April 27, 2014
I love Spring! It's my favorite time of the year. I actually find people to be a little friendlier: they smile more, they are more relaxed, their eyes are brighter, their steps are quicker, there's a lilt of happiness in their voice.
However, I'm not so sure it should be my favorite time. April 7th was the day I found out I was HIV positive. It's one of those memorable days that no matter what you do you can never forget it. It follows you around quietly or boisterously depending on your mood I guess and it's just always there. For me this year it celebrated its 21st birthday! It came on the heels of two separate hospitalizations, 3 ultrasounds, 2 nuclear imaging studies, several x-rays, once stress test, tons of blood work and a newly scheduled bone marrow biopsy -- so I guess it wanted to party!
I let the virus have its due. It's really OK with me. I didn't mind the interruptions. I mean I missed a quick overnight trip to Las Vegas that my husband and I had planned to see my in-laws who were in from London. That was the worst of the inconvenient hospital stay. BUT, now I have an awesome reason to start saving for a new trip to see them on their side of the pond sooner rather than later!!
With the second hospitalization? I met a great hematologist/oncologist and felt like we added a really strong member of my healthcare team and in the same breath came to realize that my cardiac issues are well under control with the new medicine I've been prescribed as long as my blood pressure continues to play along.
After all the attention toward the virus and celebrating its 21st birthday, it was my turn to get back to the land of the living and in true Riley style (thanks Mom!), I convinced my husband a puppy was exactly what we needed! Now we had just laid our beloved cockapoo Pep to rest just a month or two ago and I wasn't sure I even wanted a new puppy and was unsure what the kids reaction would be, etc. But I started researching different breeds and came across some tiny/little dogs and fell in love. I figured that I'd wait closer to my May birthday, our wedding anniversary and Mother's Day and start dropping some pretty big hints around the house but I didn't need to. I must have been convincing enough because the week before Easter after a particularly long day of multiple follow-up doctors appointments and laboratory visits, my husband came home with the most adorable puppy ever! She is a white morkie (Maltese and Yorkshire terrier mix). Her eyes right now are blue like the ocean and she has a sweet yet very playful personality. Our other dog and cats are just beginning to play with her and it warms my heart every day. It is the best medicine that any doctor could have ordered. She is a lifeline in a little ball of fluff!
The puppy is 10 weeks old right now. She is a Spring baby through and through. She goes right along with everything I love about this time of year. The celebration of hope, faith, forgiveness, renewal, peace and joy come full-circle for me with the end of Lent and the celebration of Easter. My own internal acceptance of the virus yearly begins on April 7th and transforms me as I make my way each day trying not to burden another or dampen another's spirit along the way. It's a journey that for me is not traveled alone. Yet it's a journey that for many others still remains isolated, fearful, stigmatized, ostracized and lonely. Their crosses are never shared and their journeys are painstakingly traveled.
I hope that this Spring as I see the happy faces of the people around me, the anticipatory smiles of great days to come, the warmth of sunlight, the extended hours of daylight, the peace and forgiveness and love that radiates outward; I hope that people with HIV will be able to find more support, understanding, compassion, love and shoulders to help take their burdens for a while. I wish everyone could get a puppy. The joy of such simple exuberance, unparalleled pure fun and innocence, the giggles, the laughter, the growth of something so tiny that needs someone to just love it, care for it and watch it grow safely and keep it warm, fed and loved. Meeting someone else's needs in a time where we have unmet needs of our own? That is a secret to happiness that I find blossoms in spite of my anniversary on April 7th 1993.
So watch out virus! 22nd birthdays are never as much fun as the 21st!
Until next time,
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Lynda Arnold, RN, BSN, MBA, was one of the first health care workers to go public after her occupational infection with HIV by an accidental needlestick in 1992. She successfully launched a nationwide campaign for safer needles in hospitals and medical facilities which resulted in the passage of federal legislation mandating the use of such devices in facilities nationwide to protect all health care workers from accidents such as hers. For many years she was a sought-after speaker on living with HIV/AIDS as well as health care worker safety issues, and she traveled the globe educating others. She garnered many awards, national distinctions, authored two children's books, and was the subject of an award-winning documentary. After the birth of her youngest son, Lynda chose to step away from the public eye and focus on raising her young family without the spotlight. As a blogger for TheBody.com, this marks her reentry into the public eye -- 20 years after her infection. She can be reached for further engagements, commentary and questions through her email.
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