Taking Care of Hal
A Video Blog
By Mark S. King
November 20, 2008
Greetings, my friends!
Years ago I worked as director of an agency for people living with HIV/AIDS, and although the work was satisfying, I was irritated with one principle of the agency: "You don't know what it's like if you are not HIV positive."
Really? It seems our caregivers get a pretty good idea. One of the most unintentionally hurtful things my brother Dick's late lover said to him, as my brother cared for him throughout his illness, was "you don't know what it's like." My brother had a horrific front row seat to his lover's disease and dying process. Isn't that close enough to understand?
This comes to mind because I've spent the last month caring for my oldest brother, Hal, in Michigan, as he suffered through the last of his chemotherapy for lung cancer. I've taken him to doctor appointments, watched over his meds, and lain sleepless listening to his late night coughing fits. I learned how to change the bandages from an open wound in his chest where his left lung used to be. I discussed with him his plans should his life expectancy suddenly shorten. Don't tell me I don't know what it is like to live with cancer.
My video blog below takes you to Grand Rapids, Mich., where you'll meet Hal and even my 102-year-old grandmother, who has her own opinions on longevity.
Caring for Hal also took me out of myself, out of my disease, and allowed me to focus on another person. This has been my gift this holiday: to be there for Hal and to put my own HIV infection into perspective. And what have I learned?
That my HIV disease, and HIV in general, is not so unique, as much as my self-centeredness wants to say otherwise. Those of us living with HIV are, however, uniquely qualified in one respect: helping others going through difficult times medically, regardless of the diagnosis.
If you are fortunate enough to be living in good health with HIV, here's a holiday suggestion for you: Reach out to those who might benefit from your empathy and compassion, whether it's a friend with HIV, a brother with cancer or someone elderly confined to a nursing home. You're qualified.
In the meantime, please be well.
To contact Mark, click here.
Episode Four: Taking Care of Hal
Comment by: Victor
Tue., Feb. 9, 2010 at 6:12 pm EST
Your Blog and videos are amazing and makes laugh a lot! I am HIV - but a guy that i love so much is HVI+, so, i´m learning all i can to help him and keep him hapiest as possible. I hope people like you always made my days good!
Comment by: Jenesia Hooks
Tue., May. 12, 2009 at 1:48 am EDT
I am also HIV/POSITIVE and I was a fool in love and he was a womanizer. HE SLEEP WITH SEVERAL DIFFERENT FEMALES, AND I WAS PLAYED 4 A FOOL. I'M SUFFERING KIDNEY DISEASE AND WE DIDN'T KNOW WHY. THEN MY IMMUNE SYSTEM STARTED SHUTTING DOWN. AND THEN THE DOCTORS RAN MANY TESTS, THEN I GET THE NEWS THAT WAS HIV/POSITIVE AND I MUST ADMIT THAT I WAS HEART BROKEN. I RIGHT WHERE IT CAME FROM. LATER I LEARNED THAT THE GUY WHO GET IT 2 ME ALSO AFFECTED 15 OTHER FEMALE AND GOT ARRESTED AND THEN THEY LET HIM OUT. BUT BECAME CLOSER 2 JESUS AND OUR AND SAVIOR.AND I GOT A NEW LEASE ON LIFE STARTED TALKING 2 THE YOUNG TEEN GIRLS AT MY CHURCH. IT MAKES ME FEEL SPECIAL BECAUSE I HAVE WONDERFUL SUPPRT SYSTEM. EVEN I WAS I HAVE ONE I COULD TALK THAT CAN RELATE 2 ME. BECAUSE EVEN THOUGH I'M A STRONG PERSON I STILL SOMEONE WHO HAS SOME THING IN COMMON BECAUSE SOME PEOPLE WHEN FIND OUT YOUR STATUS AND JUDGE NOT EVEN TO GET TO KNOW WHO I REALLY AM. A SWEET, HONEST, CUTE, SMART,TALENT, AND DOWN EARTH. WHO LOVES TO LAUGH AND DRAW, COOK, ETC. MANY GOD WILL SEND ME A SPECIAL FRIEND TALK 2. AND 2 THOSE OUT THERE THAT ARE HIV/POSITIVE YOU HAVE A FRIEND IN ME BECAUSE WE SHOULD ALL STICK TOGETHER. ONE LOVE AND GOD BLESS YOU ALL SMOOCHES!!!!!!......
