An inspiring Facebook post by Alexander Foxworth. Link back to his post here.
I am watching the clock as midnight gets closer and closer.
Every year on the 25th of May, I get “anxious”, for lack of better words over this date, due to a major event that changed my life forever in 1995.
It’s the words that no one ever wants to hear.
No matter how much one may ponder the subject and think of what they would do when hearing a certain phrase, facing a certain event, or put in an uncomfortable situation, one never knows, truly, how he/she would act when the moment arrives.
It was May 25th, 1995 that I had to learn this the hard way.
I was living in Charlotte, NC and was doing well.
I’ve always been one to try and help others within my means, so I used to give blood and plasma on a frequent basis.
I remember shortly before the 25th, I went to a local plasma center, close to my neighborhood, and went through the “normal routine” of questions and forms to fill out before donating.
The nurse was such a kind-hearted and intelligent lady, who called me “green eyes”, which just made me smile and eased my nervousness, since I had, on occasion, gotten fairly nauseous when donating plasma. She put me at ease and I was all set.
Everything went according to plan and, surprisingly, I didn’t feel any nausea. I walked out, beaming, since I knew that I had “done my good deed” for the day.
Just a couple of days later, I received an urgent phone call for me to come back to the center. No reasons were given. Nothing would be discussed via telephone.
My heart pounded and I felt my world beginning to crumble.
Is she going to tell me…?? Am I going to hear what I have fought for so hard to avoid??? So many things ran through my mind.
The next day, the 25th, I walked into the plasma center.
I knew, then and there, I was about to hear what I had been dreading since the telephone call the day before. The reason being is because the staff were above and beyond courteous.
“Are you ok, Mr. Foxworth?”. “Is there anything that you would like to drink or eat?”. “Can we interest you in a good book or magazine, while you wait?”. I felt like I was at a resort…not a plasma center!
Then, the kind-hearted nurse stepped out and asked me to come into her office.
Deep down, I knew what she was about to say. What is so strange about the human mind is that, ALL the way up to the words coming out of her mouth, I thought I knew how I would handle this.
Boy, was I so wrong.
I sat at a small desk in a small office…feeling quite edgy and just wanting to get this over with.
She grabbed her clipboard that had my file attached, looked at me and finally said the words that I had dreaded for so many years: “Mr. Foxworth, my dear ‘green eyes’…I don’t know how to say this.”. Tears started forming in her eyes and then it came out: “I’m so, so sorry, but you have tested positive for the HIV virus.”.
There are no words that I could ever say or write to describe the flood of emotion that fills one up inside when confronted with those words and one’s own mortality.
Before I knew it, I had collapsed across her desk and sobbed like I had never sobbed in my entire life…and that is putting it mildly.
For years, I had friends and even boyfriends, who were positive and I always thought that if it happened to me, I would be sad, but would be strong and handle it with ease.
Unless someone, unfortunately, walks in these shoes, NO ONE can ever say how they would truly act.
After I composed myself, wrapped in this nurse’s arms, I walked out of the center.
Naturally, as if in a movie, we had a downpour. I had my tears flowing as I drove back home along with the rain on my windshield. I’m actually amazed that I even made it home, considering all things combined.
From that point, my mind went numb.
I went into a “dark space”, which I hope to never go into again.
I slept all day. Drank my sorrows away at night. Basically, ceased to live from that point on.
I just existed.
Then, a few months later, I was going to a small club called Oleen’s, which has since closed, and proceeded to do my nightly ritual of wallowing in sorrow, feel sorry for myself, and get as drunk as humanly possible.
A stranger. Someone whom I had never seen before, approached me at the bar and, without me even saying a WORD, seemed to already sense what was going on with me.
He leant in and just bluntly asked “So, you got ‘the news’,eh?”.
I was stunned!
HOW did he know?
Was I THAT obvious???
I looked at him through drunken tears and just nodded.
He then wrapped his arm around my shoulder and said “I’m going to ask you ONE question that I really want you to think about.”.
Not knowing this guy and being in the condition that I was in, I was somewhat wary, but was SO desperate for any sort of comfort, I just looked at him and said “Ok.”.
Then, with his ONE question, he changed my life forever: “Are you LIVING with HIV or are you DYING from HIV? That is what you need to ask yourself. The rest will fall into place.”.
I was dumbfounded.
Such simple words, yet SO powerful and it felt as if a ton of bricks had hit me in the head.
I WAS alive.
I WAS breathing.
Since that night, I have never looked back in self pity.
I appreciate every single day that I wake up.
I appreciate every friend that I’ve made and the ones that I continue to make.
I don’t just look at a sunrise/sunset and think “Oh, that’s nice.”, but actually STOP and look in awe at the beauty in this world that so many of us take for granted.
IN a strange way, HIV helped me to become a better person. To appreciate the little things in life that we see every single day, yet don’t REALLY notice them, unless we are confronted with some type of bad situation.
We are all a work in progress and I am, by no means, a “perfect man”. But, I have become a BETTER man.
With anything in life, one has two choices: to let the situation control YOU or YOU control the situation. It’s all about inner strength and the will to survive.
Yes, it’s sad that it took HIV for me to realize so many things that I should have already learned, but I am thankful that I did, indeed, finally realize them.
All I can say to those out there who may be dealing with the same situation, is to remember that same question: “Are you LIVING with HIV or are you DYING from it?”.
My wish, of course, is that there WAS no HIV or, at least, that there was a cure. I haven’t give up hope and never will, but, until that day, I must continue to remind myself that I am sitting here LIVING and will continue to fight this battle all the way to the end.
So, today, May 25th, 2010, it is now 15 years since that day.
My, how time goes by so quickly.
However, if I have anything to do with it, I will be around in 15 MORE years to continue to tell my tale, in hopes of helping at least ONE person realize that there IS life after an HIV diagnosis.
I am living proof.
So, CHEERS to life.
May The Higher Being bless all of you and, in my heart of hearts, I hope that no one has to go through what I went through that day.
However, IF you do, PLEASE remember that it is NOT the end of the world and life WILL go on. It may not seem like it in the beginning, but, trust me, the light WILL come on in time.
Thank you to all who have read my story.
If I have touched just ONE person from this, then it was all worthwhile.
Much love and best wishes to everyone…
PS/ WEAR A DAMN CONDOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!