A note from Kelly

Posted: July 5, 2010 by Kelly in HIV
Tags: , , , , , ,

Following on from Jesse’s post about disclosing his diagnosis to friends and family, I thought I would share my experiences as being a friend on the receiving end of the news.

But first a little background.

I had heard quite a bit about Jesse long before I ever met him.  He had a reputation at work for being a bit of a ‘go-getter’ – conscientious, hard-working and well-respected.

When I moved from one of our outer-lying locations to the main office, I got the chance to meet this person I had heard so much about – and he was nothing like I the person I had imagined!  From the things I had heard I was expecting someone older, more mature and much less outgoing!

For whatever reason we hit it off pretty much straight away.  When I moved to the desk next to his things just got better.  I got the chance to be friends and not just colleagues with Jesse.

It wasn’t a great deal of time after this that I had some health problems that required many, many trips to the hospital, doctors appointments and various specialists.  During this time Jesse kept my spirits up.  He helped out with my work to ensure things didn’t fall too far behind and he constantly made me laugh with his tongue-poking, paper-throwing, paper clip giving and general crazy behaviour.

Although I was focused on my own issues, I was aware that Jesse was due for his regular health check and was relieved when he told me a few days later that everything was good.  But then I missed a few days of work.  When I returned the usually chirpy, easy-going Jesse had disappeared and in his place was a short-tempered being who had withdrawn somewhat and was reluctant to partake in the usual shenanigans of our corner of the office.

I did ask him at one point if there was anything wrong and if there was anything that I could do, and I got a reasonably blunt answer of, “You’ve had your health issues, now I have mine”.  A little taken aback I thought it best to leave Jesse alone and was confidant that he would share whatever was bothering him in his own time.

After a few days I started to suspect what was going on with Jesse.  I started putting two and two together and I was coming up with four – but I was hoping that I was wrong.

In the end Jesse did eventually tell me what was going on.  He confirmed my suspicions that there was a problem with his test results and that he had been diagnosed as HIV positive.

Now, I don’t know what kind of reaction Jesse was expecting because he did look at me a bit funny after he told me.  For my part, I had already come to my own conclusion and had thought about it for a couple of days before Jesse disclosed to me.  So I had had time to process the information and adjust to the news before I had even heard it.

At first I was devastated for Jesse.  I wanted to rant and rave about how unfair it was that such a vibrant young man should contract this disease.  I remember talking to my partner about my suspicions and again when they were confirmed.  On both occasions we were left saddened at the thought.

But in the end I took my lead from Jesse.  On the outside he was dealing with the news with amazing courage and dignity.  I figured that if Jesse wasn’t falling apart then I too should be strong.  I had so many questions I wanted to ask.  I still do.  I have to admit I am somewhat ignorant about the disease.  I had read April Fool’s Day but apart from that I knew nothing about HIV or AIDS (except of course that Rock Hudson and Freddie Mercury had both died from it!).

In the year since then our friendship has grown.  Jesse has had his good days and his bad days.  His highs and his lows.  But in the last few months there has been a change.  Jesse has started to think outside his own existence and has indicated that he would like to help others who are living with HIV, as well as their friends and families.

Jesse created his own tracking tool to help him keep tabs on his results.  Not long after this he started talking about educating others about HIV.  Things progressed after I started talking about my blogs.  Jesse talked to me about his intentions and I suggested he might like to blog about his journey with HIV while he works out where he wants to go with the educational side of things.  It took a couple of conversations but the next thing I knew Jesse proudly announced that he had finished the draft for his first post!

For the last two weekends I have worked with Jesse to bring you Hope in Vastitude.  Jesse has put in a tremendous effort to start bringing together valuable resources for people affected by HIV.  And along the way he has been educating me and extending my knowledge of not only HIV but of his amazing inner strength.

Jesse has been through a lot in the last year.  His world was rocked by his diagnosis, he had to face his family and tell them the news, he has lost friends, he has had to keep things together and continue working, he has faced his fear and has decided to go public with this disease, and all the while he has had to work on his inner demons and keep his own spirits up.

So I am going to take this opportunity Jesse, to thank you for allowing me to share the journey with you.  I applaud you for your courage and strength and dignity.  I am so very proud of what you are doing with Hope in Vastitude.  And most of all I am honoured to be your friend.

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