5 PRINCIPLES TO REMEMBER IF YOU’RE DIAGNOSED WITH A LIFE-THREATENING ILLNESS
When one is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, it’s not uncommon to experience a period of “groundlessness.” It may feel as if your legs are literally knocked out from underneath you. Quite often, the diagnosis can send you into a state of confusion, shock and even terror. This is a normal response to very upsetting information. Friends In Deed is here to help you through these difficult times, to give you some perspective.
Here are 5 principles to remember when you or someone you love is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness:
1. You are not your illness.
In the period following a diagnosis, it’s easy to think of yourself and the illness as the same. You are not your illness. You may feel numb, unable to think of anything else, but it’s important to know that you’re the same person you were the day before the diagnosis. The cancer or the HIV or some other illness does not define you. You are a living, breathing person with an illness. After the initial shock and pain of the diagnosis subsides, it’s time to remember the rest of you.
2. You can handle this moment.
No matter how challenging our circumstances – even in the midst of a diagnosis of a serious illness – most of us can handle life moment to moment. The anxiety we feel is about the future. It’s the result of all of the negative predictions that flood our mind. Take a deep breath. How do you feel right now? You can handle this moment. The only thing we really have is the present.
3. You can make choices.
When you’re diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, you may be faced with a range of treatment options. Your doctor may strongly recommend a course of action. You may get second opinions and friends and family members may also weigh in with suggestions. Gather all the information you need, but remember there is nothing you have to do. You’re the only one person who truly knows your body. You have the power to make choices, to say “yes” or “no” to treatments.
4. You can have a life of quality regardless of the circumstances.
All of us know people who appear to have been blessed by life. They have it all… and they’re miserable. Every day at Friends In Deed we talk to people who are facing a variety of challenges because of their illness, and so many of them are joyful and alive. Why is that? It’s all about perception. Having a life of quality is not about the circumstances, but how we view them. When faced with illness, many people realize how precious life is and they become determined to enjoy every moment of it.
5. You are not alone.
It’s easy to feel frightened, powerless and alone when you’ve been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. That’s why Friends In Deed is here. We’re a crisis center where you can find the emotional and spiritual support to help you through this challenging time. Come to a Big Group and discover that others are going through the same or similar experiences. We provide an open, nonjudgmental space where you can get in touch with your feelings. You’ll begin to see your circumstances from a much broader perspective. We can help you deepen your connection to the world and to yourself, while making you aware of your capacity to contain the seemingly uncontainable. You are not alone.
Friends In Deed
The Crisis Center for Life-Threatening Illness
was founded in 1991 by Mike Nichols and Cynthia O’Neal because of an urgent need. The epidemics of AIDS and cancer were raging – and overwhelmed doctors did not have any time for the emotional and spiritual needs of their patients. Friends In Deed was created to fill this void. Since that time thousands and thousands have come to Friends In Deed newly diagnosed with a life-threatening illness… exhausted from caregiving… and heartbroken over the death of someone they loved. They arrive frightened, powerless, overwhelmed and alone. Friends In Deed provides a safe space where they can ease the fear and reconnect to their own resources and to a sense of possibility.
Archive for April, 2009
Post Project Runway: Catching Up With Jack Mackenroth
Photo: Getty Images
Jack Mackenroth has accomplished what many of his fellow reality competitors have not: a life after Project Runway. A Renaissance man, Mackenroth is not only a fashion maven, he is now a TV and radio correspondent. HIV positive, Jack Mackenroth’s 20 year career is defined by enthusiasm, perseverance, but most all, the ability to use his life as a means for education and prevention (as well as discovering the latest style blunders).
Out: As the East Coast correspondent for Fashion News Live, do you think it is imperative for designers to be knowledgeable of other artists in the field? Who would you most like to interview?
Jack Mackenroth: I’ve always had a deep admiration for Diane Von Furstenberg. I think she is a goddess. I am a huge fan of prints and she is the queens of prints. (Then there is Prince who is just a queen.) Anyway — I would love the opportunity to get close to those cheekbones of hers.
I would also LOVE to interview Karl Lagerfeld. I know he’s quite a character and sometimes he’s really off the wall. But I would welcome that challenge. He’s a uber-prolific design genius. What’s not to love?
