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New Year's Bleatings from The Rock

| 2 Comments

When I saw in New Year 2010 with my head in the toilet being violently sick with the Winter Vomiting Virus, as it is so charmingly named, I just knew it wasn't going to be the best year. Turns out I was right.

I had the WVV a few more times between January and March. I dislocated my clavicle at the end of January. My clavicle wasn't properly put back into place and to this day, the end of it sits on top of my shoulder instead of nestling in front of my humerus as it should. It's an odd look in a summer tank top, I can tell you! 

If I could figure out how to include photos, I'd show you my odd looking shoulder. It's been a long time since I wrote a blog though and the software has changed so that's something I'll have to figure out, along with figuring out how to include links. But, as my very first New Year's resolution for 2011 is to start blogging again, I'm going to finish this and figure out the finer points sometime in the next few days.

2010 also saw my CD4s start on what seemed to be a steady decline below the magic 500 mark. By October I had a combo all chosen (Reyataz, Norvir and Truvada) and my doctor was in agreement - provided my October draw also came back under 500. Of course, it didn't. So because of the treatment guidelines set out by the Liverpool Health Care Trust, I had to scupper the treatment plans. Back on the shelf.

It wasn't just my numbers declining either. I'd been steadily losing weight since the spring and I had several bouts of thrush that wasn't caused by antibiotic use as is the usual case for me. I'd also had to up my acyclovir dosage from 400mgs once a day to 400mgs twice a day. But of course since I made the decision to start meds, all that has stopped and I've even gained weight back. Go figure. This damn virus has a mind of its own and I guess it's high time I just accepted that.

So that is what was going on with the bod. Things were going haywire elsewhere in my life too. I had a major financial fuck-up (can I say the eff-word here?) which meant that I could not attend the London 2010 AMG. I lived off beans-on-toast and was generally skint for months. Much more skint than usual. So it goes.

My laptop and netbook had to get in on the act  and both became unusable for about a month in the spring. The first week was a nice break from the internet, but after that I began to feel like a part of me was missing and in a way, I suppose it was. Going on the AM forums is a big part of my daily routine and I did begin to feel lost without it.

2010 was also the year that stole three dear friends from me - Bobbi (aka Maggie), Lisa Sweetweasle and Daddy Tim from the AM forums. I miss Tim's knowledge and wisdom and I miss Lisa's infectious laughter. I'll be forever sad that I never had the chance to meet them in person. Sometimes life just isn't fair.

In addition to Bobbi, Lisa and Tim, 2010 marked one year since Kate left us (very nearly two now), three years since Christine went and five that James (Gecko) has been gone. I just don't know where the time goes and why it won't take the pain of loss with it.

So that was my 2010 in a nutshell. I'm sure there were other things going on but those were the main things. The good news is that I'm still happily in a relationship and my daughter is still a lovely young woman of whom I'm exceedingly proud. She's half-way though getting her teaching certificate and with a bit of luck and cooperation from the economy, this time next year she'll be teaching a gaggle of five and six year olds. And they'll love her, I'm sure. The kids she is practising on this year love her, so it's all good.

So good riddance to 2010! I'm looking forward to 2011 being a better year. It certainly started out better - at least I didn't have my head in the toilet at midnight. That's gotta bode well, right? Let's hope so.

Happy 2011 everyone!

The Skin Trade

| 15 Comments

I went to a dermatologist a few weeks ago. (On a Sunday! How weird is that?) The guy was an idiot.

One of the first things I said to him was, "Do you have any experience with hiv positive patients?" A reasonable question, I thought.

He looked down at some papers, started laughing, and said, "Not if I can help it! ~hahahahehehehohohosnortsnort~" Then he cheerfully blathered on about how, statistically speaking, he was unlikely to come across hiv in his practice. He implied it was only those in the lower echelons of society who had hiv and well, "I don't see patients like that". Then he looked back up at me and said, "Why?"

"Because," I said, "you have a statistic standing right in front of you and this statistic wants to make sure you know what the hell you're doing before I let you anywhere near me." I thought he was going to faint!

 

He bumbled through a flustered speech about how he would refer me on to a "more experienced colleague" if there were anything he was unsure about. Well goodie-goodie-goo! Sheesh! I figured I might as well let him have a look as my Sunday morning - and that of my friend who drove me to the appointment - was already buggered.

After he composed himself, I showed him all the different spots my GP and I were concerned about. He identified them, and said while none of them was anything to worry about, he could freeze the bigger ones off my back. Then he gave me several info sheets detailing what types of spots I have. They all had thumbnail photos and one looked just like a clit nestled in pubic hair - and I told him so. He peered closely at it and said, "Oh my God! You're right! Nobody pointed that out before - but it really, really does look like that!"

