Kahlo Benavidez used to have a lot of unsafe sex with strangers. He had a "superman complex" and believed he was invincible. This all changed when he got infected with HIV. But he's rebounded and has turned the depression and disappointment he felt after his diagnosis into a force for change: "I refuse to let others make the same mistakes I made without knowing what the consequences could be." Kahlo has worked as an HIV prevention specialist, and plans to continue a career fighting AIDS. Kahlo is earning a degree in social work at New Mexico State University and hopes to have his Masters in counseling in a few years. In March of 2006, his viral load had reached 10,000 and his CD4 count was 283. After starting a regimen of efavirenz (Sustiva, Stocrin) + Truvada (tenofovir/FTC), his CD4 count rose to 497 and his viral load is undetectable. Kahlo has been living with his HIV-negative boyfriend in Las Cruces for almost two years.
Endings Don't Always Mean the End ...
October 30, 2006; 5:48 p.m.
I know that all of my fellow speakers, as well as Tom, know this is a fact.
For most of us, when we found out we were HIV positive, it was the end of life as we once knew it. Now, that didn't mean it was the end of life, it just meant that we were living, and through life comes change.
The tour was ended abruptly, sure. Some might say it's a failure, and I would probably look at them in disbelief before ripping into them.
It doesn't matter how long the tour lasted. What matters is that for several hundred people, we got the chance to open their eyes. We got them thinking, and it never would have happened if not for OGT. We also got several hundred people tested. I don't think anyone could sit across a table from me, and say that that was a failure.
Moreover, I don't think anyone has the RIGHT to say the OGT was a failure.
Those people who claim that OGT was a failure have no idea how much effort we all put into this. They didn't put in the work that Tom, the Who's Positive staff, the other speakers, and myself did. They didn't make the sacrifices that we all did. Most importantly, they didn't have the chance to meet the people that we touched.
In my eyes, Operation:Get Tested was a success. Am I sad that it ended so soon? Yes. Do I believe that this is something that needs to be continued? Yes. Does any future endeavor by Who's Positive have my support? YES.
I grew to care deeply for (love, really) EVERYONE on the tour. I am glad that I got to know everyone, you are all such amazing, strong individuals. It was a truly a blessing getting to know you, you each taught me something, in one way or another.
Tom -- You give up on this, and then I'll have a real reason to be mad at you! People always say sh*t happens. That's not the case. Life happens, and it happens for a reason. You've got a huge vision. Don't let this success stop you just because it wasn't as large of a success as you wanted. We don't always get what we want, right? Hell, if we're lucky, we get what we need. Maybe this was what you needed to make sure that the next tour is hugely, wildly successful.
Cree -- I miss you, buddy! God bless us crazy Geminis ... I have no clue how we kept being each others support without wanting to kill each other. I'm glad we got to meet, and I am proud to say that this experience brought me a new friend, not to mention a place to stay if I ever visit Oregon.
Richard -- You are such a strong young man, and it's interesting because I don't know if you truly realize it. You have this solid presence about you. I see you as something, and someone, who is so capable of handling whatever life throws at you. I wish I had gotten to know you better.
Teniecka -- You are an amazing woman. I said this before, and I'll say it now, any man would be lucky to have you as his wife! Thank you for being so level headed but still a joy to be around. I wish we had spent more time avoiding large crowds of people we didn't know together.
Djaun -- I don't know if you know it, but every now and then you gave me a reality check. You would just say something, and it would make others thoughts fall into place, and make me realize something. Thanks for that. And thanks for being you! You're a blast, and I love it. I love you when you are having fun. Like that night at Lincoln with the microphone ... Or all those times on the bus, or the few nights we went out together.
Marissa -- I love you! You are such a cool girl, if I ever had a daughter I'd want her to be like you. Pretty, smart, but unafraid to speak her mind and kick some ass! I had fun getting to know you, and I'm sad that we can't bitch about stupid stuff together. Like that raggedy ass bus (hope you don't care that I stole that line, Djaun), or all the downtime we had. Or the over-talkative drive.
I realized that we are all so much stronger than we ever give ourselves credit for. And we are too strong to go quietly home. Each of us will make a difference in this world, and each of us will impact other peoples lives. It's who we are, it's what we were placed on this earth for, and it's why we have experienced the hardships we have.
