I remember like it was yesterday when I was first diagnosed. The date was May 03, 2010. I felt empty yet for some reason relieved. Confusing huh? I had went to the OBGYN for abnormal bleeding on April 29. I was asked if i wanted to be tested. Initially i said no but upon further request I agreed. The following Monday I received a phone call from the doctor’s nurse. She asked if she could speak to Lakeysa Buchanan. I stated, “This is she.” She then asked, "Are you sure?" (as if I'd forgotten my name). Upon assuring her that it was who she asked for she then began to whisper, asking if I could come into the office as soon as possible. Confused i thought to myself, "This lady crazy as hell, what is she whispering for," but yea sure. Upon my arrival I was called back. I noticed that when i touched the door knob the nurse did not want to touch it or me. I knew something was up then. Once the doctor came in she gave me the results of my HIV test, and then explained that she would no longer be able to see me as a patient, then leaving the room. I was in shock and hurt. Before leaving her assistant said something that has always stuck in my head. It was Phillipians 4:13. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I will never forget her for those kind words.
The first person I called was my best friend, crying and screaming hysterically. She reassured and comforted me of course. Upon hanging up with her I then called my mom and told her. Her response was actually hilarious when I think back on it. She says to me, "Now where did you go and get that from?" Lol… as if it was something I could go buy in the store. But, truly I couldn't even begin to answer that question. Cause you see I was a very promiscuous person. I come from a background of molestation from family and so called friends of family. As well as date rape (before it was actually called that). Relationships that involved abuse: physical, mental, as well as emotional. I even had a boyfriend that would make me have sex with his friends when he got upset with me in order for him not to leave me. Crazy huh? I also suffered from low self esteem and low self worth. So sex was a way to get people to like me and to get what I needed and wanted. As I got older sex became an escape or just something to do to pass time, with no real emotional attachment behind it. Although knowing the risk I didn't always use condoms. But I knew it couldn't have been the guy I was dating because we always used condoms. Then I found out that a guy I had slept with was dating a female who was known to be positive at the same time. So I immediately blamed him. But looking back I only blamed him because of who he had dated. Not even considering those nameless faces of those I had slept with only hours after meeting them on different chat lines, knowing nothing about them or their status. Upon recollection I can truly only blame myself. Because it was my careless actions that got me here.
I went through a whirlwind of emotions. Acceptance was first so I thought. I was not one to ever blame God. But I did blame myself. Despair, sorrow, and worthlessness followed. I remember once getting a cold and crying thinking this disease is wreaking havoc on my body. And thinking death was around the corner now since i contracted "The Virus". Forgetting death is inevitable regardless.
Upon my first visit with a specialist I was informed I had just become infected. My viral load was 220 and T cell count was 1275. Undetectable. I was clueless to what that meant. I received no medication and after two and four months my viral load remained undetectable getting as low as 72 and my T cells remained in the 1000s. My visits then went to every six months. My doctor encouraged me to participate in a couple of studies. One was for memory the other for when was a good time to start medication. I remained in them until they disbanded.
Although things were well as far as my diagnosis, I was suffering mentally and emotionally. I was holding in a dark secret. Ashamed to tell anyone for fear of rejection and judgement. Imagine being the one everyone comes to for advice, encouragement and comfort and when needed you have no one you can truly confide in. It’s hard to not be open and talk freely about what you’re going through. It is truly overwhelming to walk in silence when all you want to do is live freely without judgement. Without my ability to live freely I remained in a constant state of depression only being able to confide in myself. Feeling that no one knows what I'm going through or how I feel nor can they relate.
I met another female on a poz dating site and she informed me of an all-female conference for women living with HIV and encouraged me to go. I have since been to two so far. Being in the presence of women who have been through and are going through the same thing is great for me. In doing so I have learned a lot and also grown in my thinking in regards to my status. Finally a place where I can be open and free. Yet once it was over it was back to my life of seclusion and living a lie.
I have always acknowledged National Testing Day and World AIDS Day on my social media by posting stats and encouraging others to get tested. All without letting it be known that I too was positive…still living in shame. One day I decided that I was going to give my testimony to a church I was attending. My best friend asked was I sure because I was introduced to this church by my work supervisor. Nevertheless I still wanted to tell my story. So on August 4, 2017, I gave my testimony telling my full truth. To my surprise I was accepted and respected, loved and comforted. My supervisor came to me and gave me the biggest, most comforting hug. I knew then that everything was OK. It was like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. I then told my mom that I wanted to come out about my status. She asked me, "Why?" Then proceeded to tell me it was no one’s business. So I went back to my seclusion and shame for fear of how others would treat her because of me. Yet as time has passed I've come realize that it’s OK and that I have to live my life. I don't have to be sheltered and ashamed.
On September 13,2017 I was told by my specialist on my six month visit that my T cell count was 1150 but my viral load was no longer undetectable. Funny thing is somehow I already somehow knew. And with a smile on my face and joy in my heart I responded, “OK, what's next? Whatever you think is best is fine with me.” She chose to wait and see if my numbers would return to normal by themselves, so still no medication. It’s been seven years with no medication. I'm Blessed. And nothing can take that away so whatever the outcome I’m OK with it.
I am Blessed and ready to walk in my truth unafraid and accepting of myself and my diagnosis. I prayed and asked God to show me His purpose for my life and each time I dreamed of me telling my story, my truth to others to inspire them. So I'm determined to be a better me. I will continue to educate myself and others and inspire those who walk in shame and fear as I did. By letting them know that it is OK to live out loud. We only get one life to live and it’s not fair for us to allow our circumstances to determine how we live it. Walk in your truth. All who reject you weren't meant to walk through this life with you. Love those who love you and love those who reject you.
Why Lakeysa wants to be part of A Girl Like Me: I feel it’s important for me to blog with A Girl Like Me because what I didn't put in my story is the best friend I called was diagnosed seven years to the exact day to mine. As well as five years prior to my diagnosis I had a sibling also diagnosed. And we all walk around in fear. Although I was diagnosed last they look to me for advice and strength. So I believe if I begin to walk in my truth it will give them the courage to not walk in fear of rejection and judgement from others and not be ashamed of who they are because our diagnosis doesn't change who God made us to be.