HIV Positive: 30 years ago today,
I was given six months to live!
By Bradford McIntyre
November 28, 2015
I have been HIV+ since 1984 but it is November 28th 1985 that stands out. Each year, it has been a day to get to and get through. Today it is a 30 year anniversary.
The following is what happened 30 years ago today.
On the 28 of November 1985, I was on my way to a new HIV Clinic at McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ontario. Living at this time in Kitchener/Waterloo, and my infection with HIV confirmed, I did not want to be seen at my local hospital for fear someone I knew, or a client, might discover that I was infected with HIV. With test results coming up positive and the relatively new knowledge in both science and medicine, along with the stigma attached to AIDS at the time, I chose to visit a specialist in another city.
I needed to find out more information and what to do about being infected. In those days, you might lose everything, job, home, family and friends if found out to be carrying the virus. I couldn't go to Toronto because I knew many people there too. I knew no one in Hamilton so I decided to go there. A brand new HIV clinic was to open at McMaster University and I had waited several months for it to open. I would be one of the very first patients seen there.
It was a cool day with the rain coming down so hard the windshield wipers could hardly keep up. I was driving in the downpour from Kitchener/Waterloo to Hamilton, an hour's drive. There was nothing that could have prepared me for what was to happen, when I arrived at the HIV clinic.
The dullness of the day and the rain set a tone. The drive was somewhat tense. Even driving into the underground parking at McMaster University seemed to have a gray cloud about it!
The new clinic was spacious and comfortable. Having arrived early, there would be a wait and a little rest from the tension of the drive was needed. After reading a magazine and looking about the designed surroundings, it was not long before I was called and escorted into the heart of the clinic. A very pleasant nurse informed me that blood work was needed and she proceeded to draw my blood. Shortly after, the doctor came to greet me. He took me into his office and closed the door.
Every word he uttered seemed to run together, so much information and scary. My body began to vibrate and my teeth chattered uncontrollably throughout every word he spoke. Emotional nerves were being hit sending shock in every direction, running through my body as if struck by lightning. When he spoke the next few sentences, I realized that I was not prepared for what I was hearing. I had made every attempt to be private about my status by going to another city. I did not really know what to expect when I got there, especially not what I was hearing. I jumped up with a start, my entire body vibrating, teeth chattering uncontrollably, a shock running through me. He was advising me to go home, inform my family, arrange my finances and funeral! I had six months to LIVE!
Tears had welled up during the conversation and crying continued to be hard to hold back. What to think, what to do? My mind raced in every direction, no real focus and emotions on the rampage. Alone to cope and alone to drive back home! Home and all it represented sent chills through my body, not unlike those from the wet and cold of the day. Worse in a way, not expressed in words. Many thoughts, ideas and feelings realized and many more showing themselves each second.
Emotions on a power surge of adrenaline like nothing ever experienced before. A vibration of fear took hold of me.
It was as though I was on my hands and knees crawling past the cubic colors of the clinic. My eyes focused on the floor, no recognition of the purples and greens seen about the clinic earlier, a maze to maneuver through. Corridors and elevators to reach the car. Finding my way became more difficult in the bowels of the underground parking. I was overwhelmed with fear which was compounded by the difficulty of sight through teary eyes.
What I remember of that time driving home was the dullness of the drizzling rain matching the numbness I felt. Everything around me, even my thoughts were dark. On the road, I had to concentrate on what I was doing, fighting back all kinds of thoughts along the way. At any time, I could take hold of the steering wheel and give one final swerve right off the road. I distinctly remember the strong sense of this while crossing a major bridge, to swerve out of control, off the bridge! The water below would solve everything. I couldn't go on or face what was ahead.
So it was this situation I faced while driving from Hamilton back to Kitchener. Only six months to live. How do deal with it? Was I really going to die? What form will getting sick take? Will it happen fast or slow and what of the arrangements the doctor conveyed, can I carry them out? I can't just do everything he said! Can I? I don't want to bring pain to the people I love. Do I have what it takes to go through this? Oh my God! Help me, rang through me!
I don't know for sure if I said the latter, but my sense is that I must have, just from the severity of what I was realizing at the time. That swerve of the steering column was looking more like the direction to solve the situation presenting itself and putting an end to it all then and there.
I was fighting back the tears from constant waves of fear, while peering through a windshield mimicking my glossed over eyes. You can well imagine, this situation conjured up an endless opportunity for frightening thoughts.
I had to focus on getting home. The fearful thoughts in my head would give me no peace, while I drove through the treacherous conditions outside. I did not go off the road, eventually pulling into the driveway at Barra Castle where I lived.
I didn't carry out anything the HIV specialist said to do but there would be more trips to Hamilton with very little information to support anything other than the ongoing prognosis of illness and death. Happening anytime, sooner than later!
Over the following months and years, the time frame was adjusted until an HIV infection was no longer considered a death sentence.
My being HIV+ and given 6 months to live made me aware of what was important. Every day is important and I try to do those things that make me happy. The people in my life are important and I would not be here today, if it were not for all the many people in my life!
Bradford McIntyre, HIV+ since 1984
About Bradford McIntyre
A long time survivor living with HIV since 1984, Bradford McIntyre announced publicly on national TV (Canada),on the Dini Petty Show, World AIDS Day, December 1, 1994, that he was living infected with HIV. For over 20 years, he has been involved creating HIV and AIDS awareness, volunteering his time, participating in HIV/AIDS causes through all venues: events, conferences, workshops, seminars, along with local, national and international speaking engagements. Bradford has appeared on national television and radio, in numerous newspaper and magazine interviews and documentaries. You can find a complete list of Bradford's HIV/AIDS involvements here: http://www.positivelypositive.ca/about/vitae.html .
In 2003, Bradford plunged into internet technology and successfully launched his personal website Bradford McIntyre Positively Positive Living with HIV/AIDS ( www.PositivelyPositive.ca ) to further educate people and disseminate HIV/AIDS information worldwide. On a daily basis, Bradford collaborates with individuals, groups and organizations, locally, nationally and internationally; including their news, events, press releases, conferences, workshops and more on www.PositivelyPositive.ca .
On November 27, 2012, Bradford received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for excellence in the field of HIV/AIDS, in Canada.
Bradford's work creating HIV and AIDS awareness globally has provided for many people, a face living with HIV and this has helped to bring hope to people infected that they too can live a long and healthy life.
copyright © Bradford McIntyre