Best known for the Off-Broadway musicals, "The Last Session," "The Big Voice: God or Merman?" and "New World Waking," a song cycle for peace and justice.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Just How Old Am I?

From a recent article by David France ("How To Survive A Plague"):
A study presented at a conference in February in Montreal showed that otherwise healthy people on HIV medications at about 56 years of age had immune systems comparable to HIV-negative subjects whose median age is 88. Perhaps as a result, many diseases that typically attack the very old are striking younger HIV-positive people disproportionately, like diseases of the liver, kidney, heart, and veins. One study found that 55-year-olds who are HIV-positive have all the telltale signs of late-life frailty—muscle loss, fatigue, and rheumatologic disorders.
I can relate to that. I'm a cranky old man before my time!
And studies show patients with minor deficits have trouble remembering to take their medications, which can lead to more serious problems like drug resistance and even early death. “We’re not talking about people who look like advanced Alzheimer’s disease,” he says. “But nevertheless they can have an effect on everyday functioning, which can be serious.” Plus, as Dr. Simpson puts it, “it’s scary as hell.” That describes a former Balanchine dancer named Kenn who, though battling HIV for 25 years, had been able to remake his career several times over until recently, when he lost his ability to process information reliably. “You realize you can’t read and you used to read,” he tells me. “That’s the hardest part, when you cognitively know you’re losing yourself.”
It's why I devote my life to music. As I said before, when I'm not doing my music, I can feel my body weaken. I also have been keeping my mind active through memorization. I tell you, my Richard II is like nobody else's.
It might seem churlish to complain about the consequences of aging with HIV, when, for the first six years of the plague, there were no anti-HIV drugs at all. Life expectancy after a first doctor’s visit back then was eighteen months.
When the HIV meds started working, we went from Holocaust levels of dead people to suddenly nobody dying. Dr. Ellie Goldstein, my first doc out in L.A. said, at the time, it was like seeing a dying garden suddenly rebloom.

You saw skulls become flesh. It happened with me.

So, yeah. I'm grateful for the fact that I'm alive. I'm grateful to still have a functioning mind. But that's why I can't let up. I can't slow down. If I slow down, like the bus in "Speed," it all blows up. And now, with this new information, I don't know if it will be death or dementia. I'm in the headlights. But aren't we all? Isn't that life itself, anyway?

I turn 60 this year. So, it's SteveFest 60 in the City and around the world. I'm declaring it now. Get me while I'm still here! Want to perform New World Waking? It's yours. Want your choir to test out my Mass? Just ask. I'm giving it all away. Let's celebrate life together. 
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