I honestly believe that we were each meant to inspire and encourage people to live life the way it is meant to be lived -- with grace and purpose. And that doesn't end just because the tour did.
I love you all, and God bless!
October 17, 2006; 10:08 p.m.
So we've been pretty busy. I haven't taken the time to sit down and write, so here it is.
We had a media training on Friday. We were taught how to deal with the press ... and NO, that IS NOT a challenge to the media, so please be friendly. ;)
Then we had more training on Saturday. Then we went out to a couple of bars that night, made our way back to the bus, and Tom decided it would be a good time to take pictures, and those are the ones where we're all practically sitting in each others laps ...
We had a small presentation at NYU on Sunday, and it was great. The turnout was small, but it was a good place to start. After, we went out to a pan Asian restaurant and then a brewery ... Good times.
Monday we had to ourselves. We went to an exhibit and Times Square. And then I met a buddy of mine for dinner. Shout out to Matt.
Today, we had our official kick off/press conference at William Patterson University in New Jersey. I was the main speaker -- it was fun. I really enjoyed it, and the students stayed really involved through the whole program. It was a great way to "kick off" the tour. Then I met up with Ed, a friend from home who is visiting NY. We had dinner at a restaurant in Times Square (we missed a show, so that's what we did instead,) and then we wandered around Chelsea and Greenwich Village.
I am LOVING, LOVING, LOVING New York. I wish I had more time to see more. Granted, I could spend my whole life living here and never see it all. I've even been daydreaming about what it would be like to live here.
On the down side, the bus is cramped. And even though it's got wireless Internet and satellite TV, the small things (like the perpetually broken shower, or the fact that we don't have a sink to wash dishes) really make a difference. Today we took a shower in a truck stop in New Jersey. Yesterday, I took a sponge bath. Sunday we showered in Lee's apartment (Thanks Lee!) Saturday I took a sponge bath ... And the fact that there is no such thing as privacy on a tour bus is annoying. Every two minutes, there's someone's right in my way, no matter what I'm doing. I love my tour mates, but right now I'm praying that lasts ... ;)
So tomorrow we're off to Pennsylvania ... I guess it's really starting
I really miss my home, my bed, and my dogs, but above all I miss my ROB! I love you! I also miss my family, and my friends. Zack, Martin, I love you guys, and I'm gonna miss you when you move ... Let's get a stop in Santa Fe! And Las Cruces, and tell you know who that they can put it you know where ...
Anyway, that's all this tired little brain can come up with right now, so take care, and peace to you all.
October 7, 2006; 3:14 p.m.
I keep thinking about the tour. And the media. And I start asking myself, Why me? Why was I picked for the tour? Unlike some of my fellow speakers, the story about how I was infected is not an exciting, or an unusual one. I've been talking to my friend Zack, and this is what he said --
"Kahlo, there's nothing extraordinary about your story. In fact, your story's kind of lame. I think what people like is the fact that you've taken something so negative, and turned it into something good. That's what's extraordinary. You're doing really good things with a horrible situation, when most people would just be coping. You didn't let this slow you down, or stop you from living. You took this and turned it into your passion. If you were negative, I don't think you would be nearly as involved, you know?"
I felt really good about that, and I'm guessing that that's something that the rest of my fellow speakers share. HIV has not been a life-stopping thing for any of us. It's been life-changing, without a doubt, but I know because I am HIV positive I am that much more dedicated to this cause. I can't speak for the others on the tour (or Tom,) but I suspect it's the same for them.
I am really thankful that I have the opportunity to live. But I also want to do something worth-while with my life. As Gandhi once said "You must be the change that you wish to see in the world."
So with that in mind, I'm trying to prepare myself mentally and emotionally for the tour. I know that there are going to be times when I'll want to stay in my little bunk-bed. I know that there are going to be times when I feel too tired to do another presentation. I'd even bet that there are going to be times when I get tired of re-living the day I learned my HIV status. But you know what? I can put all of that aside, and focus on the work that I'm doing.
I have my whole life to nurture my needs. I only have these next seven weeks to be a part of this tour, and there's no way that I'm going to let myself stand in my way. This tour has the potential to change lives, and really make a difference, and I want to make sure that I'm doing all I can to help that happen. All I want is to help my fellow speakers and Tom impact peoples perception of HIV.