In retrospect, was participating in Project Runway the right decision? Would you recommend like reality shows for other designers?
I thoroughly enjoyed it. I would do it again in a heartbeat. However I think anyone entering into a reality show has to realize that it is heavily controlled by the producers. You truly don’t know what you are signing up for or how your ‘character’ will be received by the viewing audience. It can go either way. I think it can actually have a negative effect on a career. I went into Project Runway with no preconceptions. I just wanted a fun adventure and to meet cool people and that’s exactly what I got. Many people assume that you go on a TV show and get a bit of exposure and your become a huge superstar. So false. The public has the attention span of a goldfish. Also there is always another season of your show right around the corner.
Are you interested in pursuing more modeling gigs? And if so, what would be the ideal campaign?
Ha! Well I’m turning 40 this year so as long as people are asking I will keep doing it. Thank God for Photoshop. I used to be a model in the early 90’s but I was about 50 pounds thinner in order to fit the samples. Realistically now the only type of modeling I could do is fitness and physique shoots. I think it would be fun to do an underwear campaign. Move over Beckham.
Any interest in opening your own boutique similar to your West Village “Jack?”
Not really. Retail is really difficult. Especially now. You can see really well established businesses shutting their doors. If I ever presented my designs again for retail sale I think I would do it online.
When I opened “Jack” I was very young and niave. I loved designing the store, doing the windows and the merchandising but once that was all done I got bored really quickly. Numbers are a snore.
How would you classify your aesthetic as both a designer and correspondent?
My design aesthetic is very wearable. I like to create fairly simple designs that have an element of surprise. Lately I have been working on a series of dresses that have origami creations as sleeves and collars. That is fairly avant-garde for me. I am also fairly adaptable to whoever I might be designing for. I made this crazy ruffled, backless evening gown for Heather Tom for the daytime Emmy’s which was not something I would normally make but I was feeding off her taste and input.
– COURTNEY NICHOLS
This past Christmas I wrote about our dog, Leo who won Seattle’s “cutest dog photo” contest and received $50 for his first professional modeling job and a spread in the Seattle P.I. So Top Model.
Now our other dog, Sadie has made it to supermodel status of the canine world. Yesterday she was featured in the New York Times in an article about the website petswhowanttokillthemselves. I discovered this hilarious site a few months back and forwarded it to my sister who is a great photographer. Our pets are totally malleable, except for our wiener dog Leonard, so they allow themselves to be put in just about any position or costume. My sister has become a veritable William Wegman of sorts. Below is the article and Sadie is the cocker spaniel with the leg warmers. I am told she will have a few photos in the upcoming book based on the blog.
Public Provides Giggles; Bloggers Get the Book Deal
After Duncan Birmingham, a comedy screenwriter in Los Angeles, got one too many holiday cards featuring miserable-looking pets wearing fake reindeer antlers, he realized the photos were great material for a blog.
Mr. Birmingham started Pets Who Want to Kill Themselves in early January, uploaded the first entry and asked readers to contribute. Within days, visitors were supplying him with snapshots of bulldogs in bunny costumes and cats wearing wigs. The blogosphere noticed — and so did the publishing world. Within a week, he was contacted by editors and literary agents. By the second month, he said, he had sold a book based on the photos to Three Rivers Press, an imprint at Crown Publishing Group, for “enough money to buy a Lincoln Town Car” — with change left over.
Not bad for an unpublished novelist who is allergic to animals and admits that he is “terrible with computers.”
Of course, it’s not unusual for blogs to form the basis of books. For example, Christian Lander, author of the humor blog Stuff White People Like, wrote scores of blog entries and then reworked them into a popular 2008 book of the same name.
But the latest frenzy is over books that take the lazy, Tom Sawyer approach to authorship. The creators come up with a goofy or witty idea, put it up on a simple platform like Twitter and Tumblr, and wait for contributors to provide all of the content. The authors put their energy into publicizing the sites and compiling the best material.