Comment by: David
Sat., Mar. 14, 2009 at 5:14 pm EDT
I don't have any health issues or complications nor am I gay. But I have read everything that you have said and watched all your recordings and even read all the responses from people that you have touched. I'm glad you're doing this and sharing with so many people. You're incredibly courageous for opening up your personal life and letting others heal from your experiences. I'm proud to tell people you're my brother. I'm proud on so many levels. I love you and now I can see that others do too. Keep doing what you're doing. You are the most inspirational person I know.
Comment by: Master Alex
Thu., Feb. 5, 2009 at 8:23 pm EST
I love your positive attitude, whether it was born thru the burdens of your own health issues and addiction recovery or it was always part of your approach to life. When I became Poz it seemed like a huge burden emotionally. Then the mental antidote came to me, "Life is a sexually transmitted disease and it is invariably fatal." Suddenly it wasn't about me and a disease; it was about life and the reality that none of us were going to get out of it alive. Yes, I have HIV, but I also have life, which gives me time to live but also the certainty there will be death at the end. I am no longer concerned that I have a "fatal disease" because all of life will end in time with death. Now I know, disease or not, that I am no different than any other man or woman except now I face and know the reality of my own mortality. I just don't know when. You're facing your own HIV and recovery from meth addiction, your brother facing his cancer, surgery and chemotherapy, and your grandmother facing old age and increasing frailty. You are all my fellow travelers on our paths thru life to our own moments of mortality. So I try to keep a light heart, reminding myself that every day I wake up on the green side of the sod is still a good day. Thank you for sharing your walk on this path with all the rest of us. Be well, be strong, be not afraid.
Comment by: Mak
Wed., Jan. 28, 2009 at 12:18 am EST
I agree 100%, there is more to life and death than hiv..
By the way, try relating to HIV as hiv and AIDS as aids.
By taking the "scream" from the capital letters I think you take the power off the virus:)).
Comment by: mike
Sun., Jan. 18, 2009 at 10:14 am EST
b6uT0S hi! how you doin?
Comment by: Derrick Revies
Fri., Dec. 12, 2008 at 6:39 pm EST
Thanks for allowing me to watch your video. As an HIV+ man I smoke cigarettes but I don't drink and I do believe that the best medicine is to help others who are sick. Thanks your video is inspiring.
Comment by: Donna
Wed., Dec. 10, 2008 at 7:10 am EST
I was diagnosed a year ago and was told to go to a group and talk. I did. I learned that HIV pos is a winney disease and I decided not to be that person who lets HIV define who I am. I never feel sorry for myself. For what? Life is too short,(now more than ever) so I live in every moment (keyword: in) NO FEAR enjoy life now. I did not catch it from anyone, got it from a blood transfusion. So I also have no one to blame, which is fine with me. If I could find a cure I would. But the best feeling is helping others. They don't have to be sick, just be there for someone else.
Merry Christmas and enjoy the holidays the best you can. I understand the fear of family members but you can't change it. Just do your best and smile. Sometimes it is best to keep the illness to yourself. Just be responsible.
Comment by: Ben
Sun., Nov. 30, 2008 at 2:39 pm EST
This episode of the blog was remarkably more wistful than previous editions, more mature, and seemed to show, as well as tell, the way helping Hal has helped you. Is this a turning point for our story's hero?
Comment by: tammy
Sun., Nov. 30, 2008 at 7:30 am EST
I want to say that I feel you're correct in that taking care of a poz loved one, you know how it feels to be poz. My husband is poz. Although I haven't contracted this in in lieu of me being pregnant it is in deed close enough. No, I cannot get med side effects, but I do feel emotionally like my husband, whom I love dearly and who now seems to be uninterested in me at all. I do know how it is.
Comment by: David
Sat., Nov. 29, 2008 at 10:19 am EST
Very true words, Mark. Self-absorption is a big part of the human condition and helping others takes the focus off ourselves and, perversely, can make us happier. I've been my grandmother's primary carer for many years now and this autumn she's developed Acquired Haemophilia, which can kill you much quicker than cancer or HIV if left untreated. I'm worn out with being at the hospital every day these last two months but I also realise that it is an honour and a privilege - if I had not been loved by this fragile, old woman, I wouldn't be here to try and give her solace. I've never needed a holiday as I do right now but I'm returning the love that I have received.