Oh, and I want world peace. =)
ps- If anyone needs a personal motivator ... Well, I'm just saying, I used to be a PROFESSIONAL cheerleader. ;)
I Quit My Job and in the Process, I'm Finding Inner Peace ... What the Hell?!
Kahlo October 2, 2006; 9:49 a.m.
So my last journal was about how I just resigned from my job. It was a hard thing to do, mainly because I love the work I was doing.
But I've tried to keep a really positive attitude about it. And while sorting through all of that I learned something about myself -- Happiness is about choosing to be happy.
I was so angry and frustrated with the situation, my anger was eating away at me, and consuming so much of my energy. I realized that I don't have to care -- I was choosing to care. I don't have to be angry and resentful -- I was choosing to be.
I'm too happy of a person to act like that. And I'm happier letting go of all those issues, because there's so much else going on. I mean, TEN DAYS! TEN DAYS! Wow!
Life is crazy and messy, and that's what makes it so beautiful. For every bad thing that happens in my life, if I look hard enough, I can find something really good. Sometimes (like today) I don't have to look hard at all. I mean, TEN FREAKIN' DAYS! How could I not cheer up just thinking of the tour?
"Because you never know where life is gonna take you, and you can't change where you been, but today I have the opportunity to choose."- India Arie
Life is just a collection of choices. You choose how you feel, how you act, and what kind of person you are. If you let other people dictate your choices, then you're giving up the power that's yours by birth.
I choose to be myself, and I'm happy because of that.
ps- Keep smiling, because when it's real, it feels good.
What a Day ...
September 26, 2006; 7:28 p.m.
So this week has been fairly eventful. Remeber when I said we had a new Executive Director? Well, the changes she's made have cost her several employees.
My case manager quit yesterday, as did the other case manager in the office. That's the fourth case manager I've had quit on me.
My executive director originally told me that during the tour, I could continue to work via the Internet, and still collect a paycheck. Then last week during multiple meetings with my new managers (who have only been managing me for two weeks,) they let it slip that they were planning on replacing me while I was gone. I explained to them that my ED had given me permission to work while on the road. They said that they would look into it.
Today, I finally approached the subject very directly because I was tired of waiting on them to fill me in. I was basically told that someone had made the decision LAST WEEK (before our meetings) that I would be replaced while I was gone.
It was frustrating. To me, that says that they don't think enough of me to even do me the courtesy of telling me what was happening with my job. Instead they gave me the run around when they knew damn well what was happening all along.
I don't have a problem with the fact that they were not going to keep me on, in fact I can even understand why.
I DO NOT understand why they would so visibly decieve me. I have done nothing but try to help them piece the prevention department back together since they fired the prevention program manager. I have tried so hard to help them, and they don't even have enough respect for me to tell me what they hell is going on with MY job.
So I turned in my resignation.
It was a hard decision, because I truly love what I do, but I respect myself too much to let people dick me around like that. I deserve better. I deserve honesty from people I have tried so hard to help. I deserve the same respect that I give them. After everything I have put in to my job, the time, the dedication, the sacrifice ...
So I'm pretty upset with them, not for replacing me, but for choosing to hide it from me. In the end though, I'm proud of myself for refusing to be treated like I'm a second class employee.
I'm proud of myself, and if I were to die tonight, that's what would matter most to me.
A Really, Really, Really Long (and Enthusiastic) Letter
September 12, 2006; 4:56 p.m.
Wow. Life seems to just happen so quickly doesn't it? I'm so excited for this tour. I honestly believe that it's impossible for us to do this thing without changing lives. And not just one, but many, hundreds. I honestly believe that we will influence people in ways we can't even forsee. I'm so happy to see that it's all coming together.
To the rest of my fellow speakers:
Wow! Isn't this crazy? I'm excited to get to know you guys. A while back, I came up with this crazy thought; what defines family, other than something in your blood? And we all have the same thing in our blood, so ... Are we a family? I would say yes. I don't know you, but there's something in our blood that we share, and because of that, we've all experienced some of the same things. On one level or another, we'll get each other in ways that other people can't. Thank god you're not the family I was raised with though ... I don't know if i could do two months on bus if that were the case! Anyway, I'm really looking forward to meeting all of you, and I honestly don't know if it's possible to be more excited.