Agents and publishing houses can’t get seem to get enough of these quickie humor books, which sell for $10 to $15 in gift shops and hip clothing stores like Urban Outfitters as well as traditional bookstores. At least eight books created from user-generated content are due out this year, including “Love, Mom,” a just-published collection of embarrassing or funny electronic exchanges between mothers and their children.
“Just about every house in town is paying attention,” said Patrick Mulligan, a senior editor at Gotham Books who handled a 2008 book of cat photos with bizarre captions called “I Can Has Cheezburger?”
Publishers are hoping that millions of page views on a blog will translate into booming sales on the bookstand, he said. “I Can Has Cheezburger?” is based on a blog of the same name. It sold more than 100,000 copies and hovered on The New York Times best-seller list for 13 weeks.
“As long as the category is selling books, publishers aren’t going to ignore it,” said Mr. Mulligan, who recently purchased two more books from the company behind the “Cheezburger” phenomenon.
Ben Huh, who bought the “Cheezburger” franchise from its original owners, hopes to create a whole line of similar books. “We’re turning user-generated content into editorial content,” said Mr. Huh, who estimates that his company will generate half a million dollars in revenue from its book deals alone.
The audience for these blogs and books is drawn to the gross as much as to the cute. The photoblog This Is Why You’re Fat, a repository of grotesque food creations like bacon-wrapped Twinkies, attracted more than two million page views in its first few days of operation and was a popular topic on social networks like Digg, Twitter and Facebook.
The viral popularity of the site propelled the blog’s creators onto the radar of the publishing industry. “From the first day, we were getting calls from agents,” said Jessica Amason, one of the founders. In March, three weeks after the blog’s introduction, Ms. Amason and the co-creator Richard Blakeley landed a six-figure book deal with HarperStudio, an imprint of HarperCollins.
Web-oriented literary agents like Kate McKean have seen the competition to sign new clients increase in the last few months. “There are a lot more agents chasing down hot properties,” she said. Ms. McKean, whose clients include Mr. Huh, gravitates toward sites with measurable, consistent traffic. “You can use that information to prove marketability,” she said.
Still, there are risks for both authors and publishers.
Tracking down the owners of user-submitted materials to obtain publishing rights can be daunting, said Doree Shafrir, one of the creators behind “Love, Mom,” which was built from a blog called Postcards From Yo Momma that collected humorous e-mail and instant-message conversations between women and their adult children.
When Ms. Shafrir and Jessica Grose, the co-creator, signed a book contract with Hyperion to publish a collection of their best tales, it told them they had to secure permissions from both the contributors and their mothers. “We were freaking out for a few days because if we hadn’t gotten the forms back, we wouldn’t have gotten the book. That was a little scary,” said Ms. Shafrir.
And then there’s the risk that the Internet crowd will get bored and move on before the book comes out. “You want to catch the wave while it’s cresting,” Mr. Mulligan said.
Here she is reading her own article. She’s kind of smart. Sharing a page with Obama–not bad.
Project Runway Season 4 Contestant Jack Mackenroth forgoes sleep to chase success outside the “competition reality show” bubble. Link to abOUT site.
INTERVIEW BY DUANE BOOTH / abOUT
When it comes to so-called “competition-based” reality shows, few are more popular than Project Runway. Like American Idol, Dancing With The Stars and So You Think You Can Dance, these shows have made stars of their series regulars and have given their gay contestants – many of whom get long forgotten quickly – a quick boost of notoriety. Amazing Race gave Reichen Lehmkuhl his 15 minutes of fame (stretched to 30 on the back of his relationship for former boybander Lance Bass when he came out) and Runway brought Christian Siriano to fame along with a resurgence of the word “fierce.” One of those contestants who had the potential to be a breakout star was Jack Mackenroth.
His sexy looks, personality, buffed body and design prowess made him an early favorite on Season 4 (eventually won by Siriano). Mackenroth, who was open about his HIV-positive status, however, pulled out of the show a few episodes in after he was hospitalized for treatment of a contagious staph infection. He has since fully recovered.
Now the designer, who turns 40 in April, continues to cultivate and build on his fame and success brought on by his time in the reality show bubble.
It’s been a couple years now since we saw you on Project Runway. Bring us up to speed on what you have been up to since you left?
