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Living with AIDS:
my story

by Bradford McIntyre

Photo: Bradford McIntyre, featured in Michelle Valberg's book:
LOOK BEYOND The Faces & Stories of People with HIV/AIDS, a collection of black and white photographs of people all across Canada living with HIV/AIDS.
Photo Credit: Michelle Valberg

Watch video: LOOK BEYOND The Faces & Stories of People with HIV/AIDS

November 1994

    My name is Bradford McIntyre and I'm drawn to write to you that I might share with you and others. Ten years ago, while I was living in Kitchener-Waterloo, I was told that I had been infected with the AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) virus. On November 28th, 1985, my doctor said I had six months to live. As well, he advised me to inform my family; put my finances in order and make arrangements for my funeral. After living past the 6 month mark, my doctor said I had from 18 months up to 2 years.

I was in a new relationship at the time; fear and stress had taken their toll. The relationship ended, as my partner didn't want to watch me die. I sold most of my belongings; quit my job, and gave notice that I would be vacating my apartment. I would have no other choice but to die.

A man I met from Quebec, who was living in Kitchener-Waterloo, was being transferred back to the Ottawa-Hull area. He suggested I put my things in his truck and go with him. I decided that I didn't have much more time, and I wanted to leave with dignity, at least, that's what I felt at the time. I was a Hairstylist with an established clientele and many friends and acquaintances. I knew that knowledge of my illness would affect these people, as well as my family.

Several months after arriving in Ottawa-Hull, still alive and healthy, I realized I would have to look for work. I found a job at a successful salon in Ottawa. However, I did not develop any relationships, as I had left home so that no one I knew would be affected by my illness.

Although I carried on with my life as if everything was wonderful, I lived in fear. I gave what I refer to as an Academy Award performance. I treasured the pleasures in life and enjoyed everything I did, as if it was for the last time.

I lived with fear for about 4 years, until an extraordinary woman came to me at the salon. Out of the blue, she told me I had suffered long and hard enough, and it was time I got on with my life. So I painted, wallpapered, and decorated what once was a beige apartment. One that had seemed pointless to make a home! Not long after, I met someone and started a new relationship.

For four years, the doctors kept advising me to take AZT. When I finally did decide to go on the drug, it was with a positive attitude. After 8 months on AZT, I developed severe side effects. I had headaches, out-of-mind experiences, nausea, insomnia, and developed neuropathy, which created a deterioration of the nervous system in my legs. These were all side effects of having taken AZT. At the time, I didn't have enough wits about me to know what was wrong, but I did know that something was very wrong.

Some AIDS patients, understandably, suffer from anxiety and depression. When I complained to my doctor about what I was experiencing, he prescribed an anti-anxiety medication, which I took for three months. I could not tolerate the new drug, so an anti-depressant was prescribed, which didn't help. I was still suffering, plus experiencing the side effects of these additional drugs. This led me to believe that I had to find a way to fix what was wrong.

Everything contributed to the breakdown and destruction of my new relationship. It appeared as though my illness was progressing and that I might die. I hadn't received any answers or explanations from the doctors, so I decided to stop taking the drugs.

Unfortunately, one day I came home to find my partner and all his belongings gone! I felt terrible, I loved him with all my heart, and he was gone just when I started to get better. Although alone, I was proud for believing in myself.

That night a friend loaned me a book, "The 12 Steps of Forgiveness" by Paul Ferrini, which I read until dawn. Inspired, I searched for anything that would give me the emotional support and strength I needed to go through whatever life held in store for me. I read "Love is Letting Go of Fear " by Gerald G. Jampolsky, "Out of the Darkness and Into the Light " by Gerald G. Jampolsky, "Way of The Peaceful Warrior " by Dan Millman, "Peace, Love & Healing " by Bernie Siegel, MD and others. I was searching and reading.

Then I attended a three day workshop, "The AIDS Mastery", which is a course in living, for anyone affected or infected by the AIDS virus. I joined PWA, which is a support group for people living with AIDS. Then I read and have continued to study "A Course In Miracles", which speaks throughout the text on the topic of the EGO. I then studied First and Second Degree Reiki, which is a spiritual practice that encompasses healing of the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual bodies.

Over time I have practiced and learned to be healthy emotionally. While learning to be healthy emotionally, I healed physically. I had felt so awful emotionally, that for years it affected me physically, even when I wasn't sick. As well, this added emotional pain to my physical, when I was sick.

It has been 3 years since my partner left and I stopped taking medication. During these years I have tried to live moment by moment, living in the NOW! My life is about LOVE, loving myself and everyone and everything. I have been involved in many aspects of emotional, physical and spiritual healing. The results of being emotionally well have tremendously affected how I feel physically. With the healthy things I have incorporated into my life, there have been many changes in how I think and what I put into my body. The results speak for themselves. I am still alive and have learned how to live a full life!

