World AIDS Day 2016

I have been HIV positive since at least 1992 when I tested positive. That’s over 25 years now and counting.  This makes me what they call a “long-term survivor.”–for which I am very thankful. Today was World AIDS Day 2016.  I, like millions of others, stopped to remember those who have been lost as well as those who are still courageously living and fighting this virus every day.And tonight I watched as they turned Niagara Falls red in remembrance. It was very cool.  I watched live on Rise Up Against HIV ‘s live Facebook broadcast.  I liked that I got to participate like that too. It’s always been such a somber day for me.  Many years ago I stood up in front of a large  crowd at the local church, holding my year old niece in my arms, and spoke about living with this virus and wondering whether I would live to see her graduate.  Well, she’s almost 23 now and a marine biologist in Florida.  Not only did I see her graduate high school but cover as well.  I have been blessed for sure.

I know I am one of the lucky ones. I was infected in the late 80s when the drugs to combat the virus were not that good or available.  My treatments early on were horrible. I often suffered with side effects from them and it was miserable.  But I lived. I lived to see this day where I now take 4 drugs once a day to keep myself undetectable.  Which means that no virus can be found in my blood at this time.  My treatment is working.  My t cells are in the mid-600 range and I am healthy as hell.  I’m certainly one of the lucky ones and I know it.  I don’t take this life for granted; I know I have been given a second chance. Today I remember all of those I lost.

I have been blessed with the love a d support of my wonderful family and friends.  This is another respect in which I consider myself very lucky as so many don’t have this kind d of support in their battle with this disease. I feel for them.  I don’t know how I would live without the support and love I get from my family especially.  They have stood by me solidly all these years.  Yes, I am one lucky Butch.

On another note…I am trying to write every day now.  It’s something I have challenged myself to do from now on.  I am in need of topics and questions from you my dear readers!  I want to know what you would like me to talk about in these blogs; what interests you, what can I write about?  Please leave your comments below or email me directly at Mainelybutch@yahoo.com at your leisure. 

Peace.  MB

Last of November

It’s that last day of November, wow has this month flown by!  It feels like just yesterday it was early September.  It’s raining here in Maine and it’s cold.  I am just thankful that it’s not snowing!  I know that snow is inevitable but the longer we go without it the happier I am.  

I’m off from work today and not positive of what my day has in store just yet.  It’s very early and I just got up about an hour ago.  Yes, I am a very early riser!  My body just won’t allow me to sleep past 5am. Sleep is overrated in my opinion anyway.  I feel like I am wasting time if I sleep too long in the mornings.

I have been watching the news reports of Trumpy’s cabinet choices and nominations.  It’s been a virtual who’s who of straight white men parading across his golden carpet.  Sickening  to think that the alt-right is going to gain so much MORE power in our country.  It angers me and makes me want to find a group of like minded people around my area to gather and discuss strategies for us all to be of support to each other and to react to the outrage I am sure is yet to come.  I feel the real need to be prepared to protect myself and others from things I can only imagine are in store for us all.  

Tomorrow is World AIDS Day 2016 around the globe.  The theme this year is Hands Up for #HIVPrevention. I was reading that the new push for self-testing will help to give people better access to testing and information on accessing treatment and prevention.  I don’t know about self testing…mitt seems to me that having a test done by someone who understands the ramifications should that person test positive.  And taking someone with you when you get test results is a good idea.  I went alone 25 years ago.  I remember it like it was outlast week.  It was the day I felt like I had an expiration date stamped on my forehead.  I didn’t hear mush after the woman who told me I was positive told me.  I started immediately to think of how I was going to ever tell my girlfriend and my loved ones. And I asked for a retest on the spot.  I had to make sure that there was no mistake. But there was no mistake and I have been living with this virus in my blood for over 25 years now. In the first few years I did a lot of outreach and prevention work trying to get others to not make my mistake and to protect themselves.  Nowadays I keep up on thing and concentrate on keeping myself healthy and happy with my second chance at life.   Before the availability of the medications that I take every day to stay healthy and virtually HIV free, I lost a lot of friends to AIDS.  At the height of the epidemic there was no good  oh gmail like there is today. If only we had moved faster when this started they might all still be alive.  I’m one of the lucky ones. I managed to stay alive, suffer through many failed treatment options and live to see this day where we now have the potent drugs needed to sustain a healthy life living with HIV.  

