Yes, I'm an optimist. So shoot me! I see the proverbial glass as three-quarters full and walk through the world with a pair of rose-colored glasses that perfectly match my pair of hot-pink Converse shoes. I'm the guy with the sunny disposition'the guy who laughs loudly and often for no apparent reason (my therapist says I'm not crazy), speaks to strangers on the street, and goes to church every Sunday because he still believes. I see everyone and everything as potentially beautiful; yes, I'm that guy. HIV has humbled and centered me, offered intention and purpose to my life, and given a weight and depth to my perspective that I didn't previously have. But I am still, overall, a very positive person. Get it? Positive person? My mantra is 'Life is good. Love is good. And I am even better!'
But last month my doctor found protein in my urine.
The diagnosis is hepatitis C with elevated liver function and a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor that is no longer being filtered properly through my kidneys. Now, I try to stay pretty educated about the complications that can come with having a chronic disease, and I proactively try to see medical hurdles as an opportunity to make myself even healthier than I was before. (Told you I am an optimist.) But when an HIV specialist tells you that the next challenge the universe has chosen for you to tackle from its infinite bag of party tricks is 'Surprise! We have to change your cocktail,' even someone who watches Oprah regularly and constantly searches for the silver lining realizes that that is undeniably bad news.
I was nervous, I was scared, and at one point I think my heart stopped. Suddenly, the man who was confidently conquering his HIV was getting his platelets kicked by the 'little' disease he'd decided to ignore. So as is always the case when I get a little overwhelmed, I said a prayer, gave it to God, and did as my doctor said.
We cut my medication intake down to the bare minimum and replaced my big blue pill (Truvada) with a big orange one (Epzicom)'which completely destroyed the feng shui in my bathroom! I started drinking lots of water, and though initially I had been waiting for better options, circumstances have forced me to seriously begin planning for my interferon treatment. Subcutaneous injections, flulike symptoms, fatigue, and depression lasting for about a year are all possibilities with the treatment I will soon begin. So with the coming of winter comes the risk of losing the brightness of spirit I have heavily relied on. Battling depression does not sound like fun, and I am not looking forward to it. Did I mention that I was scared?
I have been living with HIV for seven years now and juggling this coinfection for four. Devoted doctors, the grace of God, and the fortitude of faith have allowed my body to be marvelously resilient to the physical assaults of this virus. But something that can attack the very fabric of your being'and alter the substance of your personality by biochemically changing your mood and disposition'gives me pause. Who will I be? Until then, I can only be me, now. I can only be who I have always been and what this disease demands me to be. I will be positive.
Saucier is a writer, blogger, and performance artist based in Los Angeles.