Ladies I haven't sat down with you all and shared a story with you in awhile. Go get your cup of coffee, your snugly soft throw, and your box of Kleenex. I'm going to take you for a journey through a segment of my life.
Over the months I have received so many private messages from ladies here at RS with questions/comments/concerns regarding HIV issues. Everything from the inability to find plastic surgeons whom are willing to perform operations on HIV positive individuals, fear of getting tested, etc... You name it, it has been asked. Well, after addressing so many HIV related issues privately, I decided now is the time and the perfect platform to share my personal story (Can't share it all. You will just have to buy the book when it hits Amazon, Barnes & Nobles etc. It's destined to be a #1 Best Seller!!!). I'm a HIV/AIDS awareness advocate, and a voice for the voiceless. This syndrome is REAL and choosing not to have candid discussions about it isn't going to make it go away. EVERYONE knows someone (friend, family member,neighbors, co-workers etc.) that is either infected or affected by HIV or AIDS (no they are not one and the same!). It may not be you, but know the facts: 1 in 5 Americans living with the virus are unaware of their infection. African American women between the ages 25-44 are most disproportionately affected. African American women continue to be the fastest growing population group. I believe talking about this can reduce the stigma that keeps people from getting tested, treatment services, and the support they need. That's REAL talk!
Broken and Shattered to Pieces BUT not destroyed!
"A true story of my journey with HIV"
Let me begin by telling you that I don't want or need your sympathy. Don't cry tears for me. As I don't want your pity. I'm a proud woman of VALOR! A conquering lioness... I will NOT be succumb to this virus! So, don't, and I repeat DON'T get out your black dress. Remember that it is written, "This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it." John 11:4.
As I sat in the patient waiting room for the HIV/AIDS outreach worker to return with my test results my mind was flooded with all sorts of thoughts and fears. I took my mother along for support, but had her to sit in the waiting area. It seemed like eternity before Beverly, returned. Then she entered the room with paperwork in tow. She looked deep into my eyes, the kind of look the pierced deep into the depths of my soul. There was a strange, yet thick silence in the room. "Baby, I'm so sorry... Your test came back positive." I just sat there while those words echoed in my head. I lost track of all place and time. Everything was just a blur... As she began to speak, I honestly couldn't make out a word she was saying. My body was physically present, but my mind was a million miles away. I felt my body getting limp. I felt as though someone gave me a blow to the gut, and knocked all of the wind out of me. I was utterly speechless... As I went to stand up I could feel my knees buckling. Somehow I had to make it back to the lobby. It felt as though I was walking the "Green Mile" slow and labored...
In the days, weeks, months to come I began eating,drinking,breathing, and sleeping the internet. Researching, reading, and educating myself on this syndrome. I must have lived off of 4 hours a sleep per night.
I lived in denial for nearly 5 years. I'm healthy, I look good, I feel wonderful! Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me my immune system had been waging a war with HIV throughout the years. My immune system began losing the battle. I had this horrible cough for months that wouldn't go away. I blew it off as a upper respiratory infection (and it was, just not the type I was familiar with). I finally decided to go to my PCP to get this problem addressed. I requested a CBC (Complete Blood Count). The following day I received a call from the nurse. My WBC count was critically low and he wanted me to return to the lab for further testing. I complied. I returned to the hospital for a follow up visit with my doctor. This time he didn't enter the room alone. A social worker also accompanied him. I already knew what this meant. He delivered the news. By this time I already knew for certain that the diagnosis I received 5 years prior was REAL. I woke up out of my dream called denial.
Let me say the 1st 3 months of antiretroviral treatment was horrible. I couldn't keep any food down, nor did I even have an appetite. I was like a pregnant woman in the sense that anytime I smelled ANYTHING I would vomit. So I drank liquids, and ate fruit and raw vegetables for 3 months. If I wasn't vomiting, I was defecating (6-10X/day). Cold chills during the day, and feverish sweats at night. I had to change my night gown several times during the night. My immune system was completely shot!
It got so bad, that one night all I did was cry and beg my Lord in heaven to let me die (keep in mind that I had a small child at the time, and his father was living nearly 2500 miles away)! I gathered my life insurance, banking, investment and retirement account info and gave it to my dear mother. We just stood there crying and holding each other. Thank God for a PRAYING MAMA!!!! In those moments of tears I heard the voice of the Lord tell me, "I will not release you my child. It's not over until "I" say so". I just cried and held my child tight- my only child. The sweet, innocent, apple of my eye. The one who could never see any wrong in me. As I squeezed him I thought to myself, pretty soon he won't see me ever again. Until we reach glory...
This was my lowest point. It was then that I began to remember and quote Bible scripture to myself. Some times in life you have to encourage yourself. You have to speak to those things that are not, as if they are so! I began to speak healing words, and lay hands on myself. Keep in mind that I went from 240lbs to 207 in a matter of 2 months. Everyone complimented me on how good I looked. If only they knew how sick I really was.
Well, gradually my immune system began repairing itself, and I was making it out of the woods. My ID doctor is fabulous! We have such a great relationship. My wish is her command. When I asked her how long I had to live, she replied. "If you want to die, then don't take your medications period. If you adhere closely to your meds, there is no reason why you won't live to a ripe old age"! (laughing)
Fast Forward -10 years later my viral load is "undetectable" (less than 20 copies of virus per cubic centiliter) and my Tcell counts are "normal". I've since remarried a wonderful man and we have a healthy beautiful baby girl that was born yep you guessed it HIV NEGATIVE!!! Can't nobody tell me about my God's grace and mercy. Satan didn't kill me when he had the chance, so now I've got the victory! I'm triumphant. I'm not laying in a sick bed, waiting for someone to care for me. NO! I live a great life. Shortly after my recovery, I began working 12-16 hour days! I did this for a 2 year stretch. Just so happy to have life, and determined to live EVERYDAY to the fullest! I tell everyone, "Chile, I don't have time for death up in here! Too much living to do!" I have a teenager to get through college, more travel, and plastic surgery to fix this body (after I got my appetite back I was eating everything to gain my weight back. I always felt as though I looked sick-with the rapid weight loss. Thus the reason for all this extra weight gain now. That's a psychological thing. It was a sign that I was getting well and on my road to recovery). Through it all, blood, sweat, and tears. I made it! I'm determined to share my story, for there is healing power in my testimony. The stigma that is attached with this syndrome is why so many of our sisters and brothers suffer in the dark, behind closed walls in silence. Not me! I will not allow Satan to shut me up or shut me down in fear, shame or embarrassment. No one can tell my story the way I can. This is only a prelude of what is yet to come! I encourage the ladies who have reached out to me, to in fact get a letter from your ID physician that states/details your current lab scores. Make copies and keep them on hand. When interviewing/consulting with perspective p/s. Be very open and upfront about your status. If you get any indication whatsoever that he/she is uncomfortable with performing sx on you due to your status, then keep it pushing! There are many out here that are comfortable, as long as your numbers are normal. Alright mamas I'm out! Now, go hang your black dress back up in the closet. The funeral has been called off!