SO…I am truly thankful for my life and for all of the support I have in it. I feel like I am certainly blessed in so many ways.  Tomorrow I will pause to remember those who weren’t so lucky and those who we have lost, but I will also remember that this fight isn’t over until we find a cure and make it accessible to all of those who need it.  I shall light a candle of remembrance.  And I will thank God for giving me a second chance and a chance to make a difference in the world.  

The Truth Hurts Sometimes

I’ve met more than one woman in my life journey that could not handle all of the technicalities of being with me.  I admit, I am not easy to process.  I have a bit of a troubled history.  Don’t read me wrong, I’m a good person with some high morals and ethics, but I’ve taken some forks in the proverbial road of life that others have managed to avoid.  I’ve had issues with drugs and addiction.  That’s probably the one thing that I’ve struggled with most in my entire life.  When I was young I sought out a safety net for myself and found it substance abuse and the people involved with it.  I wised up in my late 20’s and got clean and sober for many years.  I did the typical “mid-life crisis” shit in my mid 40’s and backslid a bit.

I strive to keep that stuff out of my life now.  I stay away from the “friends” that I have that are involved in that world now.  That’s a big part of how I am staying clean and following the good road now.  I tend to let myself be influenced by them if I hang around them, so now I avoid them and I avoid the whole drug scene.

It’s really hard to meet women as you get older.  Being single isn’t easy in your 50’s, believe me.  But add a history of drug addiction to the menu and it becomes even more difficult.  I completely understand that some people do not understand me or understand addictions.  That is just the way that it is.  When I begin to show interest in anyone I make sure that they know 3 things about me right up front – why?  Because I would rather they walk away sooner rather than after I become attached to them – or God forbid, fall in love with them.  what are my 3 things?  1.  I am Butch and that will never change.  2.  I live with HIV infection, which is under control but it’s a fact of life for me….which leads me to #3…I am a recovering drug addict.

Those 3 facts put me into a whole new space with people.  Either they are able to handle it, and give me a chance, or they are not, which is completely okay.  I get it.  Those are 3 major pieces of who I am.  I can’t hide them very well.   And I don’t want to pretend that I can.  Those 3 things are only a small fraction of what I am made of, but they are important if you are going to be involved with me – or even be a friend to me.  It’s important that you understand that I struggle with all 3 on a daily basis.  That doesn’t mean that I am unhappy – quite to the contrary, I am very happy in general.  But I am well aware that these 3 things make me “different” than the typical 55 year old lesbian with 2 dogs and a college degree.  I bring a whole different scene to the table.

I have lived with my addiction and my HIV for many years.  One lead to the other obviously.  Yes, I was an IV drug user and this is how I contracted the virus.  I’ve been clean for many years, fell off the wagon and got back on a few times.  So what is involved for me is knowing what triggers me to fall off and avoiding it altogether.  I’ve gotten pretty good at that, and I am proud to say that living clean and right is what I strive to do every day now.

It’s not easy being with someone who has addiction in their history, and it’s even harder when you add HIV.   I know the precautions to protect my partner from HIV but there is no protection from addiction.  No guarantee that I won’t relapse again, except for my sheer determination to stay on the straight path.  I don’t know how to reassure someone that I will stay on this path.  I guess they either have to believe me, or not.  There is no magic bullet or cure – for either condition.