Wow! It has been crazy. I can barely remember the whirlwind. Besides a ton of appearances and speaking engagements – here’s the laundry list: I was in an episode of Law and Order SVU as a corpse (super fun!). I had a cameo in the Sex and the City movie (love SJP!). I was in a video for the band Telling on Trixie. I did a Saturn commercial for which I made my own outfit inspired by the car. I’ve been on magazine covers. I made a dress for Heather Tom for the daytime Emmys and walked the red carpet with her. I went on the Today show with Tiki Barber. I’ve designed t-shirts for three different companies. I covered this past New York Fashion week and got to interview amazing designers and models for LOGO’s PopLab ….
One of the most exciting things I’ve been a part of is the Living Positive By Design HIV education campaign (livingpositivebydesign.com) which is sponsored by Merck. I hope to fight the stigma of HIV by increasing visibility and speaking openly about living with HIV for almost 20 years. I’ve been touring all over the country with the program for the last year. Our next stop is Seattle in May. I also just found out that I will be developing a design TV show with Monument TV and Film and Project Runway alum, Kevin Christiana. We have been pitching various incarnations of the show and are finally inking a deal. That is very exciting! I also just signed on as the east coast correspondent for Fashion News Live (myFNL.com) so I will be covering all things fashion in New York.
And my latest project is co-hosting the internet radio show POZ I AM every Wednesday at 2 p.m. EST. Listeners can log onto blogtalkradio.com/poziam and hear the live stream. It’s a great show and source of information for the HIV community. I am also in the middle of training for the Outgames in Copenhagen. I am swimming all the breaststroke events and some sprint freestyle. In my spare time I blog about random stuff I am doing or cool artists and stuff I find online. (blog.jackmackenroth.com/) Whew! Did I get it all? Oh, and it’s my 40th birthday on April 29. No, I don’t sleep.
Evidently not. And an early happy birthday! Looking back, what was the experience on Project Runway like?
It was surreal and amazing. We were in this bizarre fashion vacuum with no external distractions. No phones, no TV, no music or reading material. We couldn’t even talk to the production staff. We were only allowed to talk to each other. However it was conducive to some amazing friendships. I am still tight with Kevin, Kit, Sweet P, and Christian. It was like fashion camp on crack. I don’t think the public even understood a modicum of how insanely difficult it really was.
Of course everyone wants to know what Heidi and the judges are like. Give us some dish!
Heidi is just like you see on TV. Gorgeous and kind, although she has a kind of goofy, quirky side. Maybe it’s her German roots. Maybe Seal is giving her a little special somethin’.
Nina is the one who gets the bad rap. Everyone thinks she is mean, but in real life she is probably the warmest one. Whenever I have seen her since the show she always gives me a big hug. I adore her.
Michael is witty as hell, but he was obviously there to do a job. He was the best judge technically because he knows all about construction, but I don’t even think he knows our names.
Tim is a delight. He is everything you would expect him to be. And off camera he’s hilarious. He loses a tiny bit of his prim and proper persona and he can dish with the best of us.
Though you emerged as an early favorite, Christian Siriano ended up winning your season and became a media darling. Do you ever look back and say “I should have stayed. That could have been me?”
Truthfully, yes. If I would have stayed I think I could have made a good go at the final three, but everything happens for a reason. Christian is an amazing talent and I knew he was going to win early on. I’m so proud of all he has accomplished. My life is headed more into the TV realm and I don’t think that would have happened if I had won. So, in a way, it was a lucky accident.
Siriano recently said Runway gave him a forum, but it probably isn’t the best outlet to go if you want to become a serious designer. Do you agree?
Well I have talked to him about that. There is a bit of an illusion created that you can win a reality TV show and become the next big fashion designer. It’s not realistic, especially in this economy. To really launch a line on a massive scale takes hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars. Christian is a bit of a fluke because he makes such great TV as well. There is rarely such a huge payoff for such a little bit of time spent working in the industry. To guarantee longevity in fashion design it’s probably best to go about it the old-fashioned way (pun intended). You go to design school and practice your skills and start working for another designer and learning the business. Then you branch out on your own if you want to eventually.
Even though you obviously did your time on a reality show, seriously, isn’t the whole genre getting a little tired?
