Nearly 20 years ago I was coming off of a drug holiday and starting a new cocktail. 9/11 had just passed and I had exhausted what drug cocktails there were at the time for me. My CD4 count was dropping and my viral load was increasing. A new drug had hit the market and my doctor and I were ready to give it a try.
Not long after I began this cocktail I started to get sick. Unfortunately, I first got sick in New York at the United Nations, where I was giving a presentation on perinatal transmission of HIV. I barely made it through the presentation, and for the next two years thereafter I lost my health, both mentally and physically. I lost 23% of my body weight from the side effects of the cocktail, and the side effects also caused me to experience psychosis and suicidal thoughts and attempts. My doctor and those around me didn't expect me to live and I pleaded to God myself that death would come to me. I was so sick that I couldn't even hold my baby boy. I never thought I'd see 2020 or even 2002.
But God had other plans for me. In 2003 I was taken off that cocktail and my head cleared up, no more psychosis and suicidal thoughts or attempts. My health slowly began to improve. By 2010 I was ready to continue my education and return to school for a masters degree in social work. While in school I experienced the murder of my aunt, tornadoes that hit much of my state and knocked our power out for 10 days, a devastating car accident that totaled our car and spared my son's and my life, separation from my husband, and then divorce, my mother's illness and later her death, and my own illness and mental break down. But in 2013 I graduated with my MSW.
It has been quite a journey these past 20 years. I have suffered much and I've grown even more. I stand in awe as I look back, because in 2001 I lost 11 friends and colleagues to AIDS and I was supposed to make it a solid dozen. So I thought! But God had other plans for me and I'm still here today. I humbly marvel at what I've come through in awe and amazement that I just saw the beginning of a new decade and there is so much more to come!