I don’t want to pursue anything beyond a basic friendship with anyone who can’t deal with the baggage that I carry.  I know everyone has their struggle in life and their burdens to bear, mine are just a little more difficult for some people to understand, and that’s perfectly fine.  There are zillions of other people out there to be involved with, I am just one.

I have been fortunate to have been involved over the years, with women who gave me the benefit of doubt; who trusted me and tried to understand my complications.  I’ve sincerely appreciated them.  I’ve been lucky.

Right now I am trying to deal with quite a full plate of issues in my personal life.  I’ve avoided bringing anyone else into my life for this reason.  But I so want someone special in my life on a regular basis.  I would like to let down that wall that keeps me by myself.  I’ve punished myself for the past 2 yeas now and I’m sick and tired of it.  I’ve seen people who say they care disappear more than once.  I built a wall around myself, insulated myself from hurt and despair.  But it’s not a happy place all the time.  I want to learn to trust again, and to love again.

I’m a good person, I am strong, sensitive and caring.  I deserve to find someone good who can deal with life with me and who won’t be afraid of my past.  Someone who sees me for who I am now and not who I once pretended to be.  But how can anyone believe in someone who has such a history?  I don’t know if it can be done, which is exactly what I fear the most.  (although my ex did it for almost 14 years and never let it sway how she felt about me…so perhaps it could be possible again.)  I long for a good strong relationship that will endure.  Something beyond “just friends” –dammit, I want to be loved and understood.  Maybe it’s just too much to ask for at this point.

Ok, let me close this up before my mind explodes.  I am trying so hard to just be cheerful for the holiday season, and to keep on keeping on.  But tonight I was reminded of my flaws (see above) and it stung hard.  I am hoping for the best, but prepared for the worst – as always it seems.  Sometimes the truth just hurts.  There’s no way around it.

Peace.  ~MB

Defying the Odds

Once again I defy the odds.  I was recently tested again for my HIV counts.  And once again I remain in the “undetectable” range…meaning that no HIV antibodies can be found in my body at this time.  I’ve managed to remain undetectable for a few years now, I’m defy the odds at every step.  Also, my T-cell count, the cells that form my immune system, is very strong at 662.  The average woman bodied person has about 500 so I am again an anomaly.  All of this means that my body is living with the virus in harmony for the time being.  I’m healthy and my system is strong.

I go on Friday for a liver biopsy to get a feel for the condition of my liver and such before I start the treatment for HepC which I am co-infected with evidently.  I’ve never had any problems with this, but the new treatment could mean that it can be cured and I wouldn’t have to even worry about that anymore.  The new treatment is relatively easy compared to the old treatment of shots and alot of side effects. This new treatment is pills and has a lot less side effects to worry about.  It’s about a 6 month long treatment, so I’ll be done by fall and hopefully it will work as it should, and I will be around a longer time here!  I’ve been told repeatedly that the HepC will kill me long before my HIV ever would at this point, so I need to pursue this treatment now.  I’ve avoided the alpha interferon treatment previously because it was not very successful and made you really sick with low odds for success.

Last Saturday I did the repair on my truck.  Fixed the heater / air conditioning blower motor.  The resistor was spent, so I had to work under the glove box of the interior to find and replace that.  Thank God for Youtube videos!  I looked it up on Youtube, found a good amount of repair videos on this and watched a few, thus I was able to order the right parts and do this myself (with the help of my buddy Otis) saving myself close to $200 which is what the garage wanted to do this 20 minute repair job.  Literally it took us 20 min to do it !  So now I have all 5 speeds of blower and all is well.

Saturday afternoon I went to my brother’s for a final winter snowmobiling party.  Several friends brought their machines too, so we had 8 snowmobiles and plenty of late season snow to run them on.  It was a lot of fun.  Mostly I stood next to the bonfire and enjoyed good food and some Captain and Cokes, alot of laughter and watching of the kids racing around in the huge field in their glory on those snow machines.  I did take a spin or two myself.  And I tried to get Nola to settle in on the machine with me for a ride.  She made it about 100 yards before freaking out and wanting OFF that machine.  It was rather comical I am sure.  I will include some photos here.

