March #142 : Consider the Alternative - by Anna Heath

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The Long Haul

Native Soul

The POZ Diabetes Diet Makeover

Quitting Time

Boosting Immunity

Caffeine Fix

Staph Memo

Same Sheets, Different Day

Consider the Alternative

Flunking Math

Test Drive

Stage Fright

The New 90210?

Post It!

Nobody’s Foo

Media Police

HIV 101

Boston Latex

Getting Graphic

Power Surge

Inside the Box

Diagnosis: Stigma


Mailbox-March 2008

Editor's Letter-March 2008

Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle


Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV

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March 2008

Consider the Alternative

by Anna Heath

AIDS has affected my entire adult life. I’m pretty sure I’ve had HIV since 1986, when I was 18. But I didn’t get tested until 1991, when my boyfriend died. I’m glad for people who pose for posters saying “I refuse to let HIV define who I am.” But there were too many years when I thought I was about to die from HIV for it not to have formed who I’ve become.

When I turned 40, last year, I had a routine mammo-gram. The doctor said I had what was probably a fibroadenoma—a common, benign tumor. I could schedule a biopsy or promise to return in six months to see if it had changed. I didn’t go back, and I don’t want to. The reason I don’t want to is, I’m sure, taboo to say (and obviously irrational): I like the idea of potentially dying of breast cancer. The prospect is profoundly relieving. It makes me feel “normal” that I could die of something I developed rather than something I acquired. It makes me feel feminine, that my sexual identity counts, that the damage would be validated.

I have worked most of my life to make the best of having AIDS, in very matter-of-fact ways. So I was shocked at how the prospect of an alternative demise exacerbates my feelings of contamination and exclusion with HIV, feelings I didn’t know I still have to such a degree. I don’t mean to dismiss the suffering and experiences of the men and women who have died or are living with breast cancer. But I have feelings of affection for my little lima-bean-shaped tumor of light on the sonogram screen. It is, for me, a symbol of redemption.

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  comments 1 - 6 (of 6 total)    

Annette, Lakewood, 2008-03-15 16:18:58
Anna, while I do understand that you're probably sick and tired of getting poked, prodded and treated - I hope you do go and get your breast checked. The best case scenario is that it is benign and you would been relived. If there is something wrong, you will know and have then it will be your choice whether or not to have treatment. The earlier the treatment for breast cancer, the better the outcome. By the way, I've had the same thoughts when I got the results of an irregular mammography.

Chuck, Austin, 2008-03-14 15:10:55
Keith and Darwin, I don't think anyone would argue with you about the horrors of cancer therapy. To me Ms. Heath's message is about HIV's stigma and accidentally getting used to it. Breast cancer fighters are venerated. There is a pink revolution and community. Seems for her the discovery highlighted emotionaly the social differences associated with the diseases. Live Strong Ms. Heath. Best of health to you all.

Greg, dallas, 2008-03-14 14:35:04
May I comment, even though I am not don't have either situation? Seems like the point here is that "something else" takes you out of a box into a position of choosing rather than having a choice made for you. I think that is the zen simplicity, and you have a right to feel exactly like you feel. Very well written. P.S. Anna, I work with your brother who introduced me to this page.

Keith, San Francisco, 2008-03-13 15:14:41
Ditto what Darwin with HIV is nothing compared with living through cancer treatment...I know from experience. Get the test now while it's still small and easy to treat.

darwin, edmonton, 2008-03-10 22:47:33
you wouldn't say that if in fact you had to endure the countless radiation treatments and chemo therapy sessions. Its not pretty and I am sorry you feel as though HIV has slighted your womanhood. Take it from an HIV positive cancer patient.... I will take HIV any day! P.S. you most likely will die from something other than HIV/AIDS.

Mike T., Sarasota, 2008-03-05 08:07:37
Nice story. I have always thought there is this big bus accident waiting for me. Then my death cert. would say accidental death. Would like to make contact with Anna. I am on the personals as captcosmos.

comments 1 - 6 (of 6 total)    

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