You know, I thought that, too, when we were pitching our design show, which is a reality show though not competition- based. There still seems to be a huge viewership for these types of programs and they are very cost effective to make. You don’t have to pay the talent (we weren’t given a penny) and there is very little production cost. I am a big fan of the shows that involve talent, like Runway or American Idol or Top Chef. When it becomes trashy voyeurism, I tend to lose interest. Shows like The Bachelor or I Love New York or that awful one with Brett Michaels (Rock Of Love) are just train wrecks. Even Bravo is pushing it with the whole Real Housewives series. I think the people that go on those shows aren’t in on the joke that everyone is laughing at them, not with them.
Have you been doing much designing since you left the show?
Not as much as I would like, but there are only so many hours in a day. I am working on a group fashion show with Kit (pistol) Scarbo, Kevin Christiana and Sweet P from my season of Project Runway that will be held in Miami in May. Other than that I am just doing commissions and specialty design projects. I just don’t have time (or the financial backers) to do a full line right now. I just got asked to design a gown for the winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Bebe Zahara Benet, but they wanted it in four days for free. Not gonna happen. People assume that once you are on a reality show you are famous and that translates to becoming rich. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. We all go back to work.
While you were on PR, you were also one of only a few HIV-positive people to be on a reality show. Did you feel an extra bit of responsibility or drive to succeed on the show because of that, like having to present a certain image of poz people?
Yes and no. I knew I would be looked to as a role model because there are so few people who are public about their HIV status and I was happy to take on that responsibility. I didn’t necessarily feel extra pressure to succeed in order to “represent,” but I did want to be seen as my best self. I think I was edited pretty true to life on the show. I am an HIV- positive man who takes care of myself and pursues all my goals and dreams without thinking twice. HIV is not a factor.
It has certainly given you a platform to talk about living poz.
Yes. It has given me the opportunity to speak to numerous people in public arenas. I also get at least a dozen e-mails a week from poz people who need advice or just want to commiserate or just say thank you. I am proud to say I have personally persuaded people to go to the doctor and get tested, and I even talked someone out of taking their own life by explaining that there is a very hopeful future after receiving a positive HIV diagnosis.
Keeping in great shape as you do and all the modeling you do must also help show poz living in a better light?
I hope so. I work out a lot because it maintains my health and my sanity. Plus I have to swim every day to get in shape for the Outgames. When I am physically powerful I feel mentally powerful, as well. I can only be my best self. I certainly don’t mean to glamorize HIV by sending a message that says: “Look at me! I’m a model and I have HIV. It’s a cakewalk!” That’s absolutely not the case. I hope I am sending the message that in many cases HIV is manageable with the right medications and I am one example of someone living a happy, successful life with HIV.
You must enjoy all the attention you receive from your exposure on the show, but please tell us you’re not like another Reichen where there seemed to never be a red carpet without his shoe print on it?
(Laughs) Well I don’t know Reichen, so I can’t comment on that, but I have to say that post-reality, demi-stardom is a hard gig. People have called me a media whore, but in other circles that’s called good P.R. Unfortunately part of the business of marketing yourself as a talent is going to those events and being photographed. It’s tiresome, but you have to do it. The public has a short attention span and if you are not on TV or at all the events they will quickly forget about you.
Had it done wonders for the dating life?
(Laughs harder) Quite the opposite. I think people who have seen me on TV have a preconceived notion about me so they don’t talk to me. Maybe they are intimidated – though they shouldn’t be. I’m a big dork. I thought that I would have guys banging down my door but it’s nothing but crickets. It takes a strong personality to be Jack Mackenroth’s boyfriend. I’m very out there. It takes a confident guy to stand by my side through all the dog and pony shows. That’s why I know when I find him it will just click. Like a camera shutter. Smile and pose.
This Wednesday the 15th Robert Breining and I will interview diminutive drag diva, Ongina!! He/She was a fan favorite from the recent LOGO drag reality show “Rupaul’s Drag Race”. She was one of my favorites from the first episode and her warm spirit and adorable sense of humor easily won over viewers. When Ongina revealed his/her (damn those pronouns) HIV+ status on the show after winning the VIVA GLAM MAC cosmetics challenge she went from fan favorite to instant role model. We will talk to her about that experience and how ‘outing’ herself on national TV affected her friends and family.
