Before I begin this blog, I would just like to highlight how lucky I feel. Strange, you may think, for someone who’s had my news to feel lucky – but read on and you might understand why.
For some time now – around 18 months to 2 years – I’ve been feeling unwell with one thing or another, always putting it down to one virus or another being passed round the office: norovirus, stress, you name it – I’ve probably used that excuse.
The thing about me is that I’m 43 years young. I’m stubborn, some might say stoical: I don’t like wasting my doctor’s time with self-diagnosed coughs and splutters. I’ve been that way since I was last taken to the surgery by my mum, always thinking that my appointment would be better used by someone else with a genuine illness.
I should have looked back. Two years earlier, there had been something wrong. I was going from one cold to the next, feeling run down, sleeping from six in the evening through to the morning and not knowing why. Even when doing that, my batteries weren’t recharged.
I completely lost my appetite. I used to be one of those Man v Food types: put it in front of me and I’d eat it – however big, spicy or gross! Now, I couldn’t even stomach a bowl of cereal or a piece of toast. I lost a considerable amount of weight and although I looked OK, I felt like death warmed up more often than I’d like to remember.
Three or four months ago, I took the decision to seek professional help. After numerous blood tests at my doctor’s, I was referred to specialist at hospital. It wasn’t long before I received the news that I was HIV-positive.
Yes, of course, it was a shock. But, ironically, I was simply relieved when I realised what it was that was making me feel like I did. Obviously, the specialists did their further tests, prescribed a program of tablets and – more’s the point – instilled in me that HIV isn’t a terminal illness as long as people do something about it sooner rather than later.
Having had the timelines explained to me I soon realised how close I came to the point of no return and that’s inspired me not having my mum bury her son, not having the kids fatherless, or leaving a widow behind me.
So, yes, I do feel lucky – lucky that I have a chance to lead a normal life, knowing I have the full support of those around me that care. That includes both my family and the hospital, who have taught me that if I’m willing to do something about it, then they’ll help me all the way.