Monday, April 17, 2006

10 Years Ago Today: Pain and More Pain

One of the interesting aspects of looking back at the diary 10 years ago is remembering what was going on versus how much I was really willing to tell. It wasn't that I was purposely hiding anything; it's more like I was in the midst of so much pain and, yes, suffering that I was trying to tell myself that it wasn't that bad. Somewhere deep inside, I knew I was dying, but I felt if I just put on a good face, it wouldn't be true. That I could change reality by denying it.

On April 17, 1996, the diary heading is "Great Day." I made note of the fact that Jim has just said to me, "The old Steve is back." The reason the old Steve was back was that it was the first night in several in which I wasn't in pain.

In the days just before this entry, I had had a horrific night. It was a kidney stone. What I remember from that night was being in absolute agony. Not ever having had one before, it was the worst torture I'd ever experienced. I woke up in agony and finally told Jim that I needed to get to the hospital. In the hospital, what I remember was how s.l.o.w.l.y. the nurses moved. How s.l.o.w.l.y. the doctors moved. They wouldn't stop the pain. First they put me on a very cold metal table to take x-rays. So, not only was I in pain, but I was shaking and shivering, freezing, on that table.

Then, once the stone was diagnosed, the nurse calmly took me back to the examining room and said I could have some pain medication. What I recall is how time slowed down as I watched her pull. out. the. needle. And then draw. the. medication. And then w.a.l.k. o.v.e.r. t.o. m.e. And the s.l.o.w.l.y. p.u.t. t.h.e. n.e.e.d.l.e. into the I.V. d.r.i.p.

I literally was subdividing seconds in my mind as she so glacially moved to help me, until the first flush of relief hit my veins. Never have I experienced this kind of utter agony. And what KILLED me was her total indifferent attitude to how all this was affecting me. MOOVE!!!! I wanted to scream, but I didn't. Or maybe I did. I don't know.

Finally, though, at some point, the stone must have passed because, by the time I made my April 17th entry, I was feeling back to "normal" -- or what passed for normal at that time. (What was actually happening was that I was on a long, slow slide downhill and it would be months before I began to come back to life.)

The other thing that was happening was that the AIDS drugs which I had been taking were failing utterly. My viral load was through the roof, my weight was crashing and if you look up the page a bit, you can see that we are discussing a "new" AIDS experimental medication called Crixivan which was just becoming available, and which showed fantastic results, so it was being fast-tracked onto the market. Unfortunately, there weren't enough production facilities to make the drug available to everyone, so the news was that a lottery was being established. Everyone would put their name into the lottery.

10 years ago today was also my first appearance at Cal State Northridge to speak to a religion class. Since then, I've appeared almost every year, but back then, with the songs from The Last Session barely written, and me being able only able to stand up for a few minutes at a time, I brought a boombox with me and played tapes of the songs as I told my story.

One thing I remember from that class was asking how many students had email accounts. Only about a third raised their hands. Can you imagine that now? People are practically born with email accounts. My online diary, being one of the first on the Net, was a pioneering venture. Even among college students, I was ahead of the game.
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For my birthday, also St. Francis of Assisi Day,

here is "Rescue" the song I sang to Erika Amato 's Buddy the dog. Imagine if we loved humans as much as we love our animals...