 

"Well," I said, "I tend to speak my mind - even when it's something people don't necessarily want to hear." He looked up at me and grimaced. LOL

Next, he got the nitrogen bottle out and sat down on the exam table and instructed me to stand in front of him. Yep, I  had to stand while he sat. It wasn't easy standing still; it hurt like hell and it would have been much easier if he'd had me lay face-down on the table. When he was finished, I told him that if his hands were shaking that much (and they were) that he had to sit down instead of me while he performed a treatment, maybe he should find another line of work were he wouldn't run into statistics like me. He did a pretty good imitation of a fish out of water - gasping for air - but didn't reply.

I'm sure he had to go lie down after I left! And NO, if I need the attention of a dermatologist again, it WON'T be him! 


Oh, and by the way... I showed my 21 y/o daughter the info sheets, but said nothing about that certain photo. When she got to the relevant page the first thing she said was, "Why is there a rude photo on this one?" hehehe... so it wasn't just me and my over-active, over-sexed imagination!

Loss

| 1 Comment


Loss. It’s something every person living with HIV endures. From the moment of diagnosis onward, it’s something that shadows the soul.

Some losses are static; loved ones who will never again say I love you. Some are dynamic; sickness becomes health becomes sickness again.

Some losses are sudden, others can be seen coming. One is like falling off a cliff, the other, like watching a slow-motion train-wreck.

Loss is a gut-wrenching business.

Loss eviscerates.

Loss is emptiness.

Cast adrift.

Numb.

And chilled to the bone.





"He's given us all hope"

| 4 Comments


Those were the words spoken to me at 7am Wednesday morning, November fifth, 2008, by a Muslim lad in Liverpool who sold me two British newspapers. He saw that I'd been crying and he asked me if I was ok. I grinned and pointed to the front-page photos of President-elect Obama. That's all I had to do. He grinned back at me - by now he had tears in his eyes too - and said, "He's given us all hope." Amen, brother. Allāhu Akbar. Amen.

But I'm getting a little ahead of myself.

What a difference a year makes, eh? This time last year, I was reeling from the betrayal of my long-term sero-different partner (to borrow a phrase from my esteemed colleague, Matt the Newt) on the eve of my 45th birthday.

This year, Foxtrot Charlie (keep up!) and I both had hiv clinic appointments in Liverpool on my birthday. It also happened to be Election Day in the US. (The last time my birthday and election day coincided, I got Ronald Regan for my 18th. ~shudder~) We travel from the Rock to Liverpool for our appointments, so we decided to use the clinic/birthday/election day coincidence as an excuse have a 36 hour break and booked a hotel room in Liverpool City Centre.

We attended our appointments, thankfully with no nasty surprises for either of us. The Fox collected his meds and we were on our way. We did some shopping and dumped our bags at the hotel as soon as the three pm check-in was available. After a short nap and a freshen up, we went out to sample some of Liverpool's pubs and eateries. We laughed at the local wildlife, did some crosswords (we're both cryptic fanatics), and had kebabs on our way back to the hotel.

First thing I did on arrival was turn on the telly - I knew the early results would be coming through. To my utter dismay, McFailin was in the lead. Arrrgghh!!! By the time we were both ready for bed, Obama had pulled into the lead - but only just. We were too tired to watch anymore (we'd both been up for close to twenty hours at this point) so we switched the telly off and went to sleep.

I awoke at 6:30am. Immediately, I wanted to know where the election was at. I daren't turn the telly on - Charlie has fatigue issues and needs his sleep - and I wanted a ciggy in a non-smoking building so the only thing for it was to get dressed and go downstairs.

I exited the elevator and was immediately drawn to the flat-screen in reception. I thought I was alone, but a voice behind me announced, "Obama won in a landslide!" I could have kissed the man!

I went outside, lit a ciggy, and started walking. Now, you've got to understand a bit of Liverpool history here. The place was built on money from the slave trade during the Victorian era. I was surrounded with beautiful buildings built on the backs of men and women just like Barack and Michelle Obama. And on this glorious morning, two people, one who was most certainly descended from slaves (Michelle), were the President and First-Lady elect of the most powerful nation in the world.

How far we have come.

I sat down on a bench in St John's Garden behind St George's Hall and cried happy tears. I can't find the words to adequately describe my feelings. Here I was, in a city far away from the land of my birth, a place inextricably intertwined with the darkest days of my homeland's history, celebrating the election of Barack Obama. Unbefuckinglievable.