To the Whos Positive Team:
You guys rock my face off! I know that you've put insane amounts of time and effort into this, and I really appreciate it. Thank you guys for helping us get to this point. I don't know if this would have happened without you guys. As the days go by, and the tour looms closer, the excitement is building for me, and it's due in huge part to the work you've done. So AJ, Chido, Mary Ann, Char, thank you guys so much! (Those are the names I remember, so if I forgot anyone, then I'm sorry!) I hope we get to meet at some point in time.
You set out to change something. I don't know if it was your community, the nation, or the world, but you are definitely on your way to achieving something great. You know as well as I do that this type of work will not be over until HIV is eradicated. Maybe that's a daunting task, and some may even say unrealistic, but that hasn't ever seemed to stop you. I think that you were one of the people that inspired me most to really jump in and get my hands dirty in this kind of work. Thank you for the work you've done, and thank you for this amazing opportunity. I'm excited to work with you, because this is only the beginning. I feel it.
So let's do this! Let's get out there, work our asses off, change some minds, and save a few lives. It's so tangible, it's amazing. Get ready america, there is something big coming, and you better take notice!
ps- if you're reading these journals, tell someone about them, and Operation:Get Tested. Let's make this huge!
(Did I mention I was excited?)
Just Giving Thanks ...
August 28, 2006; 3:22 p.m.
I've been feeling ... poetic? Romantic? I'm not sure exactly what I've been feeling, but it's something along those lines. I was just thinking, 'Wow. I'm here. I'm alive. I'm happy. Thank you.' I guess I'm thanking God, or Fate, or Life, or whatever you want to call it for allowing me to be here. Sometimes when I really stop and look at the way life works itself out, I can't help but smile. Life is so precious, why not find the irony in it? Lately my mindset has been this: Let's laugh at the bad parts of life, and take our time to really soak up the good parts. Let's smile more, let's enjoy ourselves. Let's push ourselves to be better people. Let's question ourselves. Let's take on our fears. Let's tackle our problems with optimism and vigor. Let's forget about what we can't have, and work for that which is attainable. Let's be happy. Let's love. Most of all, let's be thankful for being given the opportunity to live. That's been my mood today, and I thought I would share.
Why Is it Always HIV, HIV, HIV?
August 16, 2006; 3:30 p.m.
I'm feeling frustrated today. I was on a conference call yesterday, and some of the stuff we talked about afterward made me stop and think about where I am in life. HIV has really started to take over my life. And I don't mean in just the destroying-my-immune-system way. It's like, somewhere along the line, HIV crept into all aspects of my life. HIV testing, counseling, and prevention is now my job. HIV lives in my body, and continuosly threatens my health. HIV is a silent, dangerous part of my relationship.
What's really bothering me is that, especially lately, alot of my schoolwork is taking on an HIV slant. My communications class is a perfect example. Both of my required speeches were about HIV. The first was about POZ parents, and the second was about HIV prevention. I know, I could have chose a different topic. But I didn't.
I chose those topics because no one else would have. And because if I don't make it an issue in my community, no one else will.
So I guess I'm frustrated because I've conciously made HIV such a big part of my life because I really want to make a difference. But to be honest, I'm sick of having HIV be such a big part of my life. But I don't want to quit doing the things that I'm doing, because I know that they're making a difference. I can see the impact that this work is having ...
I feel like I'm whining, and that's why I picked this title. It's meant to make fun of me, so that I can laugh at myself. (I mean, didn't we all hate Jan when she said "Why is it always Marsha, Marsha, Marsha?")
I guess this is where I pick what's more rewarding, and the answer is obvious: Even though this work is sometimes frustrating, it's worth it. And just being able to say that, and believe it, makes this whole situation better. I'm glad I've got this space to share my thoughts.
Hopefully people who read this who are in similar situations will realize, 'Yeah this gets frustrating. Yeah I get tired of talking about HIV. But yeah ... it's worth it.'
PS- If anyone listens to the band Kill Hannah, they've got a great song on their new album called "Love you to death." I'm a dork for admitting this, but ... it made me cry.
Life in General
August 08, 2006; 11:02 a.m.
I'm so happy! I'm almost done with classes for the summer!