I left my job last year due to some opportunistic infections and the desire to devote the necessary time to my healing. Unable to support myself, I moved out of my home and lived with friends. I went on disability benefits and several months later, having been on a waiting list for three years, an apartment came up through AIDS Housing.

All the years of hiding the fact I was infected with the AIDS virus and concerned with the outcome, were behind me. I made many friends and had support. I had always wanted to be involved with helping others, but fear of people finding out I had been infected with the AIDS virus prevented me.

This past year has been amazing for me. I have taken off in many new directions, with my new healthy attitude seeing me through.

This summer a woman friend of mine moved to Vancouver and I offered to drive her car out for her. On July 15th, I drove across the United States to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; I had a great trip.

I was amazed at all the wonderful people in Vancouver, especially their involvement with emotional, physical and spiritual healing. I went to meditation centers, study groups for "A Course In Miracles", and various introductory evenings, lectures and seminars.

Over the years, there have been many different things I have learned, practiced and incorporated into my life and now there is an awareness of more and more!

I found out there are thousands of people involved in alternative therapies, which I was not aware existed.

I educated myself in the many aspects of these therapies. I investigated and talked with people involved with and practicing these therapies. I discovered that, because these are alternative therapies, there is no government funding available. Without government support, groups of people came together and found a way to make these therapies accessible.

I gathered literature and the supplies that I needed in order to incorporate some of the methods and practices of these therapies into my life.

It seems there is only money in illness, and no money in wellness. In both Canada and the United States, health care systems are being affected by the strains from use and rising costs. Billions are being spent, while people look to the medical profession to care for all their illness. If we took a little more care and responsibility for our health and what we put into our bodies, there would be less demand on our health care system.

During the past 9 years, had I been on all the many drugs the doctors would have prescribed, it would have cost upwards of $100,000.00. I believe it has been reported that the cost, to the health care system, for the needs of each person with AIDS, to be $250,000.00. I chose to try to live healthily and the cost of my health care in Canada has been approximately $20,000.00. That's an incredible saving to the health care system!

There are so many alternative therapies and for the most part, many have been discounted, but there are those that work and many more that show promise! Health care is in trouble and some alternative therapies are now beginning to be looked at and studied. The medical profession was not taught about these therapies, so there is very little recognition given to them. Government, like the medical profession, lacks the education about these therapies, so very little or no money goes toward studies, for one reason or another. With some therapies, it seems that there are too few ways for pharmaceutical companies to profit.

I believe, as do others, that there is a strong connection between mind and body. Fear and guilt can manifest into dis-ease, both emotional and physical. We can recognize the influence that our thoughts have on our health and the importance of what we put into our body.

When I returned to Ottawa from Vancouver, I was drawn to contact the media and tell my story about living with the AIDS virus for a decade. There is more power in people knowing I am infected with HIV, than there ever was in them not knowing. If, as a result someone does not withdraw from friends and family, or people open their hearts and treat one another better, more lovingly, then it was worth creating the awareness!

A network news anchor, at CBC, recommended a reporter at the local newspaper, "The Ottawa Citizen". The reporter from the newspaper interviewed me in my home for several hours and we continued our discussions over the phone. A photographer came to take pictures and the paper held the article back until it could be placed well. The article appeared on the front page of the City Life section.

I hoped it would be a very positive interview and I had every hope that it would have a positive effect. The interest, excitement and positive energy from everyone involved has been wonderful!

Since 1985, every year on November 28th, I celebrate Life. For the past 2 years, I have held an annual party, "A Celebration of Life" and invited the people in my life who know I have been infected with the AIDS virus. Now that everyone knows, this November 28th will truly be a celebration!

Initially, I felt drawn to contact only the media. Later, I realized that I was thinking too small. I had taken an idea; put it out to the Universe and then decided, why not think bigger?

So, I decided I'd write to you and others, thinking that it might be of interest and worthwhile to share the many strategies and therapies, which have helped me with my own healing.

On October 2nd, I returned to Ottawa from Vancouver. Since then, I have received much encouragement and support. I have put together a pamphlet, in order to share the many experiences and alternative directions that have helped me to be happy and healthy --- Emotionally, Physically and Spiritually!

I am committed to doing everything that I can, in order to continue to create HIV and AIDS awareness! I have written to you in the hope that our combined efforts will contribute to the education of others. A shift in perception is nothing short of a Miracle!

Thank you for your time.

Bradford McIntyre


copyright © Bradford McIntyre

From 1994 - 2004, Bradford McIntyre continued to write letters and articles, directing them to government, media, newspapers and magazines, creating awareness around HIV/AIDS issues. Lobbying of government through letters and articles to provide proper health care/nutrition/subsidized housing for those infected with HIV and all disabilities. Bradford is active in the fight to keep nutritional supplements; vitamins, minerals, herb's and botanicals in the health food stores and the importance of including their use and availability in our Canadian health care system. As well, the importance of Naturopathic Physicians and their ability to provide alternative and complimentary medicine.


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