It's one of those moments that will live with me forever, like the day the death of John Lennon was announced, like the day my daughter was born, like the day I was diagnosed with hiv, like the day I got back together with Charlie. All powerful emotional landmarks, all turning points in their own ways.

Is this finally the dawning of the Age of Aquarius that we've all been promised? I certainly hope so.

Please, let this be the dawn of acceptance and understanding and the end of hate for the sake of hate. Please, let this be the dawn of the day when there's no room for the Palins of this world.

It feels so good to be proud of America again.

Learning About Sex Before Learning to Spell?

| 4 Comments


That's what McCain/Palin would have you believe children in Illinois are doing these days in kindergarten, and they're blaming Obama. But in a way, that's how they do it in the Netherlands and the Netherlands has the third lowest teenage pregnancy rate in the world.

I say "...in a way..." because Dutch kindergarten children embark on a learning process, beginning with the basic building blocks of sex - relationships. They're not learning about sexually transmitted infections, for heaven's sake, not at that age. They learn about families both traditional and non-traditional. They explore how relationships might differ as well as looking at traits healthy relationships share. They compare and contrast their feelings for their parents, their siblings and their schoolmates. They learn about respect for their own bodies as well as the bodies of others. They learn about setting, enforcing and respecting boundaries.

As they move through their school career, the basic building blocks are built upon each year with age appropriate lessons. By the time they are in their mid-teens, they know how to use condoms and importantly, how to negotiate the use of condoms - a topic sorely lacking in most sex ed classes today.

And let me repeat: The Netherlands has the third lowest teenage pregnancy rate in the world, with only five teen pregnancies out of every 1000 girls.

Meanwhile, soon-to-be grandmother and Abstinence Only proponent Sarah Palin is the Republican candidate for Vice-President of the USA - the country that tops the global list with over 50 teenage girls out of every 1000 falling pregnant each year.

Hmm. The figures speak for themselves. The Netherlands, home of comprehensive sex/relationship education, from kindergarten on up, has the third lowest teen pregnancy rate in the world. The USA, home of Abstinence Only, has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the world. The Dutch; 5/1000. The Americans; 50/1000

Wake up - and grow up - America. It's high time you stopped equating sex with smut and put it back in its proper context as part of being human.

A Virgin No More

| 5 Comments



"No kidding!" I hear you say. Ah, but last night I did something I've never done before. I had me some Sustiva.




Over the past two weekends since I last wrote, Foxtrot Charlie and I have done a lot more talking. Stuff we haven't really touched on much in the past, stuff of honesty and insight. Long forgotten laughter tempered by well hidden tears. Stuff of comfortable silences and cuddles on the couch. Pleasure and pain and understanding.




And Sustiva. We've talked about Sustiva a fair bit over the past few months, but last night was different somehow; a subtle change in tempo, a whisper of altered nuance. Charlie always takes his Sustiva at bedtime and I found myself going round to his side of the bed to sit next to him as he dug a capsule out of the bottle. I held out my hand. "Give us one then."




His eyebrows shot up. "Really?"




"Yeah, and make it three*."




If I was gonna do this, I was gonna do it right. And as I've never been one for half-measures, I reached past him for the bottle of Truvada, which Charlie takes in the morning. I grabbed a blue devil, added it to the three yellow caps in my hand, walloped the lot in my mouth and took a swig of juice.




"In for a penny, in for a pound." was my response to his questioning look.




I knew I wasn't likely to experience the full hit of side-effects, but it was ... dunno, a show of solidarity I suppose. I can't really put into words what transpired in the gaze between us. It was just one of those things between lovers and I knew I'd done exactly the right thing at the right time. "It just is, ok?" as I'm fond of saying.




Charlie'd had a busy day and after a kiss and a cuddle, quickly fell asleep. I soon dozed off as well and found myself in a cartoon character dream where little soldiers in blue and yellow stood around laughing at little spikey red blobs. The red blobs were not happy - "What the fuck does she think she's doing?" they shouted. I often have strange dreams when I sleep alongside Charlie so the soldiers weren't really anything new. I've been teasing him for ages that his Sustiva is rubbing off on me. How much the Sustiva actually has to do with it and how much is just my fevered imagination is anybody's guess.




I awoke from dreamland wanting a slash, a drink of water and a ciggie - not necessarily in that order. I floated across the room, donned my bathrobe, visited the toilet on the next floor then carried on to the ground floor for a smoke. By the time I got downstairs I found I was ravenously hungry, despite a huge meal only a few hours earlier. I snaffled myself a bowl of stew from the fridge and wobbled it over to the microwave. The phrase that kept going through my head was "I'm stoned out of my tiny little box!"