On an exciting note, I've been nominated to sit on the Governers AIDS Policy Commission. It's a big step, and it's intimidating to be honest. I had an opportunity to pursue that, or pursue a seat as the Regional co-chair for the Community Planning Group, which decides HIV prevention policy for that state. Part of me wanted to stick with the CPG, because it would be less intimidating than the Governers Commission. But that part of me that always says "I you're not going to go big, then why try at all?" won out. Besides, it's just a nomination, not an offer for that seat. So we'll see. I'm going to that meeting this thursday.
Here's a quote from a Killers song that I'm listening to right now-
"I got soul, but I'm not a soldier"
Maybe that's a good motto to live by.
July 18, 2006; 5:23 p.m.
Things have been going well. Apologies for not writing sooner, things have been pretty busy. (Lol! that seems like the story of my life!)
The agency I work for, Camino de Vida,has just hired a new Executive Director. As of late, our financial director has been acting as our ED as well. Anyway, along with a new ED comes new methods for our madness. I'm excited, but also a little nervous. She's arranged standing meetings once a week with each staff member, and weekly meeting with the whole staff. This week we're moving the staff meeting to a secret location ... You're probably thinking, "Secret? Huh?" Your not the only one, trust me. All in all, I think the changes she's making/planning to make are going to ultimately be really constructive.
I started my second session of summer classes last tuesday ... and then proceeded to miss the rest of that first week. I had to go to Albuquerque, NM, for the "HIV interventionist/preventionist training." So that's what I did last week. I had to explain to my professors that this was mandatory, and that I was not blowing off class. they both responded the same way- "I won't drop you, but make sure you get the notes." I've got theater 101, and communications 265 this session. Last session, I kicked ass and got a's in all my courses. I guess I'm hoping to repeat that success in the coming weeks.
Word of Advice- Summer classes rock! They're intense, they're incredibly demanding, and they skip NOTHING, but it's only five hard weeks, and then you're done. For me, it's worth the effort.
Second Word of Advice- Don't ever quit going to class after you miss the withdrawal date. You'll fail your classes, and you'll be playing catch-up for a while. Then, you still have to get awesome grades to have a decent GPA.
My mom and I had a fight the other day, which basically ended in us not speaking. This was before I went to Albuquerque. I was writing to her to make ammends when she called, so things are okay now, but for a few days there, i was really left wondering how mad at me she was. It's hard to fight with her ... That's a lie. it's easy to fight with her, but i always feel bad afterwards because she has been, and continues to be an amazing mother, and an amazing woman. I need to spend more time with my family ...
Hmmm. I'm recognizing a pattern here. I need to spend more time with alot of people. My friends, my boyfriend, and my family. And it's going to be getting busier here, mostly because the Pride Committee is resuming meetings tomorrow.
Well, I can't blame anyone for my obligations but myself, right?
A Positive Outcome ...
June 27, 2006; 12:16 p.m.
When looked at literally, it was a positive outsome. But there was nothing positive about what happened yesterday.
The HIV service center that I work for recently implemented a rapid testing process; we can now give the test and the results in one visit. I've been doing testing for three months, and until yesterday had escaped the inevitable situation of telling someone they have a preliminary reactive (positive) result. It was so weird, being on the opposite side of the table. The situation brought up memories of the day that I received my results. It was a serious mindf*ck, having the roles reversed.
I could see that the results was positive long before the required ten minutes, and I knew what was coming. As I continued with the testing process, I was also examining myself closely. I kept thinking, "I should be freaking out. I'm too calm, I'm too focused. I should be freaking out." Instead, I was completely in control of everything, from my voice, my body language, my emotions, everything was exactly as if it would have been if the test was reading negative. After the ten minutes, I explained what the result was saying, and that it was only preliminary, and began talking him through the process of what was happening next. I explained that I had been in the exact same position, and if he needed to talk, I was there. I gave him my cell number, and then one of our case managers took over. As I walked backed upstairs to my office, I felt a huge wave of emotion slam into me, and I started tearing up. I took a deep breath and thought firmly to myself "No. This isn't you, this isn't your fault. Do not let this become your situation, you've got your own bullsh*t to deal with." My eyes stopped getting watery, and I went to my office, I shut the door, and I tried to process the situation.
