I got the results of last Friday’s (4/13/12) blood draw via phone today.  It seems that my T-cells have almost doubled in the last month!  I was at just under 240 and am now over 400.  I will see the actual results in writing tomorrow, along with the results for the viral load / viral burden testing that was done that same day. That test will tell me how much of the HIV is active in my blood stream; how much infection is still there trying to attack my good blood!  The T-cell count is the count of the “helper” cells that are in charge of your body’s immune system.  Normal individual women generally have between 500 and 1000 of these per ml of blood.  I once tested at 1286!  Which is more in the normal range for a man, which is 800-1500 generally.  The T-‘s tend to bounce a bit from day to day, but I usually have the test done every 3 months, trying to stay with the same time of day for each test.  Somehow this also gives a slightly more accurate picture of what’s going on.  So I usually go before 11am each time, thus I am not worn down from a day of activity before the count is checked.

I have been on a “cocktail” of drugs to combat my HIV infection.  Issentress, Prezista, Norvir, and Viread are the current names of the drugs in the cocktail.  I take 3 of them once a day and the Issentress I have to take twice daily.  It’s not a big deal anymore.  Years ago, back in the 90’s when I first tested positive the drugs were few and far between, and as we did get more ammo in the munitions pile toward the end of that decade the drugs left us with horrific side-effects, sometimes intolerable, and you had to swallow fist fulls of pills sometimes up to 6 times a day!  I recall that at one point I was taking 28 pills a day!  A huge difference compared to today’s 5 pills.  And I must say the side-effects are no where near as bad now, they’ve honed the dosages and compositions of the drugs, and made them much more tolerable and manageable today.

I am feeling the good effects of the cocktail working inside of me.  My energy level has DEFINITELY returned to somewhere closer to “normal”, especially in the last 2 weeks.  And my mood, anxiety and overall attitude has definitely improved.  I have been working outside in my gardens quite a bit, getting things done that have been waiting for my energy to return for months, and generally just making it happen!  I have taken on a much more positive attitude and I know this is probably responsible for some of these changes, but the energy level alone was being squashed hard by the virus itself.  So with less virus, more T-cells and less stress I have managed to re-find that positive attitude within myself to make the rest happen accordingly.  

I realize that I am one of the lucky ones that has managed to survive 20 years of living with HIV in my life.  I still mourn those friends that I lost in the early 90’s to AIDS and suicides cause by AIDS and the feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.  I still strive to educate others, support others and as well as those who love ME through all of this; despite it.  I continue to refuse to let HIV be my death sentence, or to run my life. And I allow it to live within my blood, as long as it allows ME to live on this planet.  It’s a deal I made long ago.  And it holds true to this day.  A done deal.

Party, Pig Roast and Spring Cleaning

I attended my youngest brother’s 40th surprise birthday party yesterday, and it was a traditional Maine pig roast – not the most appealing way to view your food, but interesting and gross enough so that I stuck to the sweedish meatballs that did not resemble in any way the animal from which they came.  I just don’t like seeing the food in it’s “raw” form.  And the children loved seeing the roasting pig, but when it came time to eat this delicacy, they wanted no part what-so-ever.  Hot dogs were the children’s main course.  

It was a great gathering of my core family, which is always nice.  And my brother seemed to enjoy that we had gone to the trouble of trying to make his day the best it could be. The celebration of his turning 40 means that we (all the siblings) are not kids anymore, we’ve moved into that chapter of life that looks forward to the futures of our prodigy; the kids and their kids.  Funny how that works, you think life is all about “you” and what you’ll do in the world, how great your life will be, then you move past fantasy, thru those middle years and it becomes about the kids, what they will do and who they will become.  

I spent the day doing that deep Spring cleaning on my home.  Cleaning out closets and those spaces that gather the junk all winter, in dark silence, until Spring comes and we decide to rid ourselves of the clutter and re-organize the spaces to receive more things later on.  It was a great time of discovery, finding things I had put “away” months ago for this reason or that, and finding new places for them in the house.  Decorations got put up, things got thrown into the “yard sale” pile, and junk was thrown away.  It felt freeing and good to lighten up the load and see the more organized, pretty end product of a nice clean and well put together household.  I am going to work on the outdoor area more today, and what a beautiful day of weather I have to work with!  Image

Returning to Work

I am going to try to go back to work.  It’s been several years that I’ve been out of work, I took early retirement due to my declining health, and now I feel that I NEED to work to feel more viable and to give myself time to interact with the world.  Plus, financially it will seriously benefit me to even work just part time, as I have planned.  