Settling down in front of the wide-screen and Will and Grace re-runs, I ate the stew in record time. I can't remember the last time I was so hungry! Funny, I don't recall ever hearing that as a side-effect. I washed the bowl during a commercial break and bounced back into the living room for more re-runs and nicotine. I finally became sleepy again after three episodes and went back upstairs to crawl into bed.




I had more dreams. Or rather, I had more of one dream. The same dream over and over. It was morning and Charlie was getting up for work. We had a conversation. I got up and got dressed too, only to realize I was still lying in bed next to him. Sometimes I'd still be naked and sometimes I was half-dressed and decided I must have gotten back in and dozed off again. But no, wait, I don't have anything on. In the end, I was laughing at it all, calling it the Groundhog Dream. I don't even know if I was dreaming that I was laughing at my dream or if I was awake or dreaming I was awake or what the hell was going on. Most perplexing, in funny sort of way.




It wasn't until I really did wake up the next morning and stood up that I remembered what I'd done the night before. I wobbled and waffled and woozed my way into my clothes. I wasn't exactly hungover and I didn't exactly feel stoned or drunk. I did feel weird, of that there's no doubt. I told Charlie I felt like my brain had been tinkered with. He laughed and said, "Try seven years of the stuff".




No thanks. My resolve to insist on Reyataz in my first-line has been strengthened. Watching Will and Grace in the middle of the night is bad enough, but wobbles in the morning - no.




I wouldn't recommend that others do what I did. It seemed the right thing to do at the time; right for me and right for my relationship with Charlie. I have no regrets about doing it and I'm not worried about it either. It is what it is.




*Sustiva - the standard dose of Sustiva is 600mgs per day. For the past year or so, Charlie's been on 200mgs per day of Sustiva. Yes, you read that correctly, 200mgs. He's undetectable. It works for him, although why the venerable Wizard of Poz didn't just switch him out to Reyataz or whatever is a mystery. But for him, it works. When I took three of Charlie's Sustivas, it totaled 600mgs.





Time Flies

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I can't believe it's been over nine months now since my long-term relationship broke up. I realised it the other day and thought - "sheesh, that's enough time to have had a baby!" It's one of the more annoying facts of life that the older you get, the quicker time seems to go. As they say, youth is wasted on the young.
~*~*~*~
Foxtrot Charlie is still on the scene, albeit more on the periphery of my vision than in the spotlight. Charlie has his demons and he lets them come between us. Me, I just go with the flow. What else can I do? He's currently trying to kill himself with Bells Whiskey. He turned up on my doorstep two weeks ago in the middle of a thunderstorm, dripping wet and inebriated. I finally said to him what I've been wanting to say for a couple months now - "There are quicker ways of killing yourself and if you want, we can google to see just how many ways there are."

Rather than take offense, he opened up. It sucks to be that person who has passed this virus on to others, unknowingly. Guilt is a corrosive acid and mixed with Bells, it's a slowly lethal cocktail. There's nothing I can do about it, except be there in the middle of a thunderstorm when a man, empty and hurting, turns up at the door.

And yet to see him in the pub, you'd think he was the happiest man on earth. Life and soul of the party. I know otherwise. I hate knowing but at the same time I'm glad I know. He allows me to see his vulnerable side and to me that says, "I love you" louder than any words ever could.
~*~*~*~
My latest addiction is reading. Been going through nearly a book a day lately and "thank goodness for charity shop books" is all I can say. I'd be broke by now otherwise. In between reading I do my thing on the forum (NO RISK!) and I write in my journal. My journal is old-fashioned pencil and paper and largely unfit for human consumption. I'm in the process of figuring out how to sanitize it into blog-fodder. Wish me luck.

Sudden realisation

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Three nights ago Foxtrot Charlie appeared at my door bearing food and smiling eyes. I was happy to see him as I saw little of him during April and May. Sometimes I have to leave him to his ghosts. I understand. There are times when my own ghosts demand my undivided attention too. Ten years ago I had no faith in the gossamer thread that binds us. Today I do. If you love someone, let them go free….

As I began to prepare the food he brought, I was taken aback by the familiar, unseen hand which from time to time twists and rips at my intestines. Codeine normally keeps this at bay, but I take breaks from it so my tolerance doesn’t increase. I ignored it at first, not wanting to take any of the opiate, but soon capitulated, sweating and doubled over in pain.