Snowmobiling

003Snowmachine

Walking into Fall

Fall is here.  The leaves are almost at peak viewing colors here in southern Maine, “they” say that peak is this coming weekend here.  The wind is howling today, so I am imagining many of them are hitting the ground, The pine trees like to shed these rusty gold needles also around now, so my yard is slowing disappearing under a blanket of leaves and needles.  The air is really nice and crisp, I like breathing the morning air when I let Nola out first thing mornings at this time of year; it’s nice to stand on the porch and take in a deep breath,  Nola loves the cooler weather, and sitting on the lawn with the October sunshine warming up her fur.

This time of year I get a little introspective about life in general.  It’s nothing and no one in particular that causes it, I think it’s just the time of year; things are dying off, changing and the days are getting shorter.  It’s a time when I tend to look back over the year and contemplate what went on, why and how, and what’s next on the journey.

Fall is also my most favorite time of year here in New England.  I love the temperatures during the day, the cooler nights are great for sleeping and you can dress in layers of nice warm clothing.  I love the fall festivals and country fairs, apple picking, pumpkins and cornstalk displays.  And I like to go for drives, just because I like to drive, up into the mountains to see the foliage.  So, I go to Cathedral Ledge every year or two to see the view of the whole valley from there.  It’s amazing. I started the Cathedral Ledge trips the year that I tested positive for hiv, (’92) the year I thought an expiration date had been stamped on my forehead and I was going to die soon…obviously that didn’t happen, as I am still here and healthier than ever.  It’s miraculous actually.

I remember that year really well.  I lived in Kittery Maine, right on the water in a great duplex apartment of which I lived downstairs at first, then moved to the upstairs which had these big wrap around decks overlooking the whole waterfront of the river. It was really cool, probably the coolest apartment I ever had back when I was still doing the apartment living thing.  It was also my last apartment now that I think about it.  I found out my sero-status that summer after my therapist urged me to be tested and I scoffed at her for even suggesting it.  Yeah, I wasn’t laughing on August 31st when I got the test results back.  It seriously felt like I had a big date on my ass that meant I wasn’t going to be around much longer.  I was only 32, hell I was too young to die.

I moved to that upstairs apartment shortly after my life-altering discovery of my being hiv+.  Yeah, I did the unspeakable…I broke up with my then girlfriend and moved.  She moved out of the downstairs apartment soon after, which I remember really irritated me because if I had known she was going to move I wouldn’t have moved myself!  I remember people telling me that I was a fool to leave her because of my hiv…but I didn’t want to stay with someone just because of that either and we had issues with alcohol in our relationship at the time so things weren’t good.  I had also met the woman that I would spend the better part of the next 14 years with as well by that time.  So I wanted out in more than one way.

I took Mom up to Cathedral Ledge that year.  My Mom is afraid of heights, so I took her to the cliffs of the White Mountains, where she was scared to death, but loved the views.  Lots of people jump from the ledges, it’s been a popular suicide spot from what I am told.  I never thought about jumping, but I did think they would be cool to climb up and repel down from.  Belaying down those faces would be exhilarating to say the very least.  I did see climbers that day that we took Mom.

My younger brother, his then girlfriend and my now ex-girlfriend, all went that day.  We took Mom’s Cadillac and Steve’s girl’s red sports car.  At one point we got stuck in a long line of traffic in Conway (we weren’t the only leaf-peepers that day) and I remember us playing the music really loud between the two vehicles and having Chinese fire-drills. That’s what we called them anyway, it’s probably not a very PC named game, but it’s where everyone exits the car, dances around it and jumps back in in a different place than where they were sitting before.  Fun and crazy game, and we were all in such a great mood that day.  I drove the Caddy all day that day, and Mom rode in the backseat, we had a total blast, but I remember that day looking long and hard at those mountains and the views and thinking it might be the last time I would see them.