I spend over 20 years in the swimming pool industry.  And I shall be returning to my old company to work part-time in one of their retail stores on the sales floor.  I always enjoyed the business in general, and I am sure I’ll have to get caught up on the new industry trends, but overall I have mad skills to offer them having so much prior experience under my belt.  The pool business is one where skilled workers are hard to come by.  It requires a mechanical mind, a basic understanding of chemistry and geometry, along with the ability to explain complicated processes in words that the every day Joe/Jane can comprehend and apply to their situation.  

So I am excited for all that returning to work will bring to me.  I’m looking forward to being around more people, to the extra money and the things that will help me do, and to just getting out of the house with a purpose!  I pray that my health will allow me to meet my obligations, and I am going to try my hardest to not let it interfere with the 4 hours a day I will be devoting to the company.  I’m confident that I can do it!

Life’s Chapters and Moments

At the ripe age of 50 I have lived a very full life and feel it’s been a good life.  I have had many interesting and formative experiences, was lucky enough to have been brought into this world by a wonderful couple who provided me and my four younger siblings with a stable, loving and nurturing home.  And I am still lucky to have that entire biological family with me and as active participants in my life today.

I see my life thus far as having been lived to this point in “chapters”.  Each chapter represents a period of time along the time-line of my life, during which I was a person living life within in the boundaries of what I knew at that time.  The chapters go something like this:  Childhood, Adolescence, 20’s, 30’s, 40’s…etc.  And I am just beginning my venture into the Chapter 50’s.  Now of course, the history I have gleaned from each of the previous chapters carries with me into the next chapter and forward, for one cannot “change” history as it becomes “part” of who we “are” and how we define ourselves on this very day we are in now.  It is the “defining moments” that happen within each of those chapters that I believe give each of us our very core definitions.

“Defining Moments” are those individual blips on our internal radar screens where something very specific happens to us or in our lives; moments that change us in some little – or big – way forever forward.  They are those moments such that happen out of the blue, but change you sometimes in immeasurable ways, like the moment I first fell in love the very first time and felt those big bad butterflies in my stomach, or the moment that I learned I was HIV positive – life changed in that single second in ways I still cannot explain or put into words today.  THOSE are the moments that can raise us to the heavens or bring us to our knees; the instances where our heart skips a beat and we forget to breathe just for a second.  In our very next breath we are someone “different” from who we were 2 seconds prior.  That is my definition of a “defining moment”.

Our life “chapters” happen in much more gradual ways.  They are the historical foundation under our feet, the ways we learn to walk, talk, and “be” in each of our own unique ways.  Chapters encompass time periods where we choose to investigate the many angles of living lives.  We color our hair because it’s all the rage, wear bell-bottoms and tye-dyed t-shirts and attend Motley Crue concerts that make us deaf later in life.

Now, a “defining moment” CAN and generally DOES trip up a historical journey.  Example is that I was a pretty hard partying 30 year old lesbian in a tumultuous relationship, in which I thought I was happy, had a good job and was pretty much strolling through life as one does when the “defining moment” of hearing someone say to me “You are HIV+” rang in my ears.  THAT single moment; that single sentence, and that very instant in time CHANGED me in profound ways.  It derailed the train ride through my 30’s like a rocket propelled grenade.  It stopped me dead in my tracks and spurned one hell of a life change, which in turn changed the path of history that I may have taken had that moment not happened.

I do not refer to that particular moment in my life as anything but a simple reference here, using only because I feel it’s a very poignant example of the true “defining moment” as I understand it in my life.  It caused me to change in so many ways, and I am grateful for having my eyes truly opened on that day and for the life I have been privileged to live ever since.  And it probably saved my life, if the truth be known.  Today I live happy and healthy – just with HIV as my no-so-welcome, partner in history.

I have had many other “chapters” and “moments” that have formed me, defining me as who I am today.  Life is to be savored and enjoyed; to be lived to it’s fullest and finest.  It’s for each of us to grab hold of and hang on for the ride, to learn, grow and make our individual marks on the world, and on history.  Each of us plays a very specific part, our part.   (To be continued)

Here is a link to my Youtube vlog about this blog and subject that I just did as well.

#CBR4 Review #18: The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan

#CBR4 Review #18: The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan.

Enjoyed this book review and wanted to repost it for my followers enjoyment.  I have often referred to my own life as being lived in “chapters”; because I feel that I have lived several “kinds” of lives in the 50 years I’ve been here.  I have been different people at different times, just carrying the history of one.  And it has always been those “defining moments” that seem to occur in life that have brought me to sudden realizations of things; whether it be the need for a change or the realization that something great has been added to my life.  I have vlogged on this specific topic “Defining Moments” and believe I shall again take the topic up for renewed thought – as a result of this book review!  Hmm…could this be one of the minor “moments” when something is brought to my attention due to stirrings in the latest chapter of the bigger picture?  I pause for reflection.