A bit about Ongina:
From one of the thousands of tiny islands in the Philippines comes a mighty, powerful force known as Ongina! Ongina, also known as Ryan Ong Palao,currently resides in Los Angeles, CA and works as an Area Visual Merchandiserfor a specialty retail boutique. Hence his love for designer shoes and his flair for couture fashion.
Ongina moved to the US in 1994 and has survived the rains of Seattle, the winters of New York and the traffic of Los Angeles. In New York, he found the love for androgynous, gender-bend drag. She continued to push the envelope by wearing head pieces rather than wigs when he is in “face.” Not until hestarted working at Lucky Chengs did Ongina experimented with wigs and full outfemale impersonation. His drag persona ranges from many different looks fromgender-bend to full on “fish.”
Ongina is recognized recently for her unique appearance on Rupaul’s Drag Race, she gave an artistic appeal and a whole lot of face, sticking true to the Ongina image. Ongina delights audiences across the United States by bringing a strong, bold, beautiful and entertaining character that honors and respects the artistic art of drag, wig or no wig!
Ongina is one unique artist who will leave an imprint in your mind and hopefully in your hearts! Her name originated from the fascination of a certain kind of “ina”, but she has more balls than a raging bull! Ongina may be as sweet as apple pie, but she’s “blade ready” when she needs to be! Gender-bending, head piece wearing, non tucking Ongina is one who surely delivers!
The show airs every Wednesday at 2 pm EST, and listeners can tune in across the country and the world. The POZ I AM show also airs on Sundays at 9 PM with robert and co-host Jeromy Dunn. Just log in http://www.blogtalkradio.com/poziam and listen to our live streaming chat. If you happen to miss a show you can download the mp3 after the show has aired from the POZ I AM site. We will be interviewing prominent guests in the HIV community and discussing current events involving HIV issues. Listeners can also participate in a live chat online while the show is running. They can ask questions and interact with each other. Again. past shows will be available for download online at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/poziam. The call in number for the show is 347-215-9442. Call and ask Ongina your question!
Robert Breining was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA. At a young age Robert discovered the importance of working as a team to accomplish a goal. ln 1996, his junior year in High School, Robert won 1st Team All Catholic in the 110m Hurdles with a time of 14.9 seconds .Robert has been playing soccer for over 20 years. He currently plays for the Philadelphia Falcons and has traveled as far as Copenhagen ,Denmark to compete in an IGLFA (International Gay and Lesbian Futbol Association) Tournaments.
In 2007 Five years after the passing of his father and his HIV diagnosis, Robert had what he calls his “Ah Ha Moment”. Robert looks at every life experience and asks” What am I supposed to learn from this ” In 2007, He became a Campaign Ambassador for Hope’s Voice and participated in their Does HIV Look Like Me ? Campaign. That October he launched The POZIAM community, a social networking website for people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. He wanted to give others with HIV hope and a place to just be themselves. In July of 2008 Robert debuted the POZIAM Radio a bi-weekly internet radio show , with his Co-host Jeromy Dunn of POZitively Speaking on Sundays.
Robert is described as a ” Positive Person with a Purpose”. Robert’s goal is to help people living with HIV/AIDS discover similarities in eachother…and form friendships. More about Robert at http://www.myspace.com/poziam.
My bio is available online at Jackmackenroth.com but I have been HIV+ going on 20 years and I have been active in supporting the HIV community for over a decade but my visibility was exponentially multiplied after I divulged my HIV status on Project Runway. My current HIV campaign sponsored by Merck, Living Positive by Design, aims to fight the stigma associated with HIV and provides educational information for those living with HIV.
I am very excited to be working with Robert. He has done a lot of great work for the HIV community at such a young age. I hope my little bit of celebrity will help this show reach an even larger audience. Please listen in and feel free to join the POZ I AM community here. Also if you would like to be a guest on the show or know someone that might like to be a guest on the show please contact me at Jack@jackmackenroth.com or Robert at Robert@poziam.com
We look forward to hearing from you!