I’m grateful to still be alive, and as healthy as I am today.  It’s been 22 years since that August day of discovery.  I’ve been through a rash of medications and drug trials over the years.  I’ve battled some weird illnesses because of my compromised immune system, but as of yet none of them have killed my ass.  I’ve also had the great fortune of meeting and knowing some of the most wonderful people.  I have people who are in my life today only because we met due to my illness for one reason or another and became friends.

People always ask me about dating with my sero-status being positive.  It’s never easy to explain to anyone that I wish to see, there’s always the chance of meeting someone who doesn’t have the common sense or trust in me to know that I would never put anyone else at risk.  It’s had it’s challenges. When I met my ex-wife it was because someone was introducing us when they visited to check on my health.  So she knew even before we met that I was hiv+ and she herself was an activist and well schooled in the disease.  I never thought she would give me a second look when I did start calling and asking her out, but I had to give it a try.  I remember how crazy I was for her back then and that I was really a lot more self-conscious about it.  The day she told me she didn’t care, that it didn’t make a difference to her she still wanted to be with me I was floored.  While we didn’t stay together forever, she and I remain friendly still today and although we rarely talk anymore I do still consider her a friend.

It’s actually gotten more difficult to deal with disclosure as I have gotten older.  I don’t look sick, act sick and you would never know I have this virus – unless I tell you right out.  Which I do when I am even remotely interested in anyone.  If I don’t think they already know from reading me or watching my videos where I do openly talk about it, then I make sure to tell them the deal.  It’s still never easy if people have preconceived notions like that I shouldn’t be dating or sexually active because of my status.  I know there is risk, but I would never put anyone at risk.  If I were to ever infect anyone it would have to be through mutual shared drug use – which is NOT going to happen.  I gave that up a long time ago, a super long time ago.

So, the Fall always makes me remember that year.  It was a big year of changes to my life.  I quit drinking, left a 2 year relationship, started dating the woman who I would eventually marry, and made a whole lot of changes that year.  Not everything I changed actually stayed with me, except I still don’t drink much anymore and I am a much more pleasant person just for that!  Never did pick that back up in any serious manner thankfully, and I did leave the wife eventually 13+ years later and started over one more time….but it’s all good.  Still I have some fun and fond memories, mixed in with some really scary ones truthfully.  Luckily the body and mind are constructed so that you cannot “recall” pain, because if you could you would go literally insane as the human brain is programmed NOT to be able to recall pain.  You can remember it, but not recall it. You remember it hurt like hell, but not the actual agony that you experienced the first time around.

So, anyway, that’s what today’s weather and thought process brought up for me.  Again, I know I am one lucky son of a bitch to be alive today, and especially to be as healthy as I am.  My body is a machine!  My immune system may be compromised, but you would never know it.  I take a slew of modern chemical concoctions daily and everything checks out good.  Hell, they can’t even see the virus in my blood at this point anymore….but I have to keep taking the medications or things will get bad.  I’ve got it down to such a routine now that it’s just a normal part of my day to stop for meds, no big deal.

It’s a good day to be alive….peace.  ~MB

Loss

Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.

Loss…yes losing things, people and time.  It’s a thread that runs consistently through my life.  I’ve gotten used to it, perhaps too used to it at this point. It just seems normal to me now.  I lose things daily; my keys, the tools I am working with, and lots of time.  Time is something you can’t find again, once lost it is really seriously GONE.

Over my half century of life on this planet I have experienced several major life losses.  As a child my first loss that comes to mind was moving from one school to a new school, from one state where I started school, made friends, had a life outside of school on the dirt baseball diamond on Hidley Road, ran like a banshee through the orchards, built enormous tree forts with rope swing escapes and kissed my first girl, back to my home state of Maine and it all happened very very quickly for my young brain to adapt to easily.  Not until years later, in my 20’s did I understand why we moved so quickly, packing and being picked up by my Aunt and Uncle seemingly in the middle of the night to be transported back to my Nana’s house in southern Maine.

