Resilience Sealed With God ...
By Rae Lewis-Thornton
November 11, 2010
These last three months have felt like old school AIDS. The thing that makes this disease one bad ass motherfucker, and the wildest thing about it all is that none of this should be happening. Honestly. My viral load is non-detectable and my t-cell count is relaxing in the high 400's. So why is my immune system acting like my t-cell is 8? That's the thing that makes this disease complicated. Nothing is as simple as it seems. It is also the thing that challenges the very core of who you are.
Y'all know the details. I've been blogging about it and it reads like a scene out of reality TV. It started with food poisoning, nausea, food sensitivity, diarrhea and rapid weight lost. My body was so toxic I couldn't tolerate my HIV medications. I had to take a drug holiday and risk drug resistance to my HIV medication to get better. Then after the month long holiday, it didn't solve the problem. I then had to have an endoscopy and four stomach biopsies. From that they discovered that I had a bacteria infection in my stomach. In the mean time, I got another AIDS related infection that required me to take IV medication, but there was a national shortage of the medication that I needed so they had to put me on an alternative anti-viral medication that causes renal failure. In fact, that particular medication is so old school, my doctor hasn't even prescribed it in over ten years.
I was sick everyday, all day: weakness, diarrhea, nausea. It never seemed to get better but from somewhere I was able to keep it together. I didn't play superwoman this time. I afforded my body the rest that I needed to get better. I tweeted, that was the most of my work. Keeping HIV/AIDS in the face of those who need to know the most. I knew that there would be an end. My history with this disease speaks volumes. If I can just hold on there will be light at the end of this tunnel. So that's exactly what I did. I held on as tight as I could. Drawing on my resilience that is sealed in a covenant with God.
Then on this Tuesday it all seemed to crumble before my very eyes. On Monday I started to have this horrible itchy feeling in my vagina. Yes, I'm going there. I assumed that I had a yeast infection, which is not uncommon for women when taking a heavy antibiotic load like the one I was taking. But by the next morning it became a different animal, a beast.
The only thing they were clear on was that this was an acute centralized reaction to one of my medications. They had no idea why the reaction targeted my vagina, or which medication caused it. They speculated that it was either the IV medication, the antibiotic or the medicine I was taking to protect my kidneys. *sigh* But they did know that with a steroid cream and Benadryl, it will get better over time. I just had to suffer through the right now pain. But honestly, the right now pain is no joke.
After my exam I went back to the infusion room and cried for 45 minutes. I came home and cried for another 45 minutes. Well honestly, I cried most of the night. I just couldn't seem to pull it together. I felt broken and abandoned, but I held on. Then morning came. And morning has a way of giving you a fresh perspective to an old problem. You become real clear that life is better than death. Even life wrapped in pain is better than no life at all. I've come to the conclusion that I'll take life, everything else is extra. In the end, all I can do is take life with as much grace as I can and have faith for the extra. And history has proven to me that in my moments of despair, I have to draw on my resilience that is sealed in a covenant with God.
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Rae Lewis-Thornton Speaks
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.
Rae is an active user of social media -- read "Long-Term HIV Survivor Discovers the Power of Twitter," an article on TheBody.com about Rae's social media activities.
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