February 23, 2010
I was born into a military family. As a kid, I moved around a great deal. My older brother was the lucky one -- he got to travel around Europe. I was the one who moved from Mineral Wells, Texas, to a series of postings in California and Washington state. My father retired to Central Florida where I finished high school. I went to university in Atlanta where I met my beloved partner of 30 years.
On the Saturday before Labor Day 1984, I learned I was infected with HIV. I was living in Atlanta at that time. I was 31 years old. The news came in the form of a certified letter from the Red Cross delivered by the mail carrier who was the daughter of the pastor of the church I attended in Central Florida as a kid. She had moved to Atlanta to be with her girlfriend and became a letter carrier who by happenstance was assigned a route that included my house. I remember her saying, as she handed the letter to me, "A certified letter from the Red Cross. Isn't that strange?"
I had given blood at work the week before and it was in that blood that the Red Cross found HIV. I had heard in the news of a mysterious gay cancer that was affecting gay men in New York and San Francisco. I was very concerned about this news but my friends thought nothing of it. My doctor told me when he confirmed my diagnosis that I should get my affairs in order and be prepared to die. My partner refused to be tested.
Shortly after my diagnosis a good friend of mine went into hospital with AIDS complications. He died a horrible death. Soon many of my friends became sick with AIDS and I watched as one after another of my gay male friends sickened and died.
My partner and I looked around at all the death around us and in 1986 we decided to live out our dreams. We began to look at country property where we could open an inn. We found a beautiful spot on the Toccoa River just outside Blue Ridge, Georgia. For the next three years we worked hard to build the business and hardly thought of AIDS. After three years of operating an inn and restaurant 24/7, we were exhausted and decided to sell the business.
The day the business sold my partner and I took out a map of the United States and began to think about where we would go next. I wanted to go to Maine where a historic inn was for sale and my partner wanted to go to San Diego. We compromised by deciding to move to San Francisco. We put our furniture in storage, packed the car and headed west.
In 1990 while living in San Francisco, I met a woman who changed my life. Her name was Beth Robinson. She had been infected by her bisexual husband who told her -- as he lay dying of AIDS -- that he had lied to her about having cancer. He had AIDS and most likely so did she. She stayed angry for years. But soon she overcame her anger by learning to live in the moment. From her, I learned to seize every day and stop worrying about the future. I was with Beth when she chose to die in 1994.
In 2002 my partner retired and we decided that I should take a two year sabbatical from my work so that we could travel. Rather than waste two years, I applied to several graduate schools in the UK and France. I elected to earn an MBA from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. After earning my MBA in 2003, my employer assigned me to the Los Angeles office.
I started on HIV meds in 1994 and have taken most of the current antiretrovirals. In 2003, I was diagnosed with Pneumocystis Carnii Pneumonia and was hospitalized for nearly a month. The following year I was diagnosed with hardening of the liver and neuropathy. In 2004, I began to notice that I was having a hard time concentrating and that my memory was deteriorating. My doctors told me these were merely symptoms of stress and advised me to learn to relax.
On Valentine's Day 2007, I suddenly lost the ability to walk while dashing to a meeting. Over the remainder of that year, I experienced several episodes in which I lost the strength in my legs and arms. In early 2008, after a battery of tests by an AIDS experienced neurologist at UCLA, I was diagnosed with the beginning stages of AIDS Dementia. I retired from my job in Los Angeles on a disability retirement in late 2008 at which time I was 53.
I want to use this blog to share my experiences with HIV/AIDS. I hope all my posts reassure the reader that the day is sufficient unto the day and that without doubt your life is unfolding as it should.
My motto is "Life is a River. Carpe Diem". I mean by my motto that life unfolds before you as if you were on a raft slowly floating down a river. The riverbank you have passed is memory; the riverbank you shall cross is unknown. On our river, we live in a continuously unfolding present. We must make the most of every moment on our river through learning to fully live in the now or carpe diem -- seize the day. I have survived 26 years with HIV/AIDS because of that motto.