Friday, December 20, 2013

2013: My Rebirth - Part V (The Boy in Green Spandex)

To me, nothing mattered but that number. My CD4 was 5 and I have HIV and AIDS! Something I only used to study inside the four corners of the high school classroom, totally forgotten during college escapades and outrightly disregarded while enjoying the spoils of quarter life. Chad however was still optimistic and immediately dismissed it as just a number. "What's important now is we know your status and we know where you're standing, now let's start fixing you up."

There is an obvious and paramount urgency that I start  the treatment. And I'm not getting those medicines yet until I get the results for the X-Ray and Sputum test. They have to know if I have Tuberculosis (TB) because if I do, then they have to start TB treatment first before giving me Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART). That's what they call the trio-pill I have to take everyday for the rest of my life, like your daily Neobloc for high blood pressure or Metformin for diabetes. I have to wait for another week before the results are in. I have to do some more baseline tests outside RITM; urinalysis, fecalysis, UTZ, PPD and CMV.

The next 7 days was tough. No fever but I still suffer from shortness of breathing. And I lost appetite with the discomfort caused by the oral thrush, actual or imagined. Dr. Wico also wants to make sure I don't have a particular infection that attacks the eye sight. That happens to PLHIV with very low CD4, he called it CMV ritinitis, caused by the Cytomegalovirus that, if unchecked, thrives in the brain. Before we left the facility that Monday he gave me a couple of prescriptions for more baseline tests.

Thursday, we took for the  Philippine General Hospital in Metro Manila where I can get that CMV test but was cut short somewhere in Bacoor. I had another anxiety attack, and choked on the bottle of water I was drinking and had shortness of breathing inside the bus. We dropped off somewhere right after SM Bacoor. After I stepped out of the bus, I almost collapsed along the Aguinaldo National Highway. "Day, hospital!", in between gasps of air. But no vehicle to take us there. No annoying tryk when we needed it much. We hailed for a jeepney going south and decided to go home instead after I got my composure back. That eye check up in PGH will have to wait.

We went home and that was another unproductive, energy taxing day. I texted Chad the following morning. "May kwarto ba sa RITM? Baka kailangan ko na mag pa admit." I was trying to tone down the sense of urgency or panic up until Friday mid afternoon. Chad told me to hang on and try calling the hot line number of RITM-ARG and see if there is any updates on the test results. I texted the ARG mobile first, and in less than 5 minutes I got a reply. I gave them my code(yes we have that for confidentiality purposes), and manong Yuan checked my records. My sputum and X-Ray results are already in and they are all indicating negative for TB. Consolation prize number 3! Then manong Yuan reminded me to prepare my TB skin test result when I visit RITM the following Monday, the doctor will still check on it in conjunction with the X-Ray and Sputum test. Wait!!! Monday??? So I still have two days, three nights before I see my ID doc and before I get hold of those lifeline medication.

But I'm not sure if I can still wait. All this discomfort in eating and breathing is feeding my anxiety. But that's really all there is to it. No fever, no coughing nor phlegm. Not even Tuberculosis.  No serious medical condition (just AIDS! duh). "Wag mo kasi isipin Doy. Controlin mo ang sarili mo."

Hmmm I think I heard that somewhere. Or read it from a blog post like this. "Take control of the virus, not the virus take control of you."

It did not mention anything about managing or controlling anxiety but that gave me an idea. Or led me to this, if I can't control my anxiety attacks, perhaps the blog was right about controlling the virus. I read more, need some deep diving on this. But just as I plunged into the cold waters of online epidemiology, I discovered what this HAART will do to the virus. It must be the reason why they call it highly active. According to Chad, ARVs will keep the virus at bay. (Wow, like sea urchins against the tide?) But from the shallow reading on some health websites, barely touching pharmacology, I found out it has to be three so it's really powerful enough such that all exit points are covered. That's good enough explanation for me.

At that time, I did not really know the science behind it. But I uncovered its art of execution, which matters to me more. What I then know is that ARV drugs will stop the virus from reproducing. Keep them at certain places, they call reservoir (usually the bone marrow), and if you are adherent to your medicine schedule, ARV will hold them up there, forever...

Just imagine the sea urchins, you feed them with something that will make them sterile so they stop reproducing, and without hand picking but just poking with a stick, gathers what remains of them to certain underwater basin ready for harvest. That is how ARV drugs control and manage the virus. The harvesting part is the much awaited, often sensationalized, press conference worthy, but seriously needed, upcoming, almost there but not nearly, could be hidden by pharmalabs, sometimes proverbial, oftentimes in-your-dreams, always wanting, and still in the future ultra-potent super-powerful extra-penultimate CURE to HIV.

Whew! I have just reduced a killer virus, so cruel it brewed fear, stigma and discrimination around the world, to an exotic yet special ingredient to delicious delicacies in the Far East and the Mediterranean cuisine.

That's how I think I should start controlling all this hullabaloo of self-inflicted anxiety skirmishes. I might not be able to totally get rid of them, but I can manage it somehow so I can continue helping myself with whatever I can eat, coupled with undisturbed 8-hour sleep at night and afternoon naps after "It's Showtime!"  Soon I will get those lifeline medicines for my daily dose hence forward until thy kingdom come. Or at least until they find that elusive cure, whichever comes first. Amen.

End of Book 1

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