My second huge loss was that of my Nana.  I was 10 and a few months, in the 3rd grade and we had recently made that drastic move back to Maine.  I was sleeping and heard my 8 months pregnant mother crying and screaming downstairs in our house, then the car screeching it’s tires out of our drive way. I was afraid something was wrong with her or the baby.  My uncle told me to go back to bed that everything would be ok and they just had to go somewhere fast.  I crawled back into bed, Nana came in and sat on my bed and began rubbing my back like she always did to put me to sleep. She told me things would be just fine, that my Mom was fine and the baby was going to be fine, too.  She hummed and rubbed my back until I fell asleep. That was the last time I ever saw her.  See, the screams from my mother were caused by a phone call from my Aunt telling her that her mother, my Nana, had just died at her home across town.  Evidently her spirit had to come to me that night to comfort and console me, and perhaps to just see me one more time, and to let me know that things would be fine.  I have felt the repercussions of the loss of that great woman, my Nana, through my whole life, and I still miss her today.

In high school there were a couple of losses that changed my life; tweaked it just a little.  As a freshmen I was trying out for the basket ball team.  I had practiced and I was pretty good little guard and could shoot too.  The coach didn’t care for me much, and chose another player over me – one who couldn’t even dribble the ball correctly!  That served to sour me on school team sports.  I decided if I didn’t fit with the jock or athletic crowd that I must find a way to fit in with the cool or troubled crowd.  And I did a great job at that!  Then my “cool” crowd suffered the loss of one of it’s own when my friend Jimmy was killed one night after partying across town…he was hit by a tractor trailer on the interstate.  Did he commit suicide? Or was it an accident due to disorientation?  Who knows, but seeing his lifeless body in that casket, the way they had put him “back together” was horrifying to my 16 year old brain.

During my teen years I experienced a loss of freedom, as I stayed in the closet very deep about my sexuality.  I knew I was attracted to girls and I knew that would be a problem with everyone in my life – from parents to school chums.  The cool crowd would never accept me if I came out as gay, so I hid it; buried the feelings very deep. I participated in a lot of illicit drug use to cover the pain and to reassure my “cool” status with my chosen crowd of friends.  I never drank alcohol though, it just never appealed to me much and I disliked the taste and loss of control kind of feeling it gave me.  So, I stuffed my frustrated feelings for other girls, my sexuality and my real personality so far down that no one knew.  I even moved in with my boyfriend for a short time after high school, which is when I lost my innocence.  I became a victim of domestic violence and saw a new side of life.

By this time I was used to loss and used to hiding my true self from the world.  I joined the military, where I found my people.  I found that many of the women in the Army during the early 1980’s were lesbian or bisexual.  I was able to come out, with some minor coaxing and a hilarious scene with throwing my roomies bed out the window after a fit of internalized homophobia of my own.  So just before I lost my “cover” I lost my mind for a minute there.  Was this real?  Could it be possible that there were others that felt like I did and could live like normal people – whatever “normal” is to anyone?  I could and I did.  And while living during off duty time openly, I managed to keep it under wraps during uniform time and serve out my obligated term in the service, and then some.

During the 80’s we all lost sexual freedom with the appearance and discovery of the AIDS virus, HIV.  I lost my mind for a while there in the mid-to-late 80’s and became heavily involved in IV drug use, mostly cocaine and some heroin addiction just for good measure.  After a bout in rehab, I entered some intense one-on-one counselling with a female counselor, a fellow lesbian, and someone I could open up to and relate to finally.  She taught me to use the tools in my internal tool box to cope with life without drugs.  She urged me to be tested for HIV…I was postiive.  So I lost again.  I lost the game of russian roulette in a way, as I would have to live out my life with HIV infection due to a one time share of a needle.  Of all the luck.

By the time I turned 32 I had discovered I was infected with HIV and I had been clean from the illicit drug use for about 3 years.  Then I met a woman, fell in love at first sight and spent the next 13+ years with her, building our dream home and creating our nirvana so to speak.  There were losses for us, friends dying of AIDS related illnesses in the late 80’s and early 90’s, losses of beloved pets we had had for years, the loss of my favorite Aunt to breast cancer; the losses of friends over petty disagreements, and the such.  But we remained strong together for many years and I loved her dearly, and she me.  In the end I lost that relationship over my own stupidity and a major mid-life crisis at 45.  My medications were messed up, my brain was messed up because of that, and I messed up royally.  In hind-sight this could be the biggest loss of my life to date in many ways.  I miss her still today, but know that she is happy and has moved on from the hurt and sad ending of our relationship.  Me? I’m not so sure…I may still hold a torch or two for her, probably always will to some degree.

The next loss I caused myself.  I fell madly, passionately in love with a wonderful woman and with callous words broke her heart and destroyed her trust in me.  I was running scared, I didn’t know what else to do, and I didn’t feel “good enough” at the time for the caliber of woman that she was, so I ran.  That was perhaps the stupidest loss of my life.  I wish every day still that I could turn back time and erase that one phone call of stupidity and misspoken words.  My heart will forever be entrapped by her, and that’s okay with me, it’s made me stronger inside and taught me patience and virtue.  One day perhaps she’ll allow me back in; allow me to explain and allow miracles to happen.  That is the one serious loss that I regret the most.

Yes, life is made up of gains and losses, in essence.  We gain things, and we lose things throughout our lives.  We live through these things, live through the losses and learn from the experiences. The last 7 years since I left that long term relationship I have suffered minor set backs, some losses but have gained much insight into my true self and who I really am in this world.  I am a composition of all of my experiences, my gains, my losses, and everything in between; everything that went on and led to each and every moment is part of the make up of who I am today.  And I thank my lucky stars for all of it, for without my personal experiences I would not be who I was meant to be, or do what I am meant to do in this life.  Life is about what you make of it, not what happens to you.  Loss is just part of the process of becoming your authentic self.

 

 

Doctor’s Visit – The Results

So today was the sort of “final” visit  – at least for a few months – that i had to make to the doctor.  This was the visit to discuss my blood work results from last Friday and how I was doing on the four new HIV medications.  

First, I weighed in and had gained 5 lbs in the past month…I knew it cuz I could see and feel it!  Yikes!  I once again have broken 130 lbs.  I need to now just maintain, stay right where I am just get more physically fit.  I feel good at this weight, healthier and stronger, so I am really hoping to be smart, watch my diet, exercise, work and maintain!  I tend to snack on some seriously caloric snacks sometimes, guess I need to watch that a bit closer.  

Secondly, and most importantly, I have been tolerating the new drugs very well.  Two weeks of sickness from them and I seem to have made peace, settled in to a routine and got it down.  Thus, my viral burden (also called viral load) has dropped from 344, 310 on 2/22/12 to 190 on 4/13/12…which is a DIRECT result of the medications stopping the replication of the virus in my system.  Yay!  That on top of the increase in T-cells to 400 is kinda the perfect picture of my body fighting the virus, with the help of medications, and getting healthier.  

The doctor was very pleased with my progress and is also psyched that I have decided to try to return to work.  

So I have been poked, prodded, scanned, and tested from head to toe and I am pretty damned healthy once again!  I return in 3 months for follow up blood panels, rechecking the T’s and VL, and a check in with her.  Hopefully, I will be at a ZERO viral burden/load by then!  

Thanks to all who have supported me, encouraged me and pushed me on during the trying few previous months of me being so sick and down.  Special Thanks goes to my parents, they have been an incredible source of love and encouragement through all of this.