For most of my life, the only death I had to worry about was mine own. My parents were relatively young, my three siblings even more so. If anything, I, the baby of the family, was going to die first.
That was because the baby of the family acquired HIV in 1985, when living with HIV/AIDS meant living for another 12-18 months, as witnessed in the thousands of frail, dying men, women and children in America.
I was 23 years-old and a UCLA grad of one month when I began living with HIV/AIDS. I told my mother in 1988, a few minutes after the doctor made official what I already knew. I told the rest of my family shortly thereafter. Thankfully, they’ve known relatively good health. Thankfully, I’ve been living with HIV/AIDS for 24 years and counting.
But life can’t go on forever for any of my family, myself included. We’ve all got to die eventually. Now, at age 47, I’m like any American who’s concerned about the health and welfare of his elderly parents, his middle-aged siblings, and his own middle-aged body, which is still susceptible to middle-age health challenges.
Then there’s my dog. For years, I didn’t get a pet for fear of dying on him. In the late 90s, effective AIDS medications emerged. I took a leap of faith and adopted a six-month old puppy from the Indiana Humane Society. Boomer is 11-years-old now and still going strong, but I’m assuming he’s not gonna cheat death either.
I see him aging. I see my family aging. I see myself aging.
For most of my life, I assumed I’d be the first in my family to die and be spared all the grieving one has to endure living a long life.
I’m no longer off the hook for grief, but as a veteran of a 24-year medical journey that once seemed utterly impossible, I’ll keep reminding us all of the single most important thing I’ve learned during that seemingly impossible medical journey:
Never take any one test result, or diagnosis, or single day at the doctor (or visit to the hospital for that matter) as the final verdict and determiner of your life. Anything can happen. You’re not guaranteed to die of (fill in the blank).
Simple as that.
See life from my point of view in the blocks labeled HIV-P.O.V., now and forever at Randy Boyd’s Blocks:
Would You Say That to Ryan White?
Half a Life with AIDS: Randy Boyd in Poz Magazine
AIDS Is More Than a Deadly Disease
Randy Boyd in HIV Positive! Magazine
UCLA Cheerleader Sacked by Rose Bowl
Update from the Unlovable Nigger Faggot
Stop Calling Me Dirty and Disease-Ridden!