What bothered me the most was that I didn't have to think about how I needed to act, I simply reacted by being in control. It was disturbing; When did I learn how to so totally detach from a situation? And I didn't really, but it's just a weird feeling to be so in control of everything and in a matter of minutes feel like you're falling apart.
I knew this was going to happen, but I didn't know what it was going to be like. I guess if I want to continue with the work that I'm doing, this is going to become fairly common. I guess I'll have to learn to separate myself from my work, without losing any of my humanity.
June 20, 2006; 16:01 p.m.
Things have been going well. I turned 20 on Sunday! Let's see, work has been going okay, not much new happening there. I sit on the planning committee for gay pride here in Las Cruces, and I'm glad that headache is over. It was a lot of work, but the event went about as well as expected. Next year is going to be better, because we made mistakes that will be easily fixed. Summer school is kicking my a**, but I'm enjoying it. No one bothered to tell me that you shouldn't take harder classes in the summer. I've got Eng. 211 and Intro to Political Science. Talk about bland mornings.
On a really, really, happy note, my meds are working. This is the first regimen I've been on, but so far it's having pretty decent results. My viral load is undetectable (for the first time since I was diagnosed), and my absolute cd4 is up to 497. Before meds, in March, my viral load had reached 10,000, and my cd4 was at 283. So for me, this is a huge improvement, and I'm really happy about it. Thank you Sustiva and Truvada! I heard they're coming out with a single tablet regimen (STR, for short ... Hmm, it could almost be "Sustive-Truvada Regimen" ... Those sneaky pharmaceutical companies.) It is a combo of Sustiva and Truvada, in one pill, taken once a day. But for me, that's only one pill less than usual.
Other than that, not much has been going on. Lot's of work, lot's of homework, lot's of lectures, and lot's of organizing have pretty much consumed my life lately. I can't wait for August to get here ... I'll just have work, and volunteer groups to deal with then.
Right now, I've got alot on my plate, and too many ways to deal with it. I wish i could just blow it all off. This quote from Mean Girls describes how I wish I could act right about now ...
"Whatever. I'm having cheese fries."
Long Couple of Weeks.
June 01, 2006; 7:51 p.m.
This past couple of weeks have been pretty stressful. I just started summer classes, so there's that. My boyfriend and I have also been fighting. I guess I'll explain a little more about our relationship.
We met a year and a half ago, in a local bookstore called Hastings. I was browsing magazines, and noticed him. I smiled, he smiled, we flirted, and then struck up a conversation. After a few dates, I explained to him that I was HIV positive, and he completely freaked. He told me that he needed to look out for his health, and while we could be friends, he couldn't put himself at risk. How do you argue with that? What right do I have to tell someone I just met that they're wrong? So we left it at that. About a week later, i got sick. I had a flu, or something, but I was in no shape to go to work. He came over, and he brought me soup, and we watched a movie (Chocolat) and then when the movie was over, we talked. Ha apologized for being so hasty, and said that he didn't want to let his fear get in the way of getting to know me. He said that i was a great person, and he wanted to see where a relationship might take us.
A year and a half later, here we are. I moved in with him, and we've had a pretty good run so far. Lately though, I've had personal issues that keep coming up, and disrupting our relationship. The same with him. Finally, last week, we reached a breaking point, and both decided we needed to take time for ourselves, and begin sorting through things. I stayed with Zack for a few days, before I went up to Santa Fe for a personal growth retreat. I hadn't been planning on going, but this was a perfect opportunity for me to really get away and think. I learned a lot more about myself.
The most important thing I learned was that if I can invest myself fully in this relationship, trust, compassion, all of myself, whether or not we succeed as a couple, the relationship will not be a failure. We've got a complicated journey ahead of us, but the beautiful thing is that we've decided to try. And we agreed to do it together. God, I love him so much, it's hard to really put it into words. He really is an amazing man, and I appreciate the fact that we have the chance to share our lives together.
May 17, 2006; 3:15 p.m.
I went into the office this morning, earlier than usual because we are headed to a conference that one of our funders is hosting later today. Anyway, the office was unusually quiet when I got there. The woman across the hall called me into her office and asked me if I had heard the news.
"She had a heart attack. The doctors are only giving her two days to live."
