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HIV/AIDS Blog Central

Gratitude -- In Spite Of

By Rae Lewis-Thornton

July 29, 2013

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

I heard the birds singing and I opened one eye to see if the sun was out. I could barely move from exhaustion from the BlogHer Conference and the nerve pain medication that I'm taking, which makes me groggy, but as I lay in bed this morning my heart was filled with gratitude. I could hear and see and, in spite of my exhaustion and pain level, I could even move. I opened both eyes to check on my baby girl, and Sophie was buried in the pillows next to me sleeping like a wild child and probably happy to be home from the four night stay in the hotel this past week.

I checked my phone for the time, it was 5:30 a.m., and I crawled out of bed to use the bathroom. As I lay back down, I remembered out of the blue of the time I woke up in a hotel room and I couldn't walk. I had to crawl to the bathroom and back to the bed. I was on the road planning to speak at the University of Illinois in Champaign, and overnight I developed herpes zoster (shingles). The pain was so intense walking was near impossible. It was an event for Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and I was determined to not leave my "Sorors" hanging. My doctor wanted me to come home immediately, but with a hard head and determination I stayed.

By that evening I had sores from the top of my butt to the bottom of my feet. My Godchild, Toi, took the bus down to be with me and that night she had to help me get dressed. That night, I stood by the grace of God for almost two hours in four-inch heels. Toi drove me back to Chicago, me laid out in the back seat of my car. When we arrived home in the middle of the night, I had to crawl up the two flights of stairs to get to my apartment and crawl back down that morning to go to the doctor. Recovery took over a month. I couldn't walk and morphine was the only thing that relieved my pain.

No matter how I look, or how active I seem to people, I understand clearly, with AIDS you can get hit from nowhere and it is what it is. Most days I get hit actually, it's just some days I get hit harder than others. Somedays I smile through it, other days I cuss through it.

Because this life of AIDS is unpredictable, I never take it for granted. Now, don't be confused, there are days when I think I've had enough. Days when I want to cuss, fuss and rant through it and do, and a smile is foreign to my face. Days when I want to say, "Enough is enough!"

Like these past three weeks on IV medication, I was so sick I couldn't think straight and I had a funky attitude to go right along with how I was feeling. People don't understand the drama one is faced with when a medication that is making you better in one area but it also makes you so sick in another. For sure, for me there is a hopelessness I feel. Its like being stuck between a rock and a hard place. Especially when I have no control. It makes you lose perspective, the larger picture.

Yet at the end of the day, I understand that life is a blessing. I get it! I'm alive! This is my life, my struggle, but yet I still have gratitude.

So this morning when I heard the birds singing, telling me that it was a new day, I was overwhelmed in my heart and my spirit.

Today, I had perspective and with perspective, I could smile, smile because I could hear the birds singing, see my baby girl laying peacefully next to me. I could walk to the bathroom on my feet and despite all I've been through, I still have my right mind. I was filled with nothing but gratitude this morning in spite of my life with AIDS.

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See Also
10 Things You Can Do to Enhance Your Emotional Well-Being
Depression and HIV
Feeling Good Again: Mental Healthcare Works!
More Personal Viewpoints on Coping With HIV

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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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