Fox has seen these attacks before, but never one this swiftly intense. “Are you ok?”

"No, but I will be once the meds kick in.”

He takes over the cooking, joking and trying to charm my daughter’s slight distrust.

While things are sizzling away in the kitchen, he joins me at the back door where I sit on a low stool, arms around legs, smoking and willing the unseen hand to stop squeezing my guts. He starts apologising for causing me pain. We’ve been over this ground before many times in the past seven months and I don’t understand why he’s bringing it up now. That’s ten years and more in the past. There’s no longer any need to tell me this; I forgave him a lifetime ago.

This morning a turn of phrase in a book brought his concerned eyes looking into my own again, as they had the other night. Like a knife in my heart I suddenly understood what pain he was apologising for – and it wasn’t from the days of our youth as I assumed. He was apologising because I was doubled over with the pain of what HIV physically does to me sometimes. The true meaning of his words never occurred to me when he said them. I hate that he feels responsible. I hate the pain I see in his eyes.

I hope one day he understands there is no blame directed at him in my heart. Truly understands. When that day comes, there will be one less ghost to demand his attention.

A Day in the Life

| 3 Comments

As some of you know, I travel to Liverpool for my hiv care. Clinic day starts early - I'm usually up at 4am, just to make sure I've got plenty of time in case I'm having a "bad gut day".

The taxi arrives at 5:50am to take me to the airport.

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My chariot awaits...

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I fall asleep as the plane zooms out over the Irish Sea...

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...and wake up as we roar over the Mersey.

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When I first started going to clinic in Liverpool, the airport (then called Speke) was little more than a shack. My how it's grown!

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A taxi firm picks me and other Manx hospital patients up in this mini-bus, which smells like rotten socks inside. Not the best way to travel when one is prone to motion sickness!

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Neglect

| 12 Comments
I’ve been neglecting a number of things lately, this blog among them.

Weeds are rampant both in my garden and in my personal life. PMs and emails go unanswered. I’ve needed new glasses for about a year now; not only am I unfashionable, but I can’t see more than about ten yards in front of my face. I keep my kitchen and bathroom scrupulously clean, but yet the living room carpet needs attention and my desk is an unruly pile of papers, unpaid bills and books.

Why the neglect? Well, fuck do I know. I’ve neglected to look too deeply into the matter. Or rather I have, but I’ve neglected to acknowledge or act on what I’ve found. Since the beginning of November I’ve gone from the pits of despair, to the height of happiness and back down into the pits. I feel both stupid and silly. Stupid because I knew in my heart of hearts that Charlie would end up being a source of pain, and silly because I know I’ve got it comparatively good.

I also feel frustrated because a combination of Champix and Mirena have caused me to slide into a chemically induced depression – as if Charlie’s antics weren’t enough. If I wanted chemically induced depression, I would have used drugs that I could have had fun with in the meantime. Ah well, shit happens.

Tim Horn and I have recently discussed the inactivity of my blog and what possible directions I might take it in from now on. He suggested I be less autobiographical and focus more on current events - and I like that idea. The problem so far has been that I’ve found I couldn’t move forward into this new direction until I achieved a sense of closure regarding what this blog has been up to now. That’s what I’m doing with this entry in my own cryptic way.

Hey, it’s my blog and I’ll be cryptic if I want to. Cryptic if I want to, cryptic if I want to... oops, singing in my head again. Such is life.

I’ve got an example of the type of “current affairs" I hope to be writing about at a store near you...

On (the UK) C4 this week they’ve had “Embarrassing Bodies week" and one of the case histories involved a woman who presented with large labia minora.

No biggie, if you’ll pardon the pun – but she seemed to think it was a very big deal indeed and thought she was abnormal. She wasn’t. Her labia were completely normal and quite sexy. However, this woman was immediately recommended to a cosmetic surgeon. What??? Why wasn’t she first recommended to a therapist to see if she couldn’t become reconciled with what nature gave her, instead of encouraged to be surgically mutilated? I mean, there are webpages dedicated to ways and means of actively enlarging one’s labia minora - for example through the application of weights. Some men and women regard large labia minora as positively sexy. I do. And why not?

Fair enough, if this woman had a few sessions with a therapist and still didn’t like her large lips, then maybe it was time to go for surgery. But to offer mutilation as a front-line therapy is, to my mind, totally unjustified. Next thing you know, they’ll be recommending African-style clittorectomies just because the darn things tend to stick out a bit when women are sexually excited.

It does my head in. It really does. Why do so many women feel compelled to mutilate their bodies in the name of fashion? I don’t get it. Do you?



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