She, being a new employee at our agency, had been in the hospital for a couple of days, but I didn't know she had a heart attack. I didn't know that she was being kept alive by a number of machines that regulated her heart beat and her breathing. I didn't know that the EKG showed no sign of brain activity.
I didn't know she was going to die today.
My officemate/best friend/ex-boyfriend and I went to the hospital together.
"What do you tell some one who only has two days left to live? 'Hey, thought we'd stop by because you're probably not going to be here when we get back'?"
I couldn't help but grin, because of the way he said it. He makes jokes, I ask pensive questions, I make jokes, we cry, and we keep going until we're through. That's how we deal with things, I guess.
We talked about what is was going to be like when I die, how I wanted people to act, and how I knew they were going to act. We talked about how I'm more scared of being taken care of when I get sick than I am about dying. I guess I'm realizing more and more that whether I want it or not, I have people who really do love me that much. They want to be able to help me when I need it, and it's not right for me to deny them that privilege. I guess their help is as much for their own peace of mind as it is for me.
We got to the hospital, and walked inside, feeling pretty lost. "Where's the ICU?" "Um, I don't really know ..." "Where's room 116?" "There's room 111 ..." We finally found her room. People I had never met were there, most likely her family. We explained that we worked with her.
Walking around her bed gave us a better view of her face. Her eyes were open, glassy and unmoving. She stared silently over her shoulder at a blank spot on the wall. Her hair was matted, painfully messy. Her foot stuck out just a little from underneath her blanket. Her toes were painted a bright red. At first I thought someone had done it for her, then I realized that no one would have had the time. Tubes flowed out of her nostrils and her arms and her mouth.
How do you tell someone goodbye when they're already gone?
"There's no more brain activity. She's gone, we're just keeping her on life support so that people can say their goodbyes. We're turning it off later this afternoon." I guess this was her father speaking, but I don't know.
I mumbled "I'm sorry for your loss. Thank you." And then we left.
I'm going to take a quick nap, head back to work for a meeting, and then drive 4 hours to Albuquerque for this conference. Even though she's gone, I'm not. Life carries on with or without us. Sometimes the best we can do is carry on right along with it.
May 16, 2006; 15:27 p.m.
Reading Tom's journal reminded me that I need to get my own blood work done. It's been awhile since I last got my labs done, and I'm a little apprehensive. I ended up getting started on my first set of meds back in feb because of semi-alarming numbers. I'm worried that my numbers won't have moved much, but I guess we'll see. I've also had this really annoying cough ... I feel fine otherwise, but I just can't get rid of this thick, persistent cough. I think my allergies turned into something a little more serious, but I don't know.
I just need to quit worrying and get myself to the doctors.
My First Entry ...
May 9, 2006; 15:21:36 p.m.
I guess I'll start by introducing myself. My name is Kahlo Benavidez, I'm 19, and I live in a small city known as Las Cruces, NM. I've been HIV positive for close to a year and a half now. I found out when I was 18, on December 17th.
I was having alot of one-time sexual encounters with people I had never met, and never planned on seeing again. I knew that what I was doing was risky, especially since my condom use was sort of hit-or-miss. I just didn't really think of HIV as a threat, not because I didn't believe in it, but because I had never known anyone who was infected. After I tested negative following some "risky behavior", I began to feel invincible. I developed a "superman complex" that would later prove to be nothing more that a compromised coping skill meant to give me a sense of security.
Finding out I was positive was a reality check. I was so dissapointed in myself for being so wreckless. This sounds alot worse than it is, I had only had maybe 8-10 unsafe encounters, but it only took one of those to lead to my infection.
I was depressed for a few months. I felt cheated somehow. By what, or who, I don't know, but I felt robbed of opportunity. After telling my friends and family, I began to realize something: This was actually nothing but opportunity. My mistakes could become something that other people could learn from, and hopefully I could convince other people to make better choices than I did.
In the end, that's all that life is really. Life is the sum of the choices we make, whether that choice is to use a condom, or whether that choice is to refuse to be depressed because of a rough situation. Life is about choices, and we learn from not only our own experience, but from the experience of others as well.
I'm sure I sound like a cheesy afterschool special or something ... =) But that's just kind of background on me, and where I'm at as a person. Hopefully, my future entries will be engaging, but not as intense. Thanks again, to Tom and to Who's Positive, for giving me the opportunity to share my story.
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