Comment by: Barry Butts
(Laguna Beach /Palm Springs, Ca)
Thu., Nov. 27, 2008 at 4:57 pm EST
Very cool video, caused a very strong emotion while watching. I am going through chemo since September and alone. I should be finished January 5th. I live in Laguna Beach now and will be moving to Palm Springs at the end of December. I am looking at voluntering at Desert AIDS project. I have learned first hand of the difficulties with fighting to keep optimistic thoughts and that I will get through this. I have learned to fight insurance companies, learn about medical procedures, take care of my self financialy, spiritually, physically and emotionally. It is amazing what I have learned about myself in the last three years. I have never been prouder of my self then now...
Comment by: Drew
(Sydney , Australia)
Thu., Nov. 27, 2008 at 6:07 am EST
WOW Mark!!! You're such the good younger brother. Keep up the good work! Hope your brother's health improves, and you, dear, keep the blogs coming.
Cheers Drew xxoo (from sunny SYDNEY .... thank god we don't have that cold North American weather .. LOL) WORLD AIDS DAY DEC 1ST is our first day of summer ...yay! Bondi Beach here i cum .. er .. um come!
p.s I've been positive since 20th July '07.
Comment by: Nancy
Wed., Nov. 26, 2008 at 9:49 pm EST
Mark - Taking care of someone else does make you consider how blessed you are not only to be healthy but to help the other person be healthier emotionally by being there for them. Thank you for taking on that role in your family.
Comment by: Ann
Wed., Nov. 26, 2008 at 7:42 pm EST
I once thought that being HIV+ was the worst thing that could happen to me, but then I had family trouble and now I have to live with a broken heart for the rest of my life. HIV is easy compared to never being able to see people you love again.
Comment by: Patrick Archer
Wed., Nov. 26, 2008 at 6:58 pm EST
Thank you Mark for "saying" what I have been "feeling" for the 21 years I've been positive. Supporting my brother-in-law with his cancer chemotherapy was somewhat like dealing with HIV treatments. Keep up the good work, from a former "Michigander" (Manistee). Patrick T. Archer
Comment by: Mario Marquez
Wed., Nov. 26, 2008 at 4:40 pm EST
Mark thanks for the opportunity to share. My mother passed in January, but the previous 5 years I traveled to Texas from San Fran every free extended period of time I had. I can tell you this, if I had to do it again wouldn't change a thing. There isn't enough money on this earth to persuade me otherwise. Being able to care for Mom is the best gift that God could give me. Being HIV+, I now find myself grieving and at a loss for focus. Suppose part of this is depression, but your video brought my life into better perspective. Thank you.
By the way our mother was nearing her 90th birthday. How blessed I am to know such a strong, intuitive person. I keep mom in the present tense because I am not ready to let go, not sure I ever will (hope not). Thanks.
Comment by: John
Wed., Nov. 26, 2008 at 4:14 pm EST
Mark - What a wonderful gift to give to another. I remember you telling me about your brother and am glad you are there for him now. You continue to inspire and I am glad you are well. I think of you often and look forward to seeing your updates. Thank for for being a powerful voice.
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My Fabulous Disease
Mark S. King has been an active AIDS activist, writer and community organization leader since the early 1980s in Los Angeles. He has been an outspoken advocate for prevention education and for issues important to those living with HIV.
Diagnosed in 1985, Mark has held positions with the Los Angeles Shanti Foundation, AID Atlanta and AIDS Survival Project, and is an award-winning writer. He continues his volunteer work as an AIDS educator and speaker for conferences and events.
Speaking engagements: Mark King is available to speak to groups. Contact Mark about speaking at your organization or event!
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August 4, 2014 - AIDS 2014 Video Blog: A Farewell, and Final Thoughts on Melbourne
July 25, 2014 - AIDS 2014 Video Blog #5: Activist Theater, Condom Tryouts and a Mystery Man Revealed
July 24, 2014 - AIDS 2014 Video Blog #4: One World, One Place, Thousands of Voices -- The Awesome Advocates of HIV/AIDS
July 23, 2014 - AIDS 2014 Video Blog #3: The Global March and Candlelight Vigil
July 22, 2014 - AIDS 2014 Video Blog #2: Criminals and Mannequins, Both Fighting HIV Stigma
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Interviews With Mark:
Mark King Looks Back at the AIDS Epidemic's Darkest Hour in the U.S. (May 14, 2008)
This Month in HIV: Crystal Methamphetamine and HIV (August 2007)
Articles by Mark:
Meth Burial (May 2008)
A Brief Disclaimer:
Outliving My Father (May 22, 2001)
Mark recounts how years of caring for friends dying of AIDS prepared him for taking care of his dying father
From The Advocate
AIDS Always Benefits from What We Don't Talk About (April 2001)
For the rest of Mark's articles, click here.
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