It has been a while since I have written. It’s not because I haven’t wanted to. I think of all my fellow bloggers, and I wish I had more time to share and more time to read your blogs. I am overloaded with school, work responsibilities, doctor’s appointments, etc. Squeezing a few moments in the week for me is almost impossible. As some of you know, I started a doctoral program last fall. I am getting my PhD in Public Health specializing in Behavioral Health. My research objective includes exploring the use of evidence-based interventions in community settings and how these interventions can be developed to be delivered via new technology: cell phones, internet, computer-based, and video-conferencing to improve the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS. It is difficult for me to believe the year is almost over. I will no longer be a 1st year PhD student; I will be a 2nd year PhD student. Wow, what an incredible journey this has been. I also work as a graduate assistant for a researcher who is studying the innovative (technology based) delivery methods of evidence-based interventions for people living with HIV. I am a Scholar in a program focused on adolescent behavior. All of this is pretty darn overwhelming at times. The workload is incredible, however, somehow I manage to do it all; one semester at a time, one week at a time, one day at a time, and sometimes one breath at a time! I was concerned that increased stress from school and work might have a negative impact on my health, but it hasn’t. At my last doctor's appointment, I was absolutely amazed; my T-cell count was higher (200 points higher) than it has been in the last 20 years. Not sure if this is just a fluke. My doctor says “no, it is not a fluke” because my percentage also increased. I guess we will see at my next visit. I have been on the same medications for the past 6 or 7 years, so nothing has changed there. I have been exercising a little more, but I don’t think that would account for the increase. Whatever I am doing I hope I continue to do because it is working. I have always believed a positive mind, having goals, and living healthy would help to maintain my health and it seems that this strategy is working. I am extremely grateful and truly blessed. For those who do not know my story I have been surviving with HIV for almost 28 years; about 17 years ago I was homeless, dying of AIDS related causes with less than 50 T-Cells without any access to healthcare or medications. To be where I am at today is certainly a doing of something or someone greater than me. My journey has been incredible and seems to continue. Don’t get me wrong there are setbacks and struggles, all of which help me to grow personally and professionally. Last semester I found out I know longer qualified for student loans, I had reached the limit, and I would no longer be eligible for assistance. I was certainly freaking out. How was I going to pay for my continued education? Well, my graduate assistant position does pay for 9 credit hours, but there is no guarantee I will continue to have a position. I have to renew my contract each semester; there is no guarantee the funding will be available to pay my position and the cost of books, fees, parking passes are quite expensive. Long story short, I decided somehow I was going to find the money to support my education. I applied for scholarships, grants, anything I could find. Deadlines passed, I wasn’t notified, I didn’t receive any news . . . I was starting to get downright scared. I did not want to give up my dreams. I want to become a researcher (and a University professor) so I can help change the lives of people living with HIV; to improve the quality of people’s lives, so they did not have to go through the craziness I went through. I cried, I prayed, and I waited. At the end of April, my prayers were answered. I received an email, which said, “Congratulations, we are honored to award you the Graduate Student Success Fellowship”. I about fell out of my chair, my heart stopped for a moment if not longer, for a few minutes I could not speak a word. Everyone in my office was looking at me like I was crazy. I am sure I looked crazy. I had to read the words over and over. The email continued to say I would receive a modest living allowance plus all my tuition paid for the next 3 years! How amazing is that. All the hard work and long hours of studying paid off and would continue. A doctorate on average takes about 5 years to finish. Three years of full time classes and 2 years to write and defend your dissertation. Sometimes I want to pinch myself. Is this really me who has accomplished all this? Living with HIV threw a wrench into my life and altered MY plans but somehow I was able to redefine myself and find my purpose or is it my destiny. Whatever it is, it is a hell of a ride and I am enjoying every minute. I share all this with you in the hopes this will help you find your passion. Living with HIV does not define who we are; it does not dictate our lives. It may alter our plans and modify our course of action, but we can be and do whatever we set our minds to. Dreams do come true. If you are feeling lost, take a moment for yourself, take a deep breath. What is it that makes you happy? What fills your heart and soul? Find it and go after it. YOU can achieve it.
Follow your passion--dreams do come true
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