It was 2012 when I was too sick to even get out of my bed. My body constantly ached, my vision was going, and I was scared to death, literally. I saw doctor, after doctor, proud volunteers that looked over all of the different conditions, to no avail.
I was living in a motel, out of work, and poor as dirt. I had no money for doctors; I barely had money enough to pay for the room I was in. Test after test, until it became clear that I was sick with either some form of cancer, or it was AIDS.
I couldn’t find free testing. It may have been that I couldn’t see a computer screen completely, or it may have been my debilitating condition, who knows. I finally got a ride to The Center, in Orlando Florida from my aunt.
In less than 15 minutes I had my answer. I had HIV and I was suffering from AIDS. Not a complete surprise but I felt the world collapse. My partner had HIV too, and I was the one who gave it to him. I put a gun to his head, and pulled the trigger. I was less than anything, and I just knew this was it. It was the end.
Two weeks later, I believe as I just don’t remember the passing of time, a gentle nurse showed up to my door with my confirmatory testing results. She handed me the results and then a tiny little slip of paper with a phone number on it. That was the day my whole life changed. Somehow, some way, help found me. I promptly called the number, was advised to gather some bits of information and to report to the County Health Department.
When I walked in, I was rushed into an office. A lady named Chanel sat down at her desk, collected my information and got to work. She advised me this would not be easy, that I had work ahead of me. I needed to see a Doctor at a place called Comprehensive Health Care. Because I had no transportation she arranged a van to come and get us.
I walked into the office, now not as terrified as I was confused. I had no clue what was going to happen, just that someone was going to look me over, and a process was beginning.
I was assigned a nurse, Jessica. I joked that I had never met Jessica Rabbit in person before, which was totally inappropriate but well received. She was the most lovely, understanding, wonderful woman I had ever met. Her compassion and her dedication were overwhelming. I could do nothing but be in awe of her movements, how she was so thorough. It was awe inspiring.
She left the room for a moment to call the Doctor in. A tall black man walked in. He said his name was Dr. Ronald Cathcart. If Jessica was compassionate and efficient, this man was a God of Doctors. He had no problem putting his hands on me to physic ally diagnose every opportunistic dilemma I had going on. He ordered specialists, further testing, and follow ups. Somehow I felt like family to these new people.
A blood test and urinalysis came next. With the speed of light, the team worked out patient care assistance to get me on a strangely named drug called Stribld. I was put on some antibiotics, antifungal, and he explained the most important advice I have ever been given.
I was going to survive, only if I took these meds exactly as he told me to. “Once a day, every day” he said was the mantra of my life now. I tried to put the fear in a box, now I had this team, this new family. I had to make this man happy, to make Jessica proud.
That was the beginning of the “Long Red Road”.
Fast forward, six years. That mantra, that team, from my case manager Chanel, all the way through eye doctors, and psychologists and psychiatrists, and dermatologists, I have now been “undetectable” for 5 years. I lost the sight from my right eye, but I pressed on. I felt the urge to be a light in this dark place. I wasn’t just HIV positive, I was just POSITIVE. Screw HIV! Not today Satan, you can’t have me! I’m stronger, I’ll show you!
And boy did I. Look at me now! I am here, telling you this story. I didn’t die, I THRIVED.
Jessica moved on to be the Deputy Director of my clinic. I served as the Community Action Board of said clinics Secretary and I started this blog. I wasn’t going to just beat this; I was going to show the world how to beat it.
I spent the last 5 years of my life on disability, thinking I would never be able to work again. The things I loved about my life were just out of reach. Or so I was lead to believe.
Disability ended, and life began again. I chose the hardest path I could imagine; I would once again hold the certification to be a Certified Nursing Assistant. I would do the impossible and get not just my life back, but my whole life back. I wasn’t taken too seriously at first. Just how was I to prove to the world I was capable of caring for others in a skilled nursing environment? I was half blind, and diseased. Who would take me seriously?
It turns out it only had to be me. I worked hard, studied late into the nights, and drank so much coffee that I know I almost became a coffee bean.
I challenged the CNA Board test, and I passed. I PASSED! I was not only healthy, and successful, but in my hot little hand I had that all important certification that proved beyond anyone’s doubts, I was CERTIFIED!
I sent out my resume, with work references that just didn’t exist anymore. I was interviewed, I was like a magician. I moved swiftly, answered all their detailed questions. I impressed them. I now have the job, and not just any job, my dream job! I was what I always wanted to be again!
I write this to you, my lovelies, to encourage you. It took an army of people, probably a half a million dollars, and real hard work. I over came this. I frantically called Jessica, now a sister in love. I had to pour out my gratitude! I called Chanel, she is a miracle worker, and she definitely needed to be thanked. She can check off the box in my care plan that I am a professional now.
I have to thank every one of you, even you who I have never met, who just found me today. THANK YOU and welcome to my little family. It’s a safe place here, we all love you! I love you! Stay here with me, I’ll hold you up, no matter how you came in, when you leave you will be more. That is my dedication to you, that is my promise!
So now, on the Long Red Road we will walk together. I will keep on sharing my life with you, and I hope you share yours with me, and others. It truly takes a village! An army of love. We will overcome this together and as much as I have seen success, I share mine with you.
Thank you for reading this. I hope you will read more, and I know you will be ok.
“Once a day, Every day”, each step “Positive”. Together down the “Long Red Road”.
In Unconditional Love,
You’re Friend David.