average person. But that's the key right there. I forgot that I am not average. That God designed me to withstand whatever comes my way.

Remember Job; God told Satan to shoot his best shot! God told Satan, do whatever you think you can to make Job quit, but just don't take him out. God knew that Job could take it because God is the architect of Job's design -- from head to toe, from heart to mind. Isn't it interesting that God created one type of fish for fresh water and another for salt water and some for both?

And don't you know we are no different? I spent six months in my mother's womb sucking an umbilical cord laced with heroin. I weighed 3 pounds and stayed in an incubator for a month in 1962, before we knew what drug babies were. I came out of my mother's womb dripped in heroin.

Now, how God gonna make me up to withstand all of that, just to see His creation torn to the ground? I must remember that I am wonderfully designed by God to withstand whatever comes my way. As long as I am breathing, I am still a part of God's earthly plan and need to carry on accordingly.

It is true that God wouldn't put more on you than you can bear. Do you really think that your Father would abuse you? And to even suggest that whatever you are facing is out of your league, is to suggest that God don't know His child. God is the best parent any person could ever have. Don't be confused, God's Grace was built into your make-up.

God built you to walk, but He will never let you walk alone. Even though sometimes it may seem that way, I promise you that God has got you in ways you can't even see or imagine. While you are built to survive your journey, you have a two-fold blessing, you are not walking alone. God didn't even bother with Paul's whining about His thorn, He simply said, "My Grace is Sufficient." Translation: "Just carry on Paul, I got this."

I understand this wholeheartedly and I'm working on balance. Going through it legit! I tell people all the time, don't ever minimize someone else's pain because only God knows what they can take or not take. All you really know is what you can take and what you think they should be able to take. P.S.: Stop trying to make people be you.

The thing is, when we go through new territory we get nervous. It's like driving at night on an unfamiliar road. Even with directions or a GPS there comes an anxiousness that you can't quash until you can see some light, some sign of life, something familiar. All these back-to-back hits and not getting a break is new for me. I'm used to being down then up, but to just take hit after hit is new territory for me. I'm learning to adjust to this newness as best as I can.

Until then, when I seem lost, I have to remember that the familiar is within me designed by God nine months before May 22, 1962; that God created me for this journey that is uniquely mine no matter what shape or form it takes. Remember that today, the familiar is within you, designed the moment the sperm joined with the egg. Seek within to stand without ...

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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.

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