Depressed and Hurting
My name is Aimee and I discovered I had AIDS on my 26th birthday this year.
I had a strange bruise-like spot on my left breast that continued to get bigger and bigger. Soon, it covered my entire breast. I went to 7 different doctors and no one knew what it was. I was admitted to hospitals, specialists took pictures and yet, it was a mystery. I went to a general surgeon on December 28, 2004 and had a biopsy done. He told me I would be OK. I had to get my stitches out on Thursday, Jan. 6, 2005---my 26th birthday. He told my mom and I that it was something called Kaposi's Sarcoma. Found only in end-stage AIDS patients. As you can imagine, my head was spinning. I had had an HIV test and a Hepatitis test in December and had not received word of the results. Thinking no news was good news, I assumed it was negative. It wasn't. The doctor just never contacted me to tell me the results.
I remember thinking that it was a nightmare and I would soon wake up. My family sat around and mourned for me. We all thought I was dead. I remember my dad crying out "My precious baby girl!" That was the first night I ever saw my dad get drunk. We just couldn't cope with the news. My family cried like wounded animals, and I was in a state of shock. I put the pieces together and now understood why I had been so very ill the last year. I had been hospitalized. I had shingles 3x and my hair was falling out. I had rashes on my skin that itched sooo bad. I would lay in bed for months at a time, having no energy. It would take everything I had just to get a shower and put make-up on. Doctors told me it was stress. I knew it was something serious, but never imagined AIDS.
I went to an incredible Infectious Disease doctor who gave me my first ray of hope. He said it was no longer a death sentence, instead, a chronic disease and with a healthy lifestyle and medication, I could very easily live to be an old woman. WHAT? I was so excited. I had blood work done and my T-cell count was 15. My viral load was 750,000. I was almost dead. I weighed 95 lbs in contrast with my usual 130lbs. I started on the medications Sustiva and Truvada along with Bactrim and Zithromax. I've been on the meds now a month and a half and my T-call count is climbing! It was 160 last week and my viral load was 2,100. My doctor believes my viral load will soon be undetectable and my T-cell count over 200 in the next few months.
I have my life back. I've enrolled in grad school, run with my two dogs, work, work out at the gym, and enjoy life again. I'm even dating. If I can be brought back from near death......emotionally, spiritually and physically, then so can you! My outlook on life is this: Love as you've never loved before, dance as though nobody's watching, be truthful regardless of the cost and trust in yourself as well and the Lord. I am lucky enough to have a supportive family, friends and a love of the Lord that gets me through this. I am not angry.... saddened, yes, but not angry. I have forgiven those that I feel have done me wrong as I know the Lord will forgive me of my sins. I look forward to keeping in touch with all of you so when I dance at my children's' weddings. I will know I HAVE LIVED LIFE!
Imagine Loving Your Child
This story was originally written at Christmastime but its message, like that of Christmas, is important to remember every day. Used by permission of the author.
Imagine loving your child, imagine being willing to do anything you could to protect your child, and now imagine knowing that this virus lives in your child, every day, every night, you can never escape and you can't let down your guard. Imagine, if it were YOUR child.
As the holidays approach, we naturally think of children, happy, healthy children. We think of children enjoying Christmas and looking forward to many happy holidays. Unfortunately, some children, right here, children we pass every day, in the store, on the street, have AIDS. I know this because one of them is our son. He was born to a drug-addicted mother. She had AIDS and unknowingly passed the HIV virus to our child. We adopted him when he was 3 weeks old. Ten months later we found out he was HIV positive.
We live here, we worship here, we are your neighbors. And there are others, men, women and children who live here and who are in hiding. At Christmastime, with our thoughts turned to the greatest gift of all, I hoped and prayed that we could all come out of hiding and feel safe. How wonderful it would be to know that if our neighbors found out about our child, and about all the other people here who are living with AIDS, that our neighbors would still look at us the same way. Would people still smile at him if they knew?
People always smile at our son. He is a beautiful child, full of mischief and always smiling at everyone. His dignity, courage and his sense of humor shine through the nightmare of this disease. He has taught me much over the years that I have been blessed to be his mother. His father adores him. His brother loves him. Everyone who has gotten to know him is amazed by him. He is bright, he is funny, and he is brave. For a long time, he has beaten the odds.
All of us, straight, gay, male, female, adult and child are threatened by this virus. We may think that it could never affect us (I thought so too), but this isn't true. Most of us think we can reduce the risk of infection by our behavior which is true to some degree. But what is totally true is that it is impossible to reduce or eliminate the risk of affection by this disease. We can not predict which one of us will love someone that has AIDS.
When you walk down a street and see the many different houses, you can't tell if a home is inhabited by AIDS. It could be the home of one of your friends, a family member or a co-worker. Everyone is afraid to talk about it but it exists and we all need to help. The very people the most afraid to tell you, are the ones the most in need of your love, support and prayers.
We know there are others like our child in the community who face these same issues every day. They, like our child need your support in so many ways. People who are living with AIDS need, housing, emotional support, medical care, and the ability to live their lives with dignity. People with AIDS have many of the same dreams, hopes and plans that everyone else has. We certainly had plans and dreams for our child, and we still do.
In the time our child has been with us, with all the many people who have known and loved him, medical professionals, teachers, friends, countless others, not one has been infected by him, but all of us have been affected by him in wonderful ways. He has enriched our lives and taught us many lessons.
Reach out and learn about AIDS for our sake and your own. Please look into your hearts and remember us in prayer today.
About the Author
Andy died in Danville, Pennsylvania, Sept. 13, 2001. He was only 12 years old. Carol has written a memorial about him.