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The Gay Blade

8th June 2008

How Strange Life Gets

Posted by: Michael Stevens

A good friend, who at 44 is a couple of years younger than me, had a heart attack the other week (henceforth known as HAM -Heart Attack Man). Given that he smokes like a chimney, and in his drinking makes me look (at times) like a Salvation Army officer, perhaps it’s not surprising. Worrying, as I am very fond of him, but maybe not so surprising.

Another friend, also younger than me, but only by a few weeks, has been living with a nasty cancer diagnosis (henceforth known as CB - Cancer Boy) for the last 2 months.

Both of these guys, myself and another friend (let’s call him the 4th), were sitting chatting the other night on K Rd. CB and HAM were sort of swapping notes, while both were smoking still (I can be smug as I haven’t had a ciggie in weeks and weeks now) joking a little, when I asked the 4th if was ok, and he assured me he was, and he asked me if I was ok, and I said “I’m fine thanks, just fine” or words to that effect.

There was a slight sort of pause, then I said, “Well, apart from the AIDS thingy”.

And that’s the weird thing. My AIDS diagnosis really is such a small part of my life now. Just a “thingy” I have to deal with.

I received the news in 1988, 20 years ago now. As one Dr in London told me, “You’ve probably got about 2 years or so left, why not go home to New Zealand and be with those you love” - “Get Ready To Die” is what she meant. I neither came home then nor died. Another Dr here in Auckland gave me a year to live in 1995, when I was very, very sick and pretty well living in Ward 9C or Herne Bay House. Again, unless something very major has happened and I missed it and you have all been humouring me, I haven’t died yet.

Instead, here I am, middle-aged, worrying about my weight and waistline, wondering why I no longer seem to want to stay up dancing till dawn , wishing I had a good man in my life (applications for this post may be left in the comments section below)  and trying to get a career going.

And getting seriously worried about the health of my younger friends with non-HIV related problems. Everyone use to be worried about me, and the rest of us poz people. Now I worry about my friends, and not for HIV stuff.

It is all rather disorienting you see, as I spent a lot of time and effort getting ready to die. I was determined to die well, to have “a good death” and had even chosen the music (several times in fact, always totally different) for the whole thing. I did Buddhist meditation, I went through Kubler-Ross workshops, I beat phone books to shreds with  garden hoses (long story), I studied death in Western Society, hell I even lecture at University on it! And yet, I still have to pay the rent, find something to eat, and remember to put the rubbish out. I’m still here. The world is still turning. And dear and good friends are coping with their own health problems that could well see them pop their clogs before I do at this rate.

I’m not complaining mind you. But this Friday night sitting on K Rd, it really brought it home to me. For most of us with HIV, if you do what your Dr tells you, take your meds properly and take reasonable care of yourself, well, we’re likely to be around a fair while. Long enough to worry about friends with cancer or coronary problems.

Who’d have thunk it?

Tags: General

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Cherie Crawford // Jun 10, 2008 at 12:28 am

    I like reading your writing. Your recent piece….It inspired me. I like your outlook on life & compassion for others (which is clear in your writing). You should have a nice ‘hottie’ aye!!! Hope he comes your way….really soon.
    I’m sure your courage and strength has inspired many and you’ve given support to lots people. WHAT A GREAT GUY!

  • 2 Willow // Jun 12, 2008 at 1:52 am

    Good on you! Very inspirational and uplifting blog!

    A point to ponder on (I like stiring things a little), with so many safe sex poster boys around, could you be our first ‘unsafe sex’ poster boy?

    Are we sending mixed messages out there? +ve guys living normal lives? So where’s the disincentive to be +ve?

  • 3 remix_Ryan // Jun 12, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    Howdy buddy, came across your posting while web surfing. I myself am too a HIV+poz lad but from Brisbane, Australia (where most Kiwi’s seem to live anyway) LOL.
    SAFE SEX and taking responsibilit for one’s self is up to each and every individual. After-all, it takes two to tango & if one chooses not to bother wrapping it up (using a condom) then he has to be open to the very likely probablility he will indeed also become HIV+poz.
    As I see in one’s previous comments here - it’s got nothing to do with ‘Dis-insentitive’ - if one lives with his head in the clouds and take no responsibility for himself (or others) than he shouldn’t be so dismissive.
    I can only guess - similarly to you - I am also +poz and because of discomfort I choose to have unsafe sex (because I am not aroused by the feel of choking my member with a condom - or the irritating feel of one going inside my rear - if I should choose to bottom) - BUT - as as HIV+poz person I live with the responsibility to ALWAYS inform my sexual parnter’s PRIOR TO SEX of my status and of my wish to bareback.
    Doing this is both fulfilling my legal & my moral obligations - anything beyond this is up to the individual whom chooses to play with me.
    PS - I too am living well, and so far it doesn’t affect or effect me at all. I am still medication-free & doing fine - so thereby I find it hard to understand all the media/social hype about how bad it is to be HIV+poz. Anyhow - cheers & best wishes to ya

  • 4 kavin // Jun 16, 2008 at 10:19 am

    Great writing Michael - you give good pen.

    But Oh, my - how different from 20 years ago when the Funeral Suit got a weekly airing, and the Christmas Card List got real small.

    Congrats again.

  • 5 Kev // Jun 16, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    Hi Michael,
    Congratulations on the smoking dear.

  • 6 nzpozguy // Jul 8, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    great blog m8 but seriously- you should have written re the side effects of the so called wonder meds
    , the nausea the vomiting the dysentery the risk of heart attacks, the loss of feeling in feet leading person unable to walk, the cramps, yeah I am living also 21 years with HIV and have experienced quite few side effects from these meds but hey with the wonder of smoking pot, most disappear. Those with new infections need a good hard crack :P
    might wake their ideas up
    